Congressman John Lewis said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was like an older brother to him, and he never expected America to come so far. He has a direct connection to the legacy of Dr. King, and can easily recall the struggles and sacrifice of the fight for civil rights, reports CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford.
In his famous speech on the Washington Mall on August 28, 1863, King delivered a message with enduring power.
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," King said. "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today."
For a group of Washington, D.C., elementary school children, like 10-year-old Leyia Jeffers, King's work shaped their lives.
"People would still have their signs up and it would say, 'Whites only and no blacks allowed,' and us blacks and us whites would never come together," Jeffers said. "Now everybody's friends with everybody, we love each other, and that's how it's supposed to be."
Two generations after the Civil Rights Movement, through the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr., America is a nation changed.
"I would say to these young people, I knew Martin Luther King Jr. He was my hero," Congressman John Lewis said.
Congressman John Lewis, son of an Alabama sharecropper, became a leader of the movement, inspired by King.
"He taught us that hate is too heavy a burden to bear. As young people you must never, ever hate," Lewis said. "You must never, ever become bitter or hostile. You must be hopeful. You must be optimistic and never, never give up."
King talked about perseverance in his famous speech.
"There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, when will you be satisfied?" King said. "We can never be satisfied as long as the negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality."
While Lewis said he is confident people will be judged by the content of their character, and not by the color of their skin, the country isn't clear of prejudice.
"We still have a distance to go before we lay down the scars and stains of racism in America," Lewis said. "I believe, I truly believe, that these young people growin' up today in the fifth grade will grow up in a better society, a different society. We will get it right."
Lewis bears those scars. Nearly 50 years ago in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement's "Bloody Sunday," he helped lead protesters across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a scene brought to life in the movie Selma.
For Lewis, those memories cause pain.
"I was wearing a backpack. In this backpack I had two books. I thought we were gonna be arrested and go to jail," Lewis said. "I wanted to have something to read. Had one apple and one orange. Wanted to have something to eat."
Instead of arrest and jail, he and others were brutally beaten and his skull was fractured.
"I thought I saw death. I thought I was going to die. My legs went out from under me and I fell. I just thought, 'This is it.' and I said to myself, "I'm gonna die on this bridge,'" Lewis said.
The images shocked America. King issued a call for religious leaders to come to Selma. Two weeks later, with federal protection, he, Lewis and other leaders with thousands of people from all over America crossed that bridge and marched on to Montgomery, a peaceful protest for the right to vote.
Later that year, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act.
"Martin Luther King Jr. helped free and liberate not just a people, but a nation -- black and white," Lewis said. "He taught us all so much through his action, his words. He taught us how to live and he taught us how to die, that if you believe in something that is so precious and so necessary, you have to stand up for it, have to speak out."
King wanted America, in his own words, to keep working for that day "when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.'"