John Lewis on the pace of progress: It's a struggle of a lifetime

John Lewis on progress and Civil Rights
John Lewis on progress and Civil Rights 01:52

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will open its doors on Saturday September 24th on the National Mall. Georgia Congressman John Lewis spent 15 years working on the establishment and is referred to as the “godfather” of the museum.  He and Face the Nation moderator John Dickerson​ spoke inside of the museum about a variety of topics​.  During the conversation, Dickerson asked the Civil Rights activist to teach people about the pace of progress and what he has learned throughout his life fighting for equality.

“We must understand that the struggle for change is not a struggle that lasts for a few days, a few weeks or a few months.” The congressman said. “It’s a struggle of a lifetime.”

Lewis, a former chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee​, spent much of his youth organizing sit-ins and marches combating racial inequality in the Jim Crow South.  In March of 1965, Lewis brought national attention to state sanctioned racial discrimination in voting by coordinating what would be a fateful march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama.

FILE - In this March 7, 2015 file photo, President Barack Obama, center, holds hands with Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., left, and Amelia Boynton Robinson, right, who were both beaten during “Bloody Sunday,” as they walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., for the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” Boynton Robinson, a civil rights activist who nearly died while helping lead the Selma march on “Bloody Sunday,” championed voting rights for blacks, and was the first black woman to run for Congress in Alabama, died Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. She was 104. Boynton Robinson was hospitalized in July after having a major stroke and turned 104 on Aug. 18. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) AP

“People had been trying to get registered to vote for years.” Lewis reflected. “And sometimes the way of peace, the way of love, the way of non-violence encourages us to be patient, but never to give up.”

Speaking in front of a photo of Lewis delivering his speech at the historic March on Washington in 1963, John Dickerson asked the congressman if his own journey could serve as proof that progress is possible.

“Progress can happen. You just have to be faithful to the cause” Lewis said. “Just never give up, you never give in and you never give out. Be prepared to run the race.”

For more of our interview with the Civil Rights Icon and Congressman from Georgia click here​.

  • Tim Perry

    CBS News reporter covering the White House.