I never had any idea that I would live to see an African American become President of the United States of America. During the height of the Civil Rights movement, I never thought, I never visualized that one day an African American would be President of the United States during my lifetime.
We were fighting to end segregration and racial discrimination and public accommodation at the lunch counters. During the 60s, blacks and whites could not ride in a taxi cab together in Montgomery, Alabama. We couldn't be seated on a Greyhound bus together in most of the South. We were just trying to break down barriers and bring down those signs that said 'White Men. Colored Men. White Women. Colored Women.' And trying to assure all of our citizens the right to participate in the democratic process.
So when you really look at it, when you really think about it, we have witnessed tonight in America a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas. There has been a transformation of American politics. It will have unbelievable influence on the politics of the world.
People around the world have been pulling for this man. They saw in him the embodiment of the hopes, the dreams and aspirations, not just of the American people, but all of the world's citizens. I think Andy Young, my friend and my colleague for many years, is right: "Barack Obama will emerge as a world leader. He will inspire the young people, and people not so young."
I thought if Martin Luther King, Jr. had lived longer, he would have emerged, not as a political leader, but as a great moral leader. Not just for the American people, but for all segments of the population of the world.
We should all be grateful to people who gave their lives to bring us to this moment. These people - President Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Martin Luther King, Jr., and hundreds and thousands of other just plain everyday citizens - did so much to bring us to this day. I cried earlier today, and I know I'm going to shed some more tears. But sometimes I don't feel I have any more tears left.
John Robert Lewis (born February 21, 1940) was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played a key role in the struggle to end segregation. Lewis, a member of the Democratic Party, has represented Georgia's 5th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives since 1987. The district encompasses almost all of Atlanta.