John Lewis testified against Jeff Sessions because he knows exactly what's at stake.

On March 7, 1965, John Lewis was smashed in the head by an Alabama state trooper while protesting for the right to vote.

The impact fractured his skull. Two weeks later, Lewis marched with Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, which helped convince Congress to pass the original Voting Rights Act into law.


Today, Lewis is a U.S. Congressman, and with colleagues from the Congressional Black Caucus sitting behind him, he recalled those events in his testimony against fellow Alabamian Jeff Sessions' nomination for attorney general.

Sessions' repeated pledges to enforce "law and order" in his new role struck a discordant note with Lewis, whose politics were molded by a society where that phrase meant different things to different groups of people.

Representative John Lewis. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.

"Those who are committed to equal justice on our society wonder whether Senator Sessions’ call for 'law and order' will mean today what it meant in Alabama when I was coming up back then," Lewis said.

Sen. Cory Booker's testimony may have grabbed most of the pre-hearing headlines — but it was Lewis' testimony that spoke most powerfully to what's at stake with Sessions' nomination.

With his address, Booker became the first sitting senator to testify against a colleague in a hearing, and he spoke eloquently about the need to continue important work on criminal justice reform and to defend the rights of marginalized people.

Lewis placed Booker's calls in historical context, citing the unfinished work of the civil rights movement as the primary reason to demand an attorney general defend its hard-won gains. Sessions has criticized Black Lives Matter for making "radical" statements and essentially contributing to demoralization among law enforcement.

“We can pretend that the law is blind. We can pretend that it’s evenhanded. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are called upon daily by the people we represent to help them deal with unfairness in how the law is written and enforced," Lewis said in his testimony.

Lewis also used his testimony to rebut an early exchange between Sessions and committee member Lindsay Graham, where Sessions revealed that it was "very painful" to be labeled a bigot and a racist.

In his first day of hearings, Sessions called parts of the Voting Rights Act "intrusive" and renewed his support for Voter ID laws, which critics say depress minority turnout.

Senator Jeff Sessions. Photo by Molly Riley/Getty Images.

"It doesn’t matter how Senator Sessions may smile, how friendly he may be, how he may speak to you. But we need someone who’s going to stand up, speak up, and speak out for the people that need help," Lewis said, "for people who have been discriminated against."

With Republican control of the Senate, Sessions will likely be confirmed. Still, as he steps into the role, he'd be wise to heed Lewis' final words of the afternoon.

"We need someone as attorney general who’s going to look out for all of us and not just for some of us," Lewis concluded.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Sessions' Senate colleagues — on both sides of the aisle — clearly think he's a nice guy. Several of his colleagues of color, including an attorney worked under him in Alabama, testified that he treated them with the utmost respect. That's great, but only goes so far.

When faced with the monumental task of safeguarding the civil rights for all Americans, Lewis is spot-on in his analysis.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Courtesy is nice.

Words are nice.

But it's actions that truly count.

Watch Representative John Lewis' congressional testimony against Senator Sessions in its entirety here:

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When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State University, she took a job mucking horse stalls to help pay for classes. While she was there, she met a 10-year-old girl named Casey, who was being treated for cancer, and — because both were animal lovers — they became fast friends.

Two years later, Casey died of cancer.

"Everyone at the barn wanted to do something to honor her memory," Molly remembers. A lot of suggestions were thrown out, but Molly knew that there was a bigger, more enduring way to do it.

"I saw firsthand how horses helped Casey and her family escape from the difficult and terrifying times they were enduring. I knew that there must be other families who could benefit from horses in the way she and her family had."

Molly approached the barn owners and asked if they would be open to letting her hold a one-day event. She wanted to bring pediatric cancer patients to the farm, where they could enjoy the horses and peaceful setting. They agreed, and with the help of her closest friends and the "emergency" credit card her parents had given her, Molly created her first Camp Casey. She worked with the local hospital where Casey had been a patient and invited 20 patients, their siblings and their parents.

The event was a huge success — and it was originally meant to be just that: a one-day thing. But, Molly says, "I believe Casey had other plans."

One week after the event, Molly received a letter from a five-year-old boy who had brain cancer. He had been at Camp Casey and said it was "the best day of his life."

"[After that], I knew that we had to pull it off again," Molly says. And they did. Every month for the next few years, they threw a Camp Casey. And when Molly graduated, she did the most terrifying thing she had ever done and told her parents that she would be waitressing for a year to see if it might be possible to turn Camp Casey into an actual nonprofit organization. That year of waitressing turned into six, but in the end she was able to pull it off: by 2010, Camp Casey became a non-profit with a paid staff.

"I am grateful for all the ways I've experienced good luck in my life and, therefore, I believe I have a responsibility to give back. It brings me tremendous joy to see people, animals, or things coming together to create goodness in a world that can often be filled with hardships."

Camp Casey serves 1500 children under the age of 18 each year in Michigan. "The organization looks different than when it started," Molly says. "We now operate four cost-free programs that bring accessible horseback riding and recreational services to children with cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses."

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