A guest blog by my daughter, Lia P.
Donald Trump began buying properties in the 60s. By 1973, he and his father Fred were sued by the US Justice Department for excluding black residents from its buildings in Brooklyn, Queens, and Norfolk, Virginia for alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act. During the 80s, Trump continued to build his real estate empire, but by 1991 he filed for bankruptcy for the first time.
In early May 1989, Trump took out a full-page ad in the Daily News to weigh in on what he thought he knew about the Central Park Five case, implicating five teens in the rape and attempted murder of a Central Park jogger. In his news ad, Trump suggested we bring back the death penalty. Though the boys in the case were exonerated by DNA evidence that proved a serial rapist and murderer committed the crime, he still refused to admit he was wrong.
In 2005, Trump University was opened and then shut down amid lawsuits claiming that it was a sham. By 2012, as a prominent member of the Birther Movement, Trump offered President Barack Obama five million dollars to give to any charity of his choice in exchange for his birth certificate. He later affirmed that the president was born in the United States, but no charity, to my recollection, received the donation. In 2015, NBC cut ties with Trump due to his remarks about immigration.
One of America’s most famous business and television personalities and currently the President-elect of the United States, Donald Trump has amassed monetary wealth in real estate, gaming, sports, and entertainment, and his legacy will surely be that of a man who made and kept most of his money (multiple bankruptcies aside). But if we are to measure the success of a person by the depth of their legacy, his pales in comparison to the man he repeatedly criticized this week, Senator John Lewis.
In addition to being one of my son’s heroes, John Lewis has spent his entire life protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls “The Beloved Community” in America. Unlike Donald Trump, John Lewis was not born wealthy. He came into the world in 1940 and was the son of sharecroppers. Early in his life he became inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This is what impacted my son the most when he read, March earlier this year. My son, who struggles with reading because of his ADHD, finished Lewis’s book in nearly one sitting. Whereas Donald Trump frightened my son, John Lewis inspired him.
At a young age, Lewis decided to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement and generations since will forever be grateful. He organized sit-in demonstrations when he was a student at Fisk and volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides in Tennessee. He risked his life, was arrested, and was beaten working for justice in the segregated south.
From 1963 to 1966, Lewis served as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form. SNCC was one of the most important organizations of the civil rights movement. At twenty-three years of age, Lewis was a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963. He worked tirelessly on voter registration and worked with other civil rights leaders to lead over 600 peaceful protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965.
Lewis has been the Associate Director of the Field Foundation, the Director of the Voter Education Project (VEP) and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency. Before being elected to Congress in 1986, Lewis was on the Atlanta City Council where he advocated for ethics in government and neighborhood preservation. He has received too many awards to list for his service, including the highest civilian honor granted by President Barack Obama, the Medal of Freedom. He has been on the front lines of the civil rights movement for decades.
Even though there’s no doubt that Donald Trump, has amassed a certain amount of wealth, (how much I guess we will never know), that type of wealth is fleeting, especially considering his six bankruptcies. But even if Trump dies a rich man, he’ll probably be remembered more for those he scammed and bullied, while Lewis’s legacy will be of one who helped change the future for generations to come. As Billy Graham once said, the greatest legacy one can pass on “is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” Only John Lewis meets that test.