"We are one people with one family. We all live in the same house… and through books, through information, we must find a way to say to people that we must lay down the burden of hate. For hate is too heavy a burden to bear.” – Rep. John Lewis
I woke up Saturday morning with the sad news that my colleague John Lewis had succumbed to pancreatic cancer after giving the good fight for the past six months.
John and I were elected together in the 100th Congress and was always one of our heralded classmates, and we enjoyed a close relationship.
It is times like these that I wish I had kept a daily journal. I remember one day while voting on the House Floor that he came up and put both hands on my shoulders asking what I was doing the first weekend in March. Yes, I had a couple of events in Michigan that I then scrubbed to travel by bus from Birmingham to Montgomery to Selma with John Lewis, other Civil Rights leaders like Fred Shuttlesworth (MLK called him ‘the most courageous civil rights fighter in the South’), and dozens of Republican and Democrat colleagues to mark the anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the day Lewis and scores of others were beaten while peacefully marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to try and register to vote. Governor George Wallace had ordered the beatings, and Lewis was lucky to survive. That event was highlighted on TV and was instrumental in capturing the rest of the nation’s attention to the voting rights issue.
Lewis called me “Brother Fred” in his deep, memorable voice that stirred so many to the cause of racial justice. He and fellow classmate, Amo Houghton, co-chaired the organization that now commemorates the annual anniversary of that march in Selma. On one of those visits, Lewis led a small delegation to visit Gov. Wallace in his hospital bed as Wallace apologized and Lewis forgave him in a stirring moment... I learned years later that it was my relative, General Emory Upton, that helped lead the successful effort in the Battle of Selma in 1865.
Later, Lewis would also travel with me to Benton Harbor to help address and heal issues here at home as we experienced unrest. Amey and I will keep all of John’s friends and family in our prayers during this sad and challenging time. You can see the full statement we sent over the weekend HERE.
Congress is back in session and the first order of business for the House Floor is the annual Defense Authorization bill. On Tuesday, my Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight Subcommittee will hear from Pfizer and four other drug companies leading the vaccine race to discuss their progress in developing a product we all desperately want. AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Moderna will all participate. Look for answers to questions regarding costs, progress, and timing. Last week I visited the Kalamazoo Pfizer facility as they prepare for the manufacture of 40M doses prior to the end of this year.
Johnson & Johnson announced that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate will begin Phase 1/2a trials in Belgium this week with trials beginning in the U.S. next week. A Phase 3 trial could launch ahead of schedule “potentially in late September,” which you can see HERE.
HHS Secretary Azar announced last week that 100K folks have completed the survey for the COVID Prevention Network Volunteer Screening Registry to potentially participate in clinical trials (individuals who want to participate can register HERE).
Lastly, remember to be extra cautious around Lake Michigan during dangerous conditions. There have been a number of tragic drownings recently with waves sweeping folks off of piers. Please be careful!
And today’s photo is one I took from last night’s sunset over Lake Michigan. If you’d like to share a photo for us to use in the KT update, please click HERE.