"I’m going to continue to listen to the doctor and try to eat right and get enough rest and sleep," the Georgia congressman recently told New York, "but I have good days and days not so good"

By Adam Carlson
June 08, 2020 02:21 PM
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Georgia Rep. John Lewis on Sunday
Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty

In late December, Georgia Rep. John Lewis said he was "clear-eyed" about what it meant to be recently diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer — an illness that, for many people, means death within months.

Speaking with New York magazine for a piece published Monday, however, Lewis said his "health is improving."

"I’m feeling good. I’m doing better," he told the magazine. "And I’m going to continue to listen to the doctor and try to eat right and get enough rest and sleep."

"But I have good days and days not so good," he continued.

On that day, though, he said: "I feel good."

The longtime Democratic congressman and key figure of the civil rights movement spoke at length with New York about his views on activism, racial injustice and police brutality.

Nationwide demonstrations were touched off two weeks ago in the wake of the death of George Floyd while Floyd was in police custody in Minneapolis. (Video of Floyd's arrest showed an officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes while he said he couldn't breathe.)

"You say to yourself, 'How many more? How long? How long?' " Lewis told New York. "That’s why I’m very hopeful. That’s why I’m really optimistic about this upcoming election. [President Donald Trump] cannot tell a lie over and over again when people have the photographs, the videos."

Georgia Rep. John Lewis in 2019
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call

Elsewhere in the interview, Lewis said he thought Trump was the worst president on civil rights since the '60s.

(After Lewis said in 2017 that he wouldn't attend Trump's inauguration because Trump wasn't a "legitimate president," Trump shot back by accusing Lewis' congressional district of being "in horrible shape" and "crime infested.")

Speaking with New York, Lewis, who protested with friend and mentor Martin Luther King Jr. throughout the '60s, talked about the current unrest around the country and reflected on what he felt were important values for making change.

"We must never ever give up, or give in, or throw in the towel. We must continue to press on! And be prepared to do what we can to help educate people, to motivate people, to inspire people to stay engaged, to stay involved, and to not lose their sense of hope," said Lewis.

King, he said, "preached the philosophy of nonviolence, but he also was a man of action."

"We must continue to say we’re one people," Lewis told New York. "We’re one family. We all live in the same house."

Speaking with CBS This Morning last week, Lewis praised the Floyd demonstrators

“It was very moving, very moving to see hundreds of thousands of people from all over America and around the world take to the streets — to speak up, to speak out," he said then, "to get into what I call 'good trouble.' ”