Rep. John Lewis looks at how far the nation has come in 50 years - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Rep. John Lewis looks at how far the nation has come in 50 years

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

One of the men standing alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago was Rep. John Lewis.

Lewis met the Civil Rights icon at age 18 and said King inspired his life of public service.

"Fifty years ago it was all about jobs and freedom. About full employment, putting people back to work and ending discrimination," Lewis said.

Lewis stood alongside King as he delivered the symbolic "I Have a Dream" speech.

"It was so moving, so powerful and the people got with them. Some were saying 'Amen' and some were just yelling and cheering, but he lift them up, and they were inspired to go back to their hometowns and their states and to work for jobs, for freedom, for civil rights," Lewis said.

Lewis believes the country has come a long way since those words were spoken on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, but said the country is still facing some of the same issues.

"We've made a lot of progress, but we must continue to go forward and we must never ever become bitter or hostile, we must continue to walk with peace, love and nonviolence to create a truly multiracial democratic society. Our country is a better country and we are a better people. The signs that I saw before making it to Washington, they're gone and they will not return, and the only places our children will see those signs will be in a book, in a museum or on a video. So when people say nothing has changed, I say come and walk in my shoes," Lewis said.

And now, 50 years later, the country's first African-American president will stand on those very steps and address the nation.

"It's amazing. It's almost unreal. It's unbelievable that in such a short time, an African-American, a man of color, will stand where Dr. King and the rest of us stood 50 years ago. I wonder sometime whether it's history and fate just sort of come together," Lewis said. 

Lewis thinks King would be proud of our country today but disappointed by violence that still exists in many neighborhoods.

Lewis said King would say, "There is still work to do."

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