'This Week' Transcript: David Axelrod

ROGERS: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: And up next, the great unveiling. As thousands gather to mark the dedication of the Martin Luther King Monument, civil rights legend Congressman John Lewis reflects on the man and his movement.


AMANPOUR: This morning, thousands are gathering in Washington for the dedication of the new memorial honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil rights icon and Congressman John Lewis is the last living speaker from the 1963 March on Washington. And he spoke with ABC's senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper about the monument to a man and his magnificent dream.


TAPPER (voice-over): Visiting the new Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial with congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis must be what it would be like to walk through the World War II memorial with Audie Murphy. The crowds keep embracing him, touching him. They're drawn to the man who was a friend and colleague of King's.

(on-screen): Does it look like him?

LEWIS: Oh, yeah. Very much. It's one of the best likenesses of him that I've ever seen. The first time I came out here, they still had the scaffolds up and they invited me to go up. And I went up. I touched his head, I rubbed his head, his face. And I cried. It's -- it's powerful.

TAPPER (voice-over): Lewis' journey to this site began more than 56 years ago. It was early 1955 when Lewis, then 15, heard a young minister on the radio for the first time.

KING: We must let it be known all over the world that we will not take it any longer.

TAPPER: His name was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his message captivated Lewis.

LEWIS: he was not just concerned about the Pearly Gates and the streets paved with gold and milk and honey, but he was concerned about the streets in Montgomery, Alabama.

TAPPER: Social gospel?

LEWIS: The social gospel. And he was talking about what people can do together. And it seemed like he was speaking directly to me, saying, John Lewis, you, too, can do something. And I was deeply moved and inspired by this man.

TAPPER (voice-over): The son of sharecroppers, Lewis attended segregated public schools in Pike County, Alabama. He did not understand why signs kept whites and coloreds separate.

LEWIS: And I would ask my mother, my father, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, "Why segregation? Why racial discrimination?" And they would say, "That's the way it is. Don't you get in the way. Don't you get in trouble."

TAPPER (on-screen): Really? They were worried about you getting involved?

LEWIS: Oh, they were very -- yeah, they were very troubled about what could happen. And -- but Dr. King inspired me.

TAPPER (voice-over): Lewis first met King when he was thinking about trying to integrate Troy State College.

LEWIS: I just wrote him and said, "Dr. King, I need your help."

TAPPER (on-screen): And then?

LEWIS: He wrote me back, sent me a round-trip greyhound bus ticket, and invited me to come to Montgomery. And that was the beginning of our relationship.

TAPPER (voice-over): Lewis became one of the key student leaders in the early days of the civil rights movement. One of the original Freedom Riders, the movement nearly cost Lewis his life. March 7, 1965, on Bloody Sunday, as it came to be known, Lewis was badly beaten by Alabama state troopers as he crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. But King's teachings, bits of which are now etched in these stones, gave him strength.

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