'(John Lewis) believed so deeply in America': Byron Pitts

"Nightline" co-anchor Byron Pitts remembers the late Rep. John Lewis on what would have been his 81st birthday.
3:36 | 02/21/21

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Transcript for '(John Lewis) believed so deeply in America': Byron Pitts
morning, we're remembering the life of civil rights icon John Lewis, his final words to America which were posthumously published. Called upon the next generation to carry the mantle of social justice activism. Our chief national correspondent Byron Pitts looks back at how that legacy is carrying on. Reporter: Today would have been John Lewis' 81st birthday. Sharecropper son who became a soldier for justice, who became the soul of congress until his death seven months ago. I got in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble. Reporter: Congressman Lewis packed a whole lot of fe in 81 years. A wise warrior, whose weapons of choice were optimism and grit. You still come here often. Yes. Reporter: We spoke many times over the years. Once on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. 1963, he was a young man -- We do not want our freedoms gradually, but we want to be free now. Reporter: In 2013, he was still young in spirit. I stood right here, 50 years ago, on this very spot, with the other speakers, and it always gives me a sense of belonging to come here, because this spot is almost sacred. Reporter: Lewis was a protege of martin Luther king Jr. He also subscribed to the philosophy of American educator booker T. Washington. It was Washington who said plant your bucket where you stand. In other words, do your best, make your impact, whatever your gifts, wherever you stand in America, Lewis believed that of himself, of all of us. The dream is still in the process of becoming a reality. It's not there yet. But we are on our way. There will be no turning bark. You're smiling. Because I believe it. It's part of the DNA of the American psyche. Reporter: That DNA lived in Lewis and perhaps in all of us, those who choose to get in the way, plant their buckets where they stand. From athletes, to activists, from those who show heroism, to humility, from fellow Georgian Stacey Abrams who lost her governor's race in 2018, but two years later, registered a record number to vote in 2020. The norms of what just is, isn't always justice. To 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman who touched Americans at this year's inauguration. There was always light if only we're brave enough to see it, if only brave enough to be it. Reporter: She was a year younger when Lewis when he stirred souls in 1963. It's very simple when Y see something that is not right, something that is not fair, something that is not just, you have a moral obligation to say something, do something, you cannot be quiet. Reporter: John Lewis knew success and setback, because he believed so deeply in America, fought so courageously, we have no excuse to do any less. For "This week," I'm Byron Pitts in New York. I miss him. We all miss him. But John Lewis' legacy certainly lives on. Our thanks to my friend Byron for that.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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