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On the Bridge with John Lewis and Barack Obama

Huffington Post

Fifty years after Bloody Sunday, I marched to the top of the Edmund Pettus Bridge with Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson, Congressman John Lewis, President Barack Obama, and many others.

It was a special moment. I lead a think tank founded in the aftermath of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to serve elected officials of color--the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (click here for our new voting rights report with numbers on minority turnout and elected officials over the last 50 years). I also teach and write on voting rights as a professor at The George Washington University Law School.

After President Obama's speech, event staff situated some of us at the foot of the bridge. I was behind Reverend Al Sharpton and NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, and just to the left of a gentleman pushing centenarian Amelia Boynton Robinson in her wheelchair. Mrs. Boynton Robinson and others who marched in 1965 were in the front row.

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush came out, followed by the Obama family and John Lewis. President Bush signed the update to the Voting Rights Act in 2006, and his presence on this day was a clear message that voting rights should not be a partisan issue. I reached out my hand to President Bush, and thanked him for coming to Selma. He took my hand, looked me in the eye, and clearly stated, "It is an honor for me to be here."