BALTIMORE (July 30, 2020) — The NAACP hosted a virtual town hall featuring Senator Mitt Romney and NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson on Wednesday, July 29. Journalist and CNN Commentator, April Ryan, moderated the hour-long conversation.
Throughout the conversation, Senator Mitt Romney and President Johnson hit on hot-button topics such as the death of civil rights giant John Lewis, the pandemic and state of crisis we are currently living in, and the upcoming Presidential election. They also discussed social justice uprisings and answered questions posed by listeners.
On the subject of Rep. John Lewis’ recent death and his legacy, NAACP President Derrick Johnson said:
“John Lewis is apart of a generation that unfortunately viewed in JET Magazine, an open casket funeral for Emmett Till and how that 15-year-old was brutalized in Mississippi. John Lewis was a part of the generation who committed after seeing that, to work for social justice, to get in what he called ‘Good Trouble.’ Because of this ability to rise above his environment as an ordinary person to do extraordinary things. He sets an example that we all have a gift to give to society, to commit a level of integrity to do for one’s neighbor, one’s country and for oneself.”
Senator Romney echoed President Johnson’s remarks in saying:
“One of the things that I have learned in my life that I did not appreciate as a young person, even as a young businessman, is the impact an individual has on others. I’ve watched individuals who were unusual people and watched other people be influenced by them… This is true in the case of John Lewis. This is a man who not only did things that are notable and should be recognized but he by his personal character, his fundamental vision and his willingness to make Good Trouble, he changed many of us who watched him and that is a legacy which goes on and on.”
April Ryan also spoke on Rep Lewis’ legacy by stating:
“You don’t find that today and you have to stop and take a pause to recognize those who worked so we could sit here and have this conversation with Senator Mitt Romney. If it weren’t for those ancestors who were once elders, we would not be here at this moment. I thank you so much, late Congressman, John Lewis and all of you who paved the way for all of us.”
When asked about the current state of America and the Black Lives Matter movement, President Johnson said:
“When you look at the protestors, it looks more like America than we have ever seen before. We have black, white, male, female all chanting a factual statement saying ‘Black Lives Matter!’ We have corporate America who is stepping up and making profound statements and we are now pushing for them to back those statements up with actions.”
When asked the same question, Senator Romney said:
“Well, I think the entire country has turned its focus on the fact that there is systemic and structural disadvantages associated with being African American… It has been something we were aware of but after the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s many people sort of let that fall from their consciousness. With the tragic death of George Floyd and the other events which have occurred over the past several weeks, I think America is on both sides of the aisle are saying ‘this continues to be a real problem’. We still have not fulfilled the promise that America [should] offer to everybody.”
In closing, President Johnson said, “If we don’t change the level of civility in public discourse in this nation, it will continue to be unsafe for far too many people.
Senator Romney later said, “hopefully we’ll help bring America together at such a critical time.”
Founded in 1909 in response to the ongoing violence against Black people around the country, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in the nation. We have over 2,200 units and branches across the nation, along with well over 2M activists. Our mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.
NOTE: The Legal Defense Fund – also referred to as the NAACP-LDF was founded in 1940 as a part of the NAACP, but separated in 1957 to become a completely separate entity. It is recognized as the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and shares our commitment to equal rights.