By Kevin Longino, CEO of National Kidney Foundation and kidney transplant patient
Most Americans know the late civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) for his role as a freedom fighter, his stewardship of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and his leadership in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. Others know him for his record in Congress, fighting for voting rights, working for police reform, and combating health disparities.
But we at NKF know him as a faithful champion, leader, and friend of kidney patients. His contributions to our community are endless. He introduced legislation to strengthen kidney disease research and education, promoted innovation in dialysis care, and supported efforts to improve coverage of immunosuppressive drugs. He worked to increase research funding and shined a spotlight on health disparities. And he fought to make sure every American had access to high quality, affordable health insurance. Whether an issue was big or small, led by a Democrat or a Republican, if it was important to the kidney community, Congressman Lewis could be counted on for his support.
He was also the original “influencer.” He was so widely respected for his leadership on kidney health that when we would approach other Congressional offices about legislation, they would frequently ask, “Does Congressman Lewis support this?” His support brought others with it.
And who can forget his inspirational style? In 2016, the National Kidney Foundation honored Congressman Lewis at our annual congressional dinner. While making his remarks, every individual in the room watched in awe. Complete silence engulfed the room as he shared words of wisdom and appreciation.
Congressman Lewis was known for his phrase, “Make good trouble.” And by making good trouble for kidney patients, he made their lives immeasurably better. We cannot thank him enough for his leadership and support, and his presence will be missed in myriad ways.
Rest in Peace, Congressman. You will be missed.