Now that she's free to speak, Oprah's put together a panel of her favorite political minds to discuss this history-making election—U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), David Gergen, Peggy Noonan, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Gloria Steinem.
U.S. Rep. Lewis is an American hero who's had a front-row seat to history, marching alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement. He also just won re-election for his 12th congressional term.
Election night was one of the most moving moments of his life, U.S. Rep. Lewis says. "I had what I call an out-of-body experience. I jumped so high, I started shouting, I was at Ebenezer Church and I just embarrassed myself. I was just overcome," he says. "It reminded me of all of the struggle, all of the pain and suffering. And to see this day come, it was just too much."
The long lines to vote on Election Day reminded U.S. Rep. Lewis of the first time South Africans got to vote and elected Nelson Mandela president. U.S. Rep. Lewis says he also thought about Dr. King. "The days that we marched on Washington in 1963. The time that we marched in Selma for the right to vote. When we stood in those immovable lines that people had to pass a so-called literacy test," he says. "And there were hundreds and thousands of black Americans in the heart of the Deep South never had an opportunity to register and to vote."
A longtime friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, U.S. Rep. Lewis publicly shifted his support to President-elect Obama midway through the campaign. "It was very difficult for me," he says. "But I had what I called an 'executive session' with myself, and I saw the Barack Obama campaign as a movement. It was very similar to the civil rights movement, and I said I wanted to be on the right side of history, and that's why I made that change."
The 2008 presidential campaign wasn't just a political movement—U.S. Rep. Lewis says it was also spiritual. "It was something about this man,"he says. "I felt that Barack Obama had been tracked down by the spirit of history and was aligning himself to be used for the common good."