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EDITORIAL: By His Example, He Worked to Heal Our Nation

In this week’s paper we recount the story of David S. Lewis, a young Groton man who dropped out of Yale, converted to Islam, joined an inner-city all-black Islamic religious society, and was murdered in Philadelphia 45 years ago. The story draws our attention for several reasons.
     There is horror because this talented, capable, idealistic young man’s life was snuffed out in his prime, apparently for political reasons. There is admiration because he sacrificed his comfort, security and ultimately his life for the people he chose to be his. There is awe that he took on the historical burden of our country’s sins in a very direct personal way without fear and without calling attention to himself.
     Instead of using his abundant talents to make a life of material ease, he used them to build up his north Philadelphia community by working in a school library, starting a Boy Scout troop, working in a hospital and serving as a Republican committeeman in his north Philadelphia ward. Think about that one for a moment and reflect on how much this country has changed.
     It was only after he had lived among his people that he discovered a good reason for wanting to be a doctor, and only then did he commit his talents to becoming one.
     The story of his life and death may be an inspiration to some or – perhaps – seem ridiculous in the extreme to others.
     But without judging his actions as either heroic or ludicrous, there is – we believe – a lesson embedded in his life’s work that applies to all of us here in Groton, the place his body is buried.
     Many of the values that bind us Americans together are abstractions – a belief that "All men [people] are created equal," a belief that all of us are working to create "a more perfect union," a belief that ensuring ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth’ is a worthwhile endeavor.
     His commitment to the people he chose to be his was not abstract. They were a certain people, in a certain place at a certain time. It is not possible to separate the people from their place or time. We believe this aspect of his life is something that can provide us a guidepost for how to conduct our lives as Americans.
     Groton is fortunate to have so many people who serve their community in a spirit like his. We are not going to single out any groups but there are many who serve in government organizations and in private ways because of love of this place and for love of this people. Many serve in ways that will never be noticed or acknowledged but are crucial.
     We can heal ourselves, heal our nation and heal our partisan political divide by an unselfish commitment to making real our American ideals in this place, at this time and among this people.
     Groton is one small stream contributing to the mighty river that is America. By living out our American ideals here and now, our example can help heal our nation.
     Thank you, Hajji Hanif Ben Abdul-Rahman, formerly known as David S. Lewis, for your example and your guidance.
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