In wake of Trump's clash with John Lewis, Michelle Obama calls civil rights icon a 'great leader'

In a tweet posted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Michelle Obama commended Rep. John Lewis for his commitment to continuing King's work.

She wrote, "Thinking of Dr. King and great leaders like @repjohnlewis who carry on his legacy. May their example be our call to action."

Her glowing comment comes in the wake of Trump's controversial tweets attacking the civil rights leader.

9 PHOTOS
Underrated Martin Luther King Jr. quotes
See Gallery
Underrated Martin Luther King Jr. quotes

'One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws'

"Letter From Birmingham Jail," 1963

Between 1955 and 1965, King was arrested nearly 30 times. Although he was nonviolent, he resisted oppression and refused to comply with injustice.

 (Photo by Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

'It is a cruel jest to say a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps'

"Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution," 1968

In addition to racial justice, King was a fierce advocate for the rights of the poor. Very aware of the intersection of race and class, he organized the Poor People's Campaign to fight for economic justice in the United States.

 (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

'True compassion is more than flinging a coin at a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring' 

"Beyond Vietnam," 1967

King didn't accept lazy allyship in the 1960s. He argued that temporary band-aids over wounds of oppression underestimate the depth and magnitude of the institutions that produce them. He advocated that in order to truly help those in need, it's crucial to understand the systemic causes of poverty, racism and other social inequalities.

(Photo by Robert W. Kelley/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

'Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve...You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.'

"The Drum Major Instinct," 1968

King was a firm believer that we all have the capacity to make a difference — regardless of class, age or formal education.

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

'We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed' 

"Letter From Birmingham Jail," 1963

King did not equate nonviolence with no action at all. He demanded freedom with both his words and efforts.

(Photo by Stephen Somerstein/Getty Images)

'It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important'

Speech at UCLA, 1965

One of King's most popular quotes is, "I have a dream that ... the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

But it's important to note that he also understood it wouldn't always be possible to change people's morals. He did believe, however, in the power of legislation for racial justice, and while "the law may not change the hearts of men, it does change the habits of men."

 (Photo by Okamoto/PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

'The question is not if we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?'

"Letter From Birmingham Jail," 1963

King is frequently framed as a very reasonable leader, often contrasted with the extremism of Malcolm X. However, King was also viewed as an extremist for much of his time as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. And he embraced it.

In his "Letter From Birmingham Jail," he explained that being an extremist for a good cause wasn't something to be a ashamed of. "I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label," he wrote. "Was not Jesus an extremist for love?"

Photo Credit: Getty 

'Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will'  

"Letter From Birmingham Jail," 1963

As a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, King came across many people who accepted some of his beliefs and denied the ones that made them uncomfortable. In his "Letter From Birmingham Jail," he points toward white moderates who understood his argument for freedom and agreed with his goals, but disagreed with his timing or methods of direct action.

We see the same today, when people only partially quote King or misunderstand his beliefs.

Looking at his words over time, it's safe to assume King would have wanted a celebration of his life to honor all parts of him — especially the parts that challenge us.

Photo Credit: Getty 

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Trump tweeted Saturday, "Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!"

During a recent interview with NBC News' 'Meet the Press,' Lewis, a Democratic representative from Georgia, had expressed doubts about Donald Trump's legitimacy as the next leader of the U.S.

Lewis said, "I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president...I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton."

17 PHOTOS
Rep. John Lewis
See Gallery
Rep. John Lewis
U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, a civil-rights icon, who was lambasted over the weekend by President-elect Donald Trump after Lewis questioned the legitimacy of Trump's election, speaks at the 5000 Role Models of Excellence breakfast at Jungle Island on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 16, 2017 in Miami. (Emily Michot/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) appears in a pre-taped interview on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Friday, January 13, 2017. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) appears in a pre-taped interview on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Friday, January 13, 2017. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 11: Representative John Lewis (D-GA) takes part in panel testimony during the second day of the United States Attorney General confirmation hearing for Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) at the Russell Senate Office Building on Wednesday January 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) appears in a pre-taped interview on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Friday, January 13, 2017. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) appears in a pre-taped interview on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Friday, January 13, 2017. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 11: Representative John Lewis (D-GA), center, speaks as Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), left, and Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA) look on as they take part in panel testimony during the second day of the United States Attorney General confirmation hearing for Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) at the Russell Senate Office Building on Wednesday January 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Representative John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama and attorney general nominee for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, not pictured, in Washington, D.C. U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. Senator Cory Booker broke with tradition today and became the fist-sitting senator testify against a fellow senators nomination for a Cabinet post. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis (GA-05) receives the the 2016 Liberty Medal from Jeffrey Rosen (left), President and CEO of the National Constitution Center Monday, September 19, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to the National Constitution Center, the Liberty Medal honors men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 19: Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis (GA-05) receives the the 2016 Liberty Medal from Jeffrey Rosen (left), President and CEO of the National Constitution Center Monday, September 19, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to the National Constitution Center, the Liberty Medal honors men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
Representative John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, from left, speaks while standing next to Representative Joseph 'Joe' Crowley, a Democrat from New York, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, and Representative Charles 'Charlie' Rangel, a Democrat from New York, outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 23, 2016. Democrats closed out a marathon sit-in on the U.S. House floor Thursday afternoon after 25 hours of emotionally charged speeches demanding action on gun control, but they insisted their protests would continue in other forms. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 19: U.S. Representative John Lewis attends the Prayer Breakfast at the 45th Annual Legilative Black Caucus Foundation at Walter E. Washington Convention Center on September 19, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 19: United States Congressman John Lewis is honored before the game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on June 19, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
US Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia and one of the original Selma marchers, speaks during an event marking the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 2015. US President Barack Obama rallied a new generation of Americans to the spirit of the civil rights struggle, warning their march for freedom 'is not yet finished.' In a forceful speech in Selma, Alabama on the 50th anniversary of the brutal repression of a peaceful protest, America's first black president denounced new attempts to restrict voting rights. AFP PHOTO/ SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
(L-R) Former First Lady Laura Bush, First Lady Michelle Obama, US President Barack Obama and US Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, holds hands during an event marking the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015. US President Barack Obama rallied a new generation of Americans to the spirit of the civil rights struggle, warning their march for freedom 'is not yet finished.' In a forceful speech in Selma, Alabama on the 50th anniversary of the brutal repression of a peaceful protest, America's first black president denounced new attempts to restrict voting rights. AFP PHOTO/ SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
(L-R) US President Barack Obama holds hands with US Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, alongside former US President George W. Bush during an event marking the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015. US President Barack Obama rallied a new generation of Americans to the spirit of the civil rights struggle, warning their march for freedom 'is not yet finished.' In a forceful speech in Selma, Alabama on the 50th anniversary of the brutal repression of a peaceful protest, America's first black president denounced new attempts to restrict voting rights. AFP PHOTO/ SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.