Rep. John Lewis (right) and fellow “March” authors Nate Powell (left) and Andrew Aydin turn to applaud the “Vote” painting by Morse High School students. Photo by Ken Stone

Nate Powell, illustrator of the graphic memoirs “March, said Friday that some students learn only nine words about the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and “I have a dream.”

Some 300 students at Morse High School can boast knowing a lot more.

Having read “March: Book One” by Rep. John Lewis and co-author (and congressional aide) Andrew Aydin, the teens were treated to living history Friday when the veteran of Selma spoke to a packed gym audience.

In a 22-minute talk that began with a young man calling to Lewis “I love you” (triggering the response “I love you, too”), the 78-year-old Georgia Democrat offered inspiration and motivation. He recalled meeting the Rev. King at 17.

King in 1957 called Lewis “the Boy from Troy,” the town in Alabama.

Rep. John Lewis encourages young audience to “vote like we’ve never voted before.” Photo by Ken Stone

Eight years later, as a young activist, Lewis suffered a fractured skull on “Bloody Sunday,” the trek from Selma to Montgomery depicted in the new “One Book, One San Diego” selection “March.”

Friday night, Lewis, Powell and Aydin were set to appear at the San Diego Civic Theatre for the “launch event” of the 2018 season of “one book” reading.

But Friday morning, with dignitaries including California Secretary of State Alex Padilla making presentations, Lewis roared at the Tigers’ gym.

He exhorted the minority majority audience to be brave and courageous: “Never give up. Never give in. Be optimistic. We must vote like we’ve never voted before.”

But lest he draw too dire a picture, Lewis added: “It’s all going to work out. You can do it.”

Students gasped when Lewis noted that he’d been arrested 40 times during the civil rights era of the 1960s. (His most recent arrest was two years ago, demanding House action on gun control.)

The point of “March,” Lewis and his partners said, was to show how the struggle for rights (also gay, women’s and immigrants) is continuing.

“Inequality is not fixed once,” Powell said. “This is not a drill, and it is never over.”

Aydin introduced himself as a Muslim-American but not “Oh, you’re a good Muslim” as some told him.

Rep. John Lewis get a kiss from Morse special education technician Twyla Tarkington after his talk. Photo by Ken Stone

“I’m definitely not a good Muslim,” he said. “I’m a rabble rouser and proud of it.”

He told about how 10 years ago, “nobody thought of teaching a comic book in school,” including one of his high school teachers, who said a comic book was not a “real book.”

“She now teaches graphic novels in [her] classroom,” Aydin said. He said the “March” trilogy was an example of “an idea whose time has come. Join us — and march.”

Powell, who grew up in Alabama, said reading X-Men comics helped develop his social conscience.

“Being part of that gateway drug, comics continue to change lives,” he said. “That’s my PSA. Stand up for the art form of comics.”

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Lewis didn’t address specific current events except to decry the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that led to family separations at the border.

“It doesn’t make sense in our country for … millions (of immigrants) to be living in fear,” he said. “Separating children from their parents is vicious, and it’s evil and it’s sick. It must never, ever happen again.”

In a less serious moment, Eisner Award-winning artist Powell told of how he meant to attend a 50th anniversary celebration of Little Rock Central High School being integrated — where Lewis spoke. Powell said he couldn’t make it.

He leaned toward Lewis, smiled and said, “Sorry, man.”

Later, a Morse High School art teacher and her students presented Lewis a painting showing the word “Vote” made of crossed arms of different colors.

Rep. Susan Davis, who arrived after Lewis spoke, hailed her Capitol Hill colleague and reprised her story about meeting a student who said she didn’t vote for “fear of making a mistake.”

Davis told a fidgety crowd it was never wrong to exercise the right to cast a ballot.

At 11:45 a.m., with Lewis still signing autographs and posing for pictures, a Morse official spoke into a bullhorn — the kind once used by MLK at rallies but also by Segregationists to warn against “unlawful assemblies.”

The woman said it was time for lunch.

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