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  • Judy Piercey

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  • Judy Piercey

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Civil Rights Icon John Lewis to be UC San Diego Commencement Speaker

Georgia congressman will address 15,000 UC San Diego graduates and their families at the June 16 All Campus Commencement ceremony

John Lewis to speak at UC San Diego

Rep. John Lewis

The University of California San Diego today announced that Rep. John Lewis, often called “one of the most courageous persons the civil rights movement ever produced,” will offer the keynote address at the invitation-only UC San Diego All Campus Commencement June 16, 2018.

UC San Diego, recognized as one of the top ten public universities in the U.S., is committed to public service and inclusive excellence—two areas that align with the work of John Lewis. Inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery bus boycott and the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as a young boy he made a decision to become a part of the civil rights movement. A devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence, Lewis has remained at the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle in the United States. He has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since 1986.

“Rep. John Lewis has dedicated his life to making our world a better place for everyone by protecting human rights and securing civil liberties,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “He stands up for what he believes in and he is not afraid to take risks. These are ideals we aim to convey to our graduates as they commence their careers and lives beyond the classroom.”

Born the son of sharecroppers, Lewis attended segregated public schools in Alabama. At the age of 25, he helped spearhead one of the most seminal moments of the civil rights movement, leading with Hosea Williams—another notable civil rights leader—more than 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. They intended to march from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as Bloody Sunday. News broadcasts and photographs revealing the senseless cruelty of the segregated South helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

President Obama giving John Lewis the Medal of Freedom

On Feb. 15, 2011, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) received the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the country's highest civilian honor—from President Barack Obama.

Inspired to continue making change by his experiences, Lewis pursued a career in politics. Currently, he serves as senior chief deputy whip for the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives. Lewis is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, a member of its subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and is a ranking member of its subcommittee on Oversight. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in religion and philosophy from Fisk University, and is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Nashville, Tenn. Lewis is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

In his talk at UC San Diego’s commencement, Lewis hopes to inspire the audience as he shares his early civil rights involvement and work in Congress. He often tells students, “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you must have the courage to stand up, to speak up, and find a way to get in the way.”

The All Campus Commencement kicks off graduation weekend at UC San Diego. Chancellor Khosla officially confers degrees by academic division upon graduates gathered as one student body. Following the ceremony, the campus’s six undergraduate colleges, two professional schools and various graduate programs host personalized graduation events where more than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students will walk across stage as their names are read. All graduates, families and friends are invited to attend both ceremonies to fully experience the pomp and circumstance, and joy and pride, which mark one of the most memorable times in a student’s life.

Below is the 2018 UC San Diego commencement weekend schedule. To learn more, visit the All Campus Commencement website

Saturday, June 16

9:00 a.m.      All Campus Commencement (RIMAC Field)
12:30 p.m.     Graduate Division (RIMAC Arena) – Masters
1:00 p.m.       College Ceremony (RIMAC Field) – Earl Warren College
4:00 p.m.      Graduate Division (RIMAC Arena) – Doctorate
4:30 p.m.      College Ceremony (RIMAC Field) – John Muir College

Sunday, June 17

8:00 a.m.      College Ceremony (RIMAC Field) – Eleanor Roosevelt College
9:00 a.m.      Rady School of Management (RIMAC Arena)
11:30 a.m.      College Ceremony (RIMAC Field) – Revelle College
1:30 p.m.       School of Global Policy and Strategy (RIMAC Arena)
3:00 p.m.      College Ceremony (RIMAC Field) – Thurgood Marshall College
6:30 p.m.      College Ceremony (RIMAC Field) – Sixth College

Note to Media: All reporters and photographers must register with UC San Diego to cover commencement. Contact Christine Clark at 858-534-7618 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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