Commencement speaker a civil rights icon

Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, who stands as one of thesurviving icons of the Martin Luther King Jr. civil rights era,will deliver the keynote address at the Portland State commencementceremony June 12.

A youthful Lewis stood and delivered an inspirational speech oncivil rights to the March on Washington crowd at the LincolnMemorial August 28, 1963. Shortly thereafter, King made hiscelebrated “I Have a Dream” oration. An aide to Lewis said thecongressman is the only person still alive who made a speech thatday.

Although Lewis will bring a prepared address with him, heexpects to extrapolate on it in his inspirational style. Thecongressman will deliver a speech that springs from his experiencesin the civil rights movement, to encourage students to use theirtalents and abilities to “win a victory for humanity.”

Lewis is known as a man who likes to talk to young people. He isexpected to tell his audience he believes very deeply in the powerof young people to change the world. He will be encouraging hislisteners to get involved, “get in the way” and make a differencefor humanity.

He is expected to tell the graduates to enjoy this commencementday, and “tomorrow roll up your sleeves, because the world iswaiting for talented men and women to lead it to a betterplace.”

He will call for an “all-inclusive world community based onsimple justice, an all-encompassing community that values thedignity of every individual.” It is a concept he calls “the BelovedCommunity.”

The congressman plans to review highlights of his experiences inthe civil rights movement of the ’60s and beyond and relate theirlessons to the stresses of society today.

This will not be the congressman’s first visit to PortlandState. He came here as a participant in Bobby Kennedy’s 1969 bidfor the U.S. presidency and he came again last summer to discussthe civil rights movement with PSU President Daniel Bernstine andmembers of the campus community.

Lewis is the author of the widely-quoted book “Walking with theWind.” He was recently featured in Washingtonian magazine afterSenator John McCain of Arizona listed Lewis in a book as one of themost courageous individuals he had ever met. Lewis also will befeatured in an upcoming issue of American Profile magazine.

The congressman’s history on behalf of the civil rights movementdates back to a very young age. He was born the son ofsharecroppers in 1940 near Troy, Ala. As a student, he organizedsit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville,Tenn. In 1961 he participated in the Freedom Rides to challengesegregation at bus terminals. He was arrested more than 40 timesand was beaten severely by mobs.

He helped to form, and became chairman of, the StudentNonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), known for its activism onbehalf of civil rights. By 1963 he was recognized as one of the”Big Six” civil rights leaders, along with Whitney Young, A.Phillip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer and RoyWilkins.

In 1977, Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to directmore than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteeragency. His first electoral office came in 1981 when he was votedto the city council of Atlanta, Ga. He was elected to the Congressin November, 1986, to represent Georgia’s Fifth CongressionalDistrict, which includes Atlanta. He is currently serving his ninthterm in office and serves as senior chief deputy Democratic Partywhip in the House.

Commencement will take place Saturday, June 12, at 3 p.m. in theRose Garden Arena. Additional information may be found

The commencement ceremony June 12 is a formal ceremony. Allparticipating students are required to wear the appropriateacademic regalia. Those taking part will have earned degrees orcertificates in fall 2003, winter 2004 or spring 2004.

Students participating will assemble at 1:45 p.m. in theMemorial Coliseum exhibit hall. There, students fill out “readercards.” The lines will begin to move from the exhibit hall to theRose Garden arena shortly before 2:30 p.m. University guidelinesask that the use of cell phones and chewing gum be discouraged.

No alcohol is permitted in the exhibit hall or the arena. Heliumballoons are to be left outside. A professional photographer willtake cap and gown portrait photos in the exhibit hall beginning at1:45 p.m. There also will be photos taken of all students as theyshake hands with the president or the appropriate dean.