The Honorable John Lewis, United States Congressman and leader of the Civil Rights Movement, will be Caltech’s 2018 commencement speaker on Friday, June 15. Lewis’s visit to the Pasadena institution’s campus will mark the 60-year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s three-day visit to Caltech in February 1958.
Known as “the conscience of Congress,” Lewis has spent his life at the vanguard of endeavors to expand and protect civil rights and liberties.
In 1963, while a student at Fisk University, he became chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, organizing lunch counter sit-ins and voter registration drives across the segregated South. He was the youngest of the Big Six leaders behind the 1963 March on Washington, the occasion of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and, two years later, at age 25, led more than 600 peaceful protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. State troopers attacked the demonstrators, a brutal confrontation that would later be recognized as a turning point in the movement and in American history.
Lewis was elected to Congress in 1986, and has since then represented Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District.
More recently, his graphic novel trilogy, March, which documents the history of the Civil Rights Movement, has received awards including the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King Book Award and the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature.
Lewis himself is the recipient of numerous honors including the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s Profile in Courage Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His example of intellectual courage matched by moral fortitude should inspire the Class of 2018 as they take their next steps forward in life.
Caltech’s Commencement Ceremony is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Friday at the Beckman Mall, 1200 E. California Boulevard. No tickets are required for the Commencement Ceremony. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.