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Lewis to address both RPI, Union graduates

Lewis to address both RPI, Union graduates

Civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis will be the keynote speaker at Rensselaer Polytechnic I

Civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis will be the keynote speaker at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s commencement on May 25.

The event will be held at 8:30 a.m. in the East Campus Athletic Village Stadium.

Lewis is also scheduled to be the commencement speaker at Union College on June 16.

As a student at Fisk University, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville. During the height of the civil rights movement, from 1963 to 1966, Lewis helped form and was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

In 1964, Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. The following year on March 7, Lewis and Hosea Williams led more than 600 protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., intending to march from Selma to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday,” which helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1981 and in 1986 was elected to Congress representing Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District.

Also speaking at the graduation ceremony will be Retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, Xerox Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ursula M. Burns and Microsoft and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation founding CEO Patty Stonesifer.

All four speakers will receive honorary degrees from RPI.

The day before graduation, RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson will hold the 2013 Commencement Colloquy and lead the speakers in a discussion titled “Leading Cultural Shifts: Courage, Creativity, Commitment.”

The event, which is open to the general public, will be held in the Concert Hall of RPI’s Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at 4 p.m.

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