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News Posted on January 11, 2016

Congressman John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon, to Speak at 2016 Commencement Ceremony

UC Davis School of Law is proud to announce that Congressman John Lewis, an iconic leader of the 1960s Civil Rights movement who has remained at the vanguard of progressive social movements throughout his long career, will deliver the Commencement Address for the graduating Class of 2016. The event will take place on May 14, 2016 at the UC Davis Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.

John LewisLewis, who has served as U.S. Representative for Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since 1986, is considered one of the "Big Six" leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Born in 1940 to Alabama sharecropper parents, he was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus boycott to join the fight against segregation. Since that time, he has dedicated his life and career to civil rights and social equality activism.

During the Civil Rights movement, Lewis helped to form and served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which was largely responsible for organizing student activism. He was arrested more than 40 times and suffered numerous beatings for challenging Jim Crow segregation in the South, earning a reputation as "one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights movement ever produced." He was a participant in the Freedom Rides of 1961, an architect and keynote speaker, alongside Dr. King, for the March on Washington in 1963, an organizer of voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, and a key organizer of the historic March on Selma in 1965, to list just a few of his activities during that era.

Lewis went on to work as a leader of civil rights organizations such as the Field Foundation and the Voter Education Project, and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct the more than 250,000 volunteers working for ACTION, the federal volunteer agency, in 1977.  He was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1981 and to Congress in 1986.  He is now Senior Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Party in the House as well as a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and the ranking member of its Subcommittee on Oversight.  The recipient of countless awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Lewis continues to be an outspoken voice on issues of human rights and social justice.

The Class of 2016 Commencement Ceremony is an invitation-only event for graduating students and their families.  Plans are underway to make a live webcast available to the public via the UC Davis School of Law website.

Previous commencement speakers at UC Davis School of Law include California Governor Jerry Brown, U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, former UN Ambassador and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, Chief Justice of California Tani Cantil-Sakauye '84, California Supreme Court Justices Goodwin Liu and Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, then-California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg '84, and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. King.