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Congressman and Civil Rights Icon John Lewis to speak at Moravian College

The Congressman, activist, and author will discuss his role in the civil rights movement and issues of poverty and inequality

John LewisBethlehem, Pa., March 20, 2012--Congressman John Lewis, representative from Georgia’s 5th District, will visit Moravian College for a talk in Prosser Auditorium on Thursday, March 29 at 8 p.m. Lewis is this year’s Peace and Justice Visiting Scholar and will be presented with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree after his lecture. His presentation will focus on issues of poverty and inequality as well as his role in the American civil rights movement, in keeping with Moravian’s 2011-2012 IN FOCUS initiative.

Congressman Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties and building what he calls “The Beloved Community” in America. His commitment to the highest ethical standards and moral principles has won him the admiration of many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the U.S. Congress.

He is being presented the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at Moravian College for his dedication to human rights, adherence to progressive social justice values for all, and an integrity unshaken through 50 years in the political arena.

Robert Mayer, professor of education, and Kelly Denton-Borhaug, associate professor of religion and department chair at Moravian, received a grant to develop the course they currently teach, The Civil Rights Movement and the Moral Life, which includes reading some of Lewis’ speeches. Denton-Borhaug read Lewis’ memoir in preparation for the course, and dreamed of bringing the congressman to campus.

“Not only would he speak to our IN FOCUS theme, he would be able to address our Peace and Justice Initiative, which we created more than five years ago,” said Denton-Borhaug. This program was started to bring prominent activists and scholars to interact with the college community. Lewis is the first member of congress to be named a Visiting Scholar.

“We looked at John Lewis as someone who is extremely important and has done amazing things, yet he’s been under the radar and humble,” said Mayer. “Yet what he’s done has been brave and he’s changed the whole notion of democracy for the world. He’s so soft-spoken, which belies how powerful his actions have been and continue to be. Listen closely to what he says, and it always resonates.”

“His life has been about empowering ordinary people to take action, challenge injustice, and exemplifies the best of what democracy is,” added Denton-Borhaug.

As the son of sharecroppers, Lewis grew up on the family farm near Troy, Alabama, and attended segregated schools there. As a young man, he listened to radio broadcasts of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was inspired by the leader’s activism and call to action. Deciding then to follow Dr. King into the civil rights movement, he has remained at the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle in the United States.

From sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, to the Freedom Rides, to being beaten and jailed for challenging the injustices across the south in the 1960s, Congressman Lewis continued to move forward and rise in the ranks of those fighting for civil rights. He was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the movement in 1963 (a group which included Dr. King); organized voter registration drives; and helped spearhead the march into Selma, Alabama, which hastened the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In 1977, Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency. He was elected to the Atlanta City Council four years later and to Congress in 1986, representing Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District, the seat he still holds.

Congressman Lewis holds a B.A. in religion and philosophy from Fisk University and graduated from the American Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been recognized for his work with social justice causes by numerous awards, both national and international. Through his continued efforts, progress continues to be made in the fight against poverty and inequality, injustice and intolerance. A full biography can be found on his official website at: http://johnlewis.house.gov/john-lewis/full-biography.

Congressman Lewis’ book, Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement is available for purchase now in the Moravian College Bookstore and also will be available that evening. In May, Lewis’s new book Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change will be published by Hyperion.

The event is free and open to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Prosser Auditorium is located in the Haupert Union Building near the corner of Monocacy and Locust Streets in Bethlehem, Pa. Moravian College encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. Anyone who anticipates needing any type of accommodation or who has questions about the physical access provided should contact Kathi Roman at Katro@moravian.edu or 610 625-7880.

IN FOCUS is an innovative program to promote in-depth examination of complex issues from multidisciplinary perspectives. Through IN FOCUS the members of the Moravian College community engage in analysis and activism regarding important challenges facing human beings and the world in the 21st century. Four issues have been identified as central to the Lehigh Valley, the U.S. and the globe, including poverty and inequality, sustainability, health care, and war and peace. Each year academic and co-curricular activity is centered on one of these challenges. The focus is on poverty and inequality this academic year.

Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. Moravian partners with students to build a strong foundation for their future. Visit the College’s Web site at www.moravian.edu.