Retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral
, Xerox Chairman and CEO
Ursula M. Burns
, and Microsoft and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Pioneer Patty Stonesifer Also Will Receive Honorary Degrees
April 4, 2013
/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. Representative
(D-GA) - one of the nation's most dedicated and courageous civil rights leaders - will address
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
graduates at the 207th Commencement
May 25, 2013
. He will join a group of high-level business, military, and nonprofit foundation leaders who will participate in the graduation ceremonies.
Lewis will receive an honorary degree, along with Retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral
, Xerox Chairman and CEO
Ursula M. Burns
, and Microsoft and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pioneer
"Congressman Lewis is indeed a 'profile in courage,' an extraordinary example of the power of an individual to change the world," President
Shirley Ann Jackson
said. "At about the same age as our students, he stood up for what was right by sitting down at lunch counters, walking across a bridge in
, and marching on
. In doing so, with a persistent commitment to non-violence, he helped lead our nation through the civil rights era to a new day. Long considered the 'conscience of the U.S. Congress,' for more than a half century he has remained steadfast in his pursuit of equality, justice, and fairness for all. We are honored to have this Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and true American hero address the graduates at Rensselaer."
"We also look forward to honoring and hearing from three other influential leaders in corporate America, the military, and the foundation and nonprofit sectors," President Jackson added. "As chairman and CEO of Xerox,
has led the transformation of a Fortune 500 company, and the conversation on the importance of inviting young people to pursue math and science careers. As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral
guided the U. S. armed services through a shift in mission and in culture. As Chair of the White House Council on Community Solutions, and a pioneer in Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,
has remained focused on creating access, reducing inequities, and expanding opportunities for others. Each has been global in reach and profound in impact, and we are honored by their participation in our Commencement."
Before he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the Fifth Congressional District in
in 1986, Lewis compiled an impressive track record that led many civil and human rights leaders to call him one of the most courageous persons the civil rights movement ever produced. Roll Call magazine once said, "
... is a genuine American hero and moral leader who commands widespread respect in the chamber."
As a young man from
, Lewis was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a student at
, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in
. During the height of the civil rights movement, from 1963 to 1966, Lewis was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form. SNCC was largely responsible for organizing student activism in the movement.
While still a young man,
became a nationally recognized leader. By 1963, he was dubbed one of the "Big Six" leaders of the civil rights movement. At the age of 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on
in August, 1963.
In 1964, Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. The following year, Lewis helped spearhead one of the most seminal moments of the civil rights movement.
, another notable civil rights leader, and Lewis led more than 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in
March 7, 1965
, intending to march from
to demonstrate the need for voting rights. The marchers were attacked by
state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as "Bloody Sunday," which helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
After leaving SNCC in 1966, he continued his commitment to the civil rights movement as associate director of the Field Foundation and his participation in the Southern Regional Council's voter registration programs. Lewis went on to become the director of the Voter Education Project. In 1977, Lewis was appointed by President
to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.
He was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1981, and was elected to Congress in 1986. He is Senior Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and ranking member of its Subcommittee on Oversight.