Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis will be the keynote speaker at Caltech’s 124th commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday, June 15 at Beckman Mall on the Caltech Campus.
“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 President Thomas F. Rosenbaum said in a prepared statement.
Lewis’ appearance marks the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1958 visit to the campus.
Lewis was first inspired to join the civil rights movement as a young boy after seeing the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and heard King speak on the radio. In 1963, as a student at Fisk University, Lewis 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 in a brutal confrontation that would later be recognized as a turning point in the movement and in American history.