Civil Rights Leader John Lewis Tells Goodwin Grads to “Speak Out,” “Vote”
Congressman John Lewis told the graduates of Goodwin College to “go out and help remake our society” during the 2014 Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, June 7.
Lewis, the last remaining “Big Six” leader of the American civil rights movement who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr., was honored alongside the 2014 Goodwin College graduates and legendary UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun.
“I’m honored to be honored with you,” Lewis told the Goodwin graduates upon receiving his honorary degree from the College.
Lewis urged the assembled graduates to vote, stressing the importance of voting no matter how you voted.
“The vote controls everything that you do,” Lewis said. “The vote is precious. It’s almost sacred, so go out and vote like you never voted before.”
On March 7, 1965, in Selma, Ala., Lewis was beaten almost to death when he led more than 600 peaceful protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to demonstrate the need for equal voting rights. Coverage of the event helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Lewis stressed the important of nonviolence when urging the graduates to “get into good trouble. Necessary trouble.”
“Be bold! Be courageous! Speak out! Speak out. Never hate. Be hopeful. Be optimistic. Be happy. The way of love, the way of peace is a better way,” Lewis said.
Goodwin President Mark Scheinberg called Lewis a national treasure, saying, “In a world of Mandelas and Ghandis, he’s one of America’s own.”
Speaking to the Goodwin graduates, Scheinberg lauded their struggles, hard work, and accomplishment, saying he wanted to “treasure and canonize you a bit.”
“Thank you so much for letting me be a part of your lives,” Scheinberg said.
Class Valedictorian Rebecca Whiting, who received her bachelor’s in Nursing, said that after difficulties with scheduling and flexibility at other schools, Goodwin helped her to truly achieve.
“Goodwin College gets it,” Whiting said. “They understand us.”
Class speaker Jenette Davis, a 58-year-old mother of six who earned her associate’s degree in Human Services, said she had to overcome a lot to return to school. But her experiences with Goodwin helped her to overcome those fears.
“You can overcome any fear if you set yourself in a position to believe,” Davis said. “We are living our dream!”
Davis’s son, Shane Davis, sang the National Anthem at his mother’s graduation. Shane is also a student at the College.
Coach Calhoun also received an honorary degree from the College, and asked the graduates to consider their voice and how they were going to be heard by the world.
“How is your voice going to be heard?” Calhoun asked. “How is your voice going to affect us?”
Calhoun urged the students to use their voices to aid others, saying, “You never stand so tall as when you stoop to help another.”
See more photographs from Goodwin’s 2014 graduation here!
Click here to view the ceremony on demand.
By: Rob Muirhead