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Congressman John Lewis to speak at USC’s December commencement

Congressman John Lewis, a leader in the civil rights movement for more than five decades, will be the guest speaker at the University of South Carolina’s winter commencement exercises Dec. 12.

The 2:30 p.m. ceremony for baccalaureate, master’s and professional-degree recipients from all eight campuses will be in the Colonial Life Arena. Congressman Lewis and James Konduros, retired Columbia attorney and philanthropist, will receive the honorary degrees of doctor of public service.

The doctoral hooding ceremony will be at 9:30 a.m. at the Koger Center for the Arts. Johnnie McFadden, director of the Carolina Diversity Professors Program, will be the speaker.

The university expects to award approximately 1,763 degrees from the Columbia campus. Also receiving degrees at the December ceremony will be approximately 588 graduates of USC Aiken, USC Beaufort, USC Lancaster, USC Salkehatchie, USC Sumter, USC Union and USC Upstate.

Lewis, who represents Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties and building what he calls “The Beloved Community” in America.

As chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he joined the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as one of the Big Six Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. He was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963. He was just 23 years old. Despite more than 45 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, Lewis has remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence.

In 1977, he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency. In 1981, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. While serving on the council, he was an advocate for ethics in government and neighborhood preservation. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1986 and has served the 5th district ever since. He is senior chief deputy whip for the House Democratic leadership, and a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

Starting in December and for future baccalaureate and master’s degree commencements, each graduate will each receive six tickets for guests. Graduates are asked to please return any tickets from their allotment that will not be used so the university may accommodate graduates who wish to invite more than six guests. This change is necessary in order to keep the ceremony at the Colonial Life Arena, where each graduate’s name is called as they cross the stage and shake hands with their respective dean and the university president. More information about commencement is available on the registrar’s graduation website.

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