Congressman John Lewis to Speak at Saint Joseph's University

"A Morning With John Lewis" culminates SJU's commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. speech delivered on campus in 1967

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

PHILADELPHIA (February 14, 2018) — Civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) will visit Saint Joseph’s University on Monday, April 16 to deliver a talk at 10 a.m., in the Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena.

His lecture will draw from his life’s work as a civil rights crusader and champion of social justice causes. In particular, Lewis will address the life and legacy of his friend and mentor Martin Luther King Jr. The congressman’s talk culminates a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of a speech King delivered on campus on October 26, 1967, in the Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse, now the Hagan Arena.

Saint Joseph's President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., will introduce the congressman at the event, and will award Lewis with Saint Joseph's University's President's Medal for Excellence. 

"We are honored to welcome this steadfast civil rights champion to our campus," says Dr. Reed. "Mr. Lewis models all that Saint Joseph’s University seeks to instill in its students — faith in God, empathy for others, courage in the face of adversity and commitment to action and  the Jesuit principal of service to justice. For these values and his life of public service, he is awarded the Saint Joseph’s University President’s Medal for Excellence."

Known for his great courage and unflinching dedication to protecting human rights, John Robert Lewis was born the son of sharecroppers in 1940, outside of Troy, Alabama. Inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott and by Dr. King’s radio broadcasts, he resolved to become a part of the civil rights movement. His activism began as a student at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he staged sit-ins at segregated lunch counters. By 1963, he was named one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. That August, he was a keynote speaker and architect of the historic March on Washington.

To bring attention to the need for voting rights in Alabama, Lewis and others led peaceful protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965, with the intention of marching to Montgomery. After they were attacked by Alabama state troopers, news reports of the confrontation helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Continuing his work in civil rights and his advocacy of the philosophy of non-violent protest, Lewis entered government in 1981 when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. He was subsequently elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since then. He is Senior Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on Oversight.

“Congressman Lewis serves as a model for a life lived for and with others,” says Monica Nixon, Ed.D., assistant provost for Inclusion and Diversity. “His career as a community organizer and legislative leader ties together the activism of the Civil Rights Era with a purpose-driven commitment to addressing the challenges of racism, poverty and violence.”

In addition to receiving the 2011 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, Lewis’ numerous national and international awards include the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford’s Theatre, the Golden Plate Award given by the Academy of Excellence, the Preservation Hero award given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Capital Award of the National Council of La Raza,  the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize, the President’s Medal of Georgetown University, the NAACP Spingarn Medal, the National Education Association Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award, and the only John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage Award” for Lifetime Achievement ever granted by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

Lewis is the co-author of the National Book Award winning and #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel memoir trilogy MARCH, which is about the incident on the Pettus Bridge. Sponsored by the Haub School of Business and SJU's Pre-Law amd the Law Alumni Endowment, nearly 300 copies of the first volume of March will be distributed to students who are first to arrive at Hagan Arena on the morning of the event.

The lecture is sponsored by Saint Joseph’s Office of the President, the Office of the Provost and the Office of Mission and Identity. Advanced registration for "A Morning With John Lewis" is now closed. Audiences are invited to join the livestreamed event at 10 a.m. on April 16. For more information about "A Morning with John Lewis," please contact the Office of Inclusion and Diversity at 610-660-1015 or visit

Media Contact

Patricia Allen, Director of Communications,, 610-660-3240

Event Contact

For more information about the event, please contact the Office of Inclusion and Diversity,, 610-660-1015


Founded in 1851 in the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, Saint Joseph’s University is a top-ranked Catholic University that provides a rigorous, student-centered education. With a total enrollment of 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, SJU offers a wide array of academic programs designed so that each graduate enters the world with a competitive resume and global perspective. This is achieved through intense academic study led by thought-leading faculty scholars, a comprehensive campus experience and robust study abroad, service-learning, internship and co-op programs. Upon graduation, nearly 100 percent of students are employed, pursuing advanced degrees or volunteering in prestigious service programs. A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, SJU offers 20 Division I intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. SJU alumni — over 68,000 strong — provide a powerful network that spans the globe.

Expand this section