Congressman John Lewis to be UCSD’s 2018 Commencement Speaker

President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Congressman John Lewis in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Civil rights leader and Congressional Representative John Lewis will be the commencement speaker for UC San Diego’s class of 2018.

“Rep. John Lewis has dedicated his life to making our world a better place for everyone by protecting human rights and securing civil liberties,” Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said in a statement. “He stands up for what he believes in and he is not afraid to take risks. These are ideals we aim to convey to our graduates as they commence their careers and lives beyond the classroom.”

During the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis was the youngest of the “The Big Six,” a group that included Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, A. Philip Randolph, Whitney Young, and Roy Wilkins. During the Freedom Bus Rides, Lewis was viciously beaten with a wooden crate in Montgomery, Alabama. He is perhaps best known for March 7, 1965, “Bloody Sunday,” where he helped lead more than 600 marchers over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

Lewis was elected to Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District in 1986 and has served as the Senior Chief Deputy Whip since 2003. In the last year, Lewis has used his platform to be an adamant critic of President Donald Trump.

On Sunday, Lewis called Trump a racist, citing the president’s belief that many Haitian and African immigrants are coming from “shithole countries.” Lewis said that he will not be attending the president’s upcoming State of the Union on Jan 30, 2018. This same time last year, Lewis told Meet the Press that he did not see Trump as a legitimate president and that he would not attend his inauguration.

Last year’s speaker, the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, generated significant controversy when the Chinese Students and Scholars Association denounced him as the commencement speaker. In September, seemingly in response the speech, the Chinese government stopped funding visiting scholars.

Gabe Schneider is the News Editor at The Triton. You can follow him on Twitter @gabemschneider