Congressman John Lewis to Speak at MSU
Congressman and iconic civil rights activist John Lewis will be speaking at MSU’s Kellogg Center in October as part of the former-Governor Jim Blanchard Public Service Forum.
The Blanchard Forum, which started two years ago through a $1 million grant from former Michigan Governor and MSU alumnus Jim Blanchard and his wife, Janet, will feature Lewis as the keynote speaker.
“We dreamed up something new,” said Gov. Blanchard in an interview. “The Spartan Statesmanship Award. It goes to distinguished public servants, former public servants, we even have an award for journalists and distinguished authors.”
Lewis, who represents Georgia’s fifth congressional district, has a storied history with the Civil Rights Movement. He was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963 to 1966 and helped Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights.
"People my age remember how difficult everything really was," said Blanchard. "It was just awful what went on to establish things like Civil Rights, the right to vote. And actually the struggle still goes on, really."
“I’m gonna interview him and we’re going to talk about the civil rights movement and all the different presidents he’s served with,” said Blanchard. “This is a whole living history here that we’re going to be able to convey to the people who attend. So we’re quite excited.”
Blanchard, who served in congress for four terms before being Governor of Michigan from 1983 to 1991, as well as serving as U.S. Ambassador to Canada from 1993 to 1996, chose Lewis as this year’s public service keynote speaker with the help of his selection committee. This committee includes Blanchard’s wife, his sister, former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and current Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.
The forum, now in its third year, has been organized on campus by MSU’s school of social sciences.
Blanchard explained that he began this program out of his commitment to MSU.
“This is something I can do for my alma mater: bring people in so the students and faculty can hear them, and ask them questions and hopefully be inspired to serve. We want good people in public service, we need good people.”
For the former governor, Lewis epitomizes that ideal.
“There’s certain people whose service is timeless,” said Blanchard. “And in his case, his leadership (is).”