News Release

Civil Rights Icon John Lewis Speaks on 'The Beloved Community'

April 24, 2012

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    Congressman and Civil Rights Icon John Lewis will speak on building the kind of community Dr. Martin Luther King only dreamed of when he speaks at Dalton State College, Monday, April 30.

United States Congressman and Civil Rights Pioneer John Lewis will speak on “Building the Beloved Community” that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned in a free program  at Dalton State College Monday, April 30, at 7 p.m.

The program is free and open to the public and will be held in Goodroe Auditorium of Gignilliat Memorial Hall; it is sponsored by the College’s Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The event will be streamed live at

King’s vision, as articulated in his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in the March on Washington in 1963, was of a racially harmonious society in which love and justice and brotherhood would be fully realized by all its members. Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building “the beloved community” in America. His dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles has won him the admiration of many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the United States Congress.

“John Lewis is a genuine American hero and moral leader who commands widespread respect in the Chamber,” says Roll Call magazine.

In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life on those rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for white patrons.

“John Lewis is one of my heroes,” says Dr. Robin Cleeland, Associate Professor of Social Work and Director of Dalton State’s Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “I sometimes wonder if I would have been a ‘freedom rider’ had I been older at the time, but I don’t think that I would have had the courage necessary to withstand the hatred and violence during those very frightening times.

“It is one thing to say that one is committed to equality for all, but change often comes at a dear price,” she continued. “John Lewis was beaten, arrested, and imprisoned, and yet, he did not retaliate with violence.  Lewis could have retreated to a life of bitterness and hatred, but instead, he pursued a life of public service in which he has spent his time and energy championing equality for all and working for reconciliation.” 

“Dr. Martin Luther King thought that the next step after the Civil Rights Movement would be building ‘the beloved community’ - a world where various groups would live together with understanding goodwill rather than with bitterness and friction. I think that the challenge of our time is to build “The Beloved Community” where we live. To start, we can learn about other’s points-of-view, and we can treat each person with dignity and respect - as we would want to be treated,” Cleeland continued. 

Congressman Lewis is the recipient of numerous awards from imminent national and international institutions including the only John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage Award” for Lifetime Achievement ever granted by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

He authored his biography with writer Michael D’Orso, entitled “Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement” and has been interviewed for numerous documentaries, news broadcasts, and journals. President Barack Obama presented Lewis with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, in 2011.

John Lewis lives in Atlanta, Georgia and is married to Lillian Miles. They have one son, John Miles.

The lecture is free and open to the public. It starts at 7 pm in Goodroe Auditorium of Gignilliat Memorial Hall. Seating is limited and is available on a first-come, first served basis.

For more information, contact Dr. Robin Cleeland at 706.272.4562 or

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