Civil Rights Leader Tells Graduates to Use Degree for Change

Rep. Lewis tell class that using law to bring justice and fairness is their 'moral obligation'

U.S. Rep John Lewis (D-Ga.) spoke to UM School of Law graduates during the school's commencement ceremony Saturday in the Grove.

U.S. Rep John Lewis (D-Ga.) spoke to UM School of Law graduates during the school’s commencement ceremony Saturday in the Grove.

OXFORD, Miss. – Famed civil rights leader U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) urged 2014 graduates of the University of Mississippi School of Law to use their law degrees to make a difference in the world.

“I am so pleased and happy to be here,” he said. “As graduates of Ole Miss law, you can play a powerful role in building a better nation and a better world.”

Lewis, often called one of the most courageous people of the civil rights movement, was the featured speaker for the law school’s graduation Saturday in the Grove.

Lewis told the 182 graduates to find a way to be bold and to give back.

“You must find a way to get in the way, to get into trouble, good trouble,” he said. “That is your moral obligation. That is your responsibility. You don’t have a right to be silent. You must speak up. You must bring justice and fairness to our region and to our country.

“Don’t just do well, do good. Be brave, be bold, be courageous. And never, ever give up. Never, ever give in. Never, ever give out. Keep the faith, hold on and keep your eyes on the prize. This is your day.”

Known for his efforts in protecting and securing human rights and civil freedoms, Lewis is a nationally recognized leader and was one of the main players in the 1963 March on Washington. He is the winner of numerous awards, including the highest civilian honor granted by President Barack Obama, the Medal of Freedom, as well as the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford Theatre, the Golden Plate Award given by the Academy of Excellence and the Preservation Hero award given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Dean Richard Gershon said the law school was honored to have Lewis.

“Congressman Lewis is a hero of the civil rights movement,” he said. “I know his words will resonate with our graduates as they prepare to enter their legal careers.”

Lewis concluded by reiterating for graduates to use their degree to bring about change.

“Use law as a tool to bring about a nonviolent revolution of values, a revolution of ideas,” he said. “You can do it.”

This year marks the 149th commencement for the School of Law. For more information on the school, visit