iRead Lecture features Rep. John Lewis

Anna Ciummo

Students, faculty and members of the Topeka community, attended the annual iRead Lecture Oct. 14, at White Concert Hall, to hear a presentation from the author and illustrator of this year’s iRead book, “March,” about the Civil Rights Movement.

Rep. John Lewis of Georgia began the evening’s program by speaking about his own life, much of which is documented in “March,” his biographical graphic novel. Although most of his speech was a record of his own life, Lewis incorporated many profound lessons into his speech directed at students.

“There is power in the way of peace, love and nonviolence,” Lewis said.

Lewis was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a member of the Freedom Riders in the 1960s, and marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in large protests. In his lifetime as an active member of the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis was jailed forty times for protesting. He is regarded as a key leader of the Civil Rights Movement and is still an advocate for nonviolent protest today.

Lewis believes that today’s generation truly has the potential to make an even bigger difference in the world than he did fifty years ago.

“It’s up to your generation to make society a better place,” Lewis said, ending his speech.

Andrew Aydin, co-author of “March” and Lewis’s technology policy agent also spoke about the process of creating the book. He challenged students to search for mentors and other people that will help them discover the person they truly are. He also addressed the struggle of his young life because of his unconventional interests. Now, he takes pride in his unique opportunities and interests.

“People who are ahead of their time have to pay a price,” Aydin said. “I wasn’t cool but I was able to find people that I could learn from.”

The illustrator of the book, Nate Powell, concluded the speeches by providing a different perspective on the stories as the artist.

He began by describing his sheltered childhood and minimal exposure to racism and other social issues. Because of his sheltered upbringing, he decided to take away any unreality that students have seen from generic Civil Rights history.

Quoting Lewis, Powell described his direction in illustrating the book: “Tell the whole story, make it real and make it plain.”

After their speeches, a few students had the opportunity to ask questions.

One student asked, “Do you think we could achieve something like you achieved?”

Lewis replied, “You could do so much more than us. If you find something that is so precious to you and so right, you must go out and fight for it.”

After the presentation, attendees had the opportunity to shake hands with the men and have their books signed.

Mandy Daniels, freshman creative advertising major, mentioned that hearing and seeing the men in person meant so much more to her than simply reading the “March” books.

“It’s one thing to read something, and another thing to hear from the source. There’s more reality to it,” Daniels said. “It’s so exciting that someone so important is here at Washburn.”