July 31, 2012

Lawson, Seigenthaler to speak at Vanderbilt Aug. 14

Two scholars, Rev. James Lawson, Jr., a major civil rights leader who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. in implementing the principles of non-violence, and John Seigenthaler, who worked in the United States Department of Justice, will have a conversation, “The Essentials of Developing Moral Leadership,” at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at 12 noon in Room 208, Light Hall.

Rev. Lawson was an activist in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and a divinity student at Vanderbilt University. Lawson moved to Nashville, Tenn., and enrolled at the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University, where he began conducting nonviolence training workshops. He was expelled from Vanderbilt in 1960. While at Vanderbilt, Lawson met and mentored young students at Vanderbilt, Fisk University, Meharry, and other local institutions in the tactics of nonviolent direct action and trained many of the future leaders of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Lawson helped organize sit-ins by African American students, which led to the end of racial segregation of lunch counters in downtown Nashville. He was also active in civil rights struggles in Alabama and Mississippi. Lawson was dubbed by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as “the leading nonviolence theorist in the world.” After leaving Vanderbilt, Rev. Lawson received his divinity degree from Boston University. He was later recognized by Vanderbilt University as a Vanderbilt’s 2005 Distinguished Alumnus and returned as a Distinguished University Professor in 2006 for several years. He currently resides in Los Angeles and has been spearheading California State University Northridge's Civil Discourse and Social Change initiative as a visiting faculty for the academic year of 2010-2011.

John Seigenthaler is an American journalist, writer and political figure. He played a major role in the Kennedy administration in defending the rights of students and others to demonstrate non-violently for their civil rights, and was sometimes placed in danger for his actions. He was often called on to serve as mediator in tense situations where civil rights were being challenged. He is known as a prominent defender of First Amendment rights. In 1991, Seigenthaler founded the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, saying it was his hope that the center will help promote appreciation and understanding for those values so vital in a democratic society. The center serves as a forum for dialog about First Amendment issues, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. Seigenthaler served for 43 years as an award-winning journalist for The Tennessean. At his retirement he was editor, publisher and CEO. He later served as the founding editorial director of USA Today. Seigenthaler hosts a weekly book-review program, "A Word On Words." A senior advisory trustee of the Freedom Forum, he is chair of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Awards for the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights.

A recent book written by Congressman John Lewis, “Across That Bridge,” speaks to some of the principles of the moral leadership and will be noted. Copies are available by calling Patricia Turner at 322-2151 or Dr. George C. Hill – Assistant Vice Chancellor for Multicultural Affairs at 322-0976. Event sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs.