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University of Hartford to Honor Librarian of Congress to Cap “Empowering Change” Program

Posted 09/15/2014
Posted by David Isgur

James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, will be presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the University of Hartford on Monday evening, Sept. 22. The presentation is part of the culminating event for “Empowering Change,” a landmark week-long initiative by the University, Newman’s Own Foundation, and the Library of Congress to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

Following the presentation, legendary journalist Bill Moyers will moderate a panel discussion titled “Civil Rights: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” featuring prominent civil rights activists.

Empowering ChangeBillington is being honored for carefully preserving history while opening access to the Library of Congress’ vast collection of books, maps, photographs, recordings, and motion pictures by creating a National Digital Library.

Earlier this month, Billington launched the Library of Congress exhibit, The Civil Rights Act of 1964: The Long Road to Freedom, in Washington, D.C. along with programs and observances to encourage reflection, dialogue, and action. Plans for that event led to “Empowering Change,” a first-of-its-kind series being held at the University of Hartford, with the generous support of Newman’s Own Foundation and in collaboration with the Library of Congress.

Panel moderator Bill Moyers is an American journalist and public commentator and former Special Assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson (who signed the Civil Rights Act into law in 1964) for domestic affairs and White House Press.

The panelists for “Civil Rights: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” will be:

  • Erika Mayo, a civil rights activist and founder and executive director of Active Voices, a nonprofit organization that helps grassroots racial justice organizers use strategic communications effectively as a tool for policy change;
  • Robert Moses, a civil rights leader and founder of The Algebra Project, a foundation devoted to improving minority education in math;
  • Eva Jefferson Patterson, a civil rights lawyer and co-founder of the Equal Justice Society, a legal organization transforming the nation’s consciousness on race through law, social science, and the arts; and
  • Oz Griebel, president and CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance.

James Billington was sworn in as the Librarian of Congress on September 14, 1987. He is the 13th person to hold the position since the Library was established in 1800. Following service with the U.S. Army and in the Office of National Estimates, he taught history at Harvard University from 1957 to 1962 and subsequently at Princeton University, where he was professor of history from 1964 to 1973.

From 1973 to 1987, Billington was director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the nation’s official memorial in Washington to America’s 28th president. As director, he founded the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Center and seven other new programs as well as the Wilson Quarterly.

“Empowering Change” is bringing notable leaders of present-day change initiatives and the civil rights movement to the University campus to stimulate discussion, share experiences, and inspire students and members of the community to pursue meaningful change to improve the world around them. Events include interactive workshops; panel discussions; social change resource and volunteer fairs; an essay competition; a community sports clinic; music, poetry, art, and much more — all built around the themes of civil rights and social change.

The week is designed to serve as a catalyst for social change, using historic accomplishment to inform present and future opportunities to preserve and extend freedom, justice, and human dignity. Programming will highlight how the Civil Rights Act can inspire moral courage and commitment to helping others, and expand understanding of the social movements that define civil rights 50 years forward and beyond.

The impetus for this commemoration at the University of Hartford comes from Robert Forrester, president of Newman’s Own Foundation and an alumnus and regent of the University of Hartford, and Congressman John Larson (Connecticut 1st District). This week of University activities is underwritten by a generous grant from Newman’s Own Foundation.

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