BOSTON (AP) — A civil rights icon and a Caribbean politician who tangled with President Donald Trump offered Boston University graduates some choice words on America’s cultural rifts.
“We have a right to know what is in the food we eat, what is in the water we drink and what is in the air we breathe,” said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, who gave the university’s commencement address on Sunday.
Lewis was the leader of the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, which ended when peaceful protesters were brutally attacked by police officers.
He was arrested 40 times in the 1960s while fighting for civil rights. It was “good trouble,” he said.
“We are one people, we are one family, we are one house and we must never give up on our fellow human beings,” Lewis said. “We are not animals as some people suggest.”
Boston University awarded Lewis with an honorary doctor of laws degree at the ceremony. He also is scheduled to speak at Harvard University on Thursday.
Lewis made headlines on Saturday after he and other black leaders threw their support behind the Massachusetts Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, instead of challenger Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, the first black woman elected to the city council.
Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, spoke earlier in the day at the university’s baccalaureate ceremony.
She rose to international prominence last year after exchanging some back-and-forth jabs with Trump over the federal government’s relief efforts following Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Cruz went on national television and described the federal government’s aid response as slow and inadequate. Trump then took to Twitter calling her and others “politically motivated ingrates.”
“Those who were charged with coming to our aid, failed us,” she said on Sunday. “We were dying and they were killing us with bureaucracy.”
Cruz was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2018. The university awarded Cruz an honorary doctor of laws degree.
In the speech, she urged graduates to help others and speak up on injustice.
“They may try to shut you down and they may try to shut you up,” she said. “But make no mistake, they will fail.”