College of

Dean's Update | July 31


On March 7, 1965, John Lewis led a column of Black Americans across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to demand their right to vote. The protesters crossed the bridge and walked to a group of Alabama state troopers who proceeded to beat them with billy clubs. The marchers were non-violent, but the police injured many of them, including Lewis, whose skull was cracked with a billy club.

The televised images of the police violence outraged many in the US and helped push Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law by President Johnson on August 6, 1965. (This video about Amelia Boyton Robinson, one of the women who helped organize the march, is very powerful, and there is a picture of Representative Lewis being hit at 3:30 in the video.)

This year the college will join the MSUVOTE effort, which is a non-partisan program to encourage voter registration and actual voting. The goal is to have 100% of our eligible individuals registered to vote by educating and encouraging our people to register.

Next week, specifically August 4th, is the Michigan state primary. These elections are mostly party ballots for state and local offices, AND there are local ballot issues that will be decided in the election. For example, in Ingham County the proposals are, 1) funding for elder programs including Meals on Wheels, and 2) funding for the 911 system.

In Michigan, you can register to vote right up to election day. The state has a very useful website where you can check the status of your voter registration, preview your ballot, find your polling place, etc. As an example, I used the website to see that for next week’s election the state received got my application for an absentee ballot on June 3rd, my ballot was sent to me on June 26, and they received my ballot on July 6th.

Congressman Lewis died last Friday of pancreatic cancer. He was 80 and had served in the House of Representatives since 1986. I cannot do justice to the great man here, but I suggest you read his obituary in the New York Times*. His physical and moral courage are inspiring and astonishing.

The Times also published John Lewis’ last op-ed this Thursday, the day of his funeral. It is powerfully written and focused on the present and the future, rather than on his remarkable achievements. In these last words he reminds us of the following, “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.”

Serving the people with you,

Aron Sousa, MD
Interim Dean

*You can get free access the NYTimes and Wall Street Journal using your MSU email here and access many newspapers through the MSU library here.