Free Lance-Star reporter Amy Umble covers Stafford County schools and other education issues

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Congressman Bob Filner to address UMW graduate students

The University of Mary Washington today issued the following news release:

U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.) will deliver the address at the  University of Mary Washington’s 2011 graduate commencement ceremony to be held Friday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. in George Washington Hall, Dodd Auditorium. The university’s undergraduate commencement will be held Saturday, May 7, with U.S. Rep. John Lewis as guest speaker.

Both Filner and Lewis were among the 1961 Freedom Riders who successfully challenged segregated interstate bus transportation in the South. The commencement addresses will conclude the university’s semester-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides led by the late James Farmer. A civil rights activitst, Farmer taught history at Mary Washington.

Filner has been active in the struggle for civil rights since his teenage years.  As an 18-year-old engineering student at Cornell University, he joined the 1961 Freedom Rides and was arrested and imprisoned for several months in Mississippi.

A congressman since 1992, Filner chaired the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs from 2007 to 2011 and has achieved a national reputation for his work on behalf of the nation’s veterans.  He led the fight to restore honor and benefits to the Filipino veterans and Merchant Mariners of World War II. In addition, Filner has fought for federal funding for border infrastructure and has advocated for improved U.S.-Mexico relations, quality education, protection of the environment and universal health care.

Filner has called for passage of the Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, which would establish an unsolved crimes section within the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute crimes that resulted in the deaths of activists during the Civil Rights era.

In 2003, the National Education Association honored Filner with the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award in recognition of his lifetime commitment to human and civil rights and to providing quality education for the nation’s students.

Filner taught history at San Diego State University for more than 20 years.  He was the president of the San Diego Board of Education and served on the San Diego City Council.  He also served as deputy mayor for the City of San Diego.