April 11, 2008

Eleanor Holmes Norton to deliver Lesar lecture

by Tim Crosby


CARBONDALE, Ill. — A congresswoman who for years has fought for civil rights and full congressional representation for the residents of the District of Columbia, is the speaker for this year's Southern Illinois University School of Law Hiram H. Lesar Lecture.

Eleanor Holmes Norton will speak at 5 p.m., April 28, in the auditorium at the Hiram H. Lesar Law Building on the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Media Advisory

Eleanor Holmes Norton will be available for media interviews at 2:15 p.m. April 28 in Studio B at the WSIU studios, located in the Communications Building on the SIUC campus.

Peter C. Alexander, dean of the law school, said Norton is central to ongoing civil rights issues. Her visit will enrich students' experience in the same way other recent Lesar lecturers, such as former United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix and plaintiffs from Brown v. Board of Education, have done.

"We try to bring people to the campus who can talk about current events, current developments in the law and interesting legal principles," Alexander said. "Talking about taxation without representation, from a first-person perspective, is living history. These (lecturers) have helped to shape the national conversation. They remind about the power of law and the ability of laws to change the nation. This is one more opportunity to teach our students about how the law has changed our country."

Although Norton has led congressional committees and can vote like any other House member at the committee level, she is not allowed to vote on the floor as a representative of the District of Columbia. During her lecture, Norton will talk about the latest efforts to give residents of the nation's capital a voting member of Congress. She also will spend time with students prior to the lecture.

Norton is in her ninth term in the House. She is chair of the House Transportation Subcommittee on Economic Development, Emergency Management and Public Buildings. Prior to her service in Congress, President Jimmy Carter named her as the first woman to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She is known as a leader in civil rights and feminism and has served on boards of three Fortune 500 companies. She is also a tenured law professor at Georgetown University, where she continues to teach a course each year.

Norton served in the Democratic Leadership group and as chair of the Women's Caucus. House Speaker Tom Foley appointed her as a member of the Committee on the Reorganization of the Congress.

In 2007 she succeeded in a four-year effort to pass the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act, which the Senate also subsequently passed. She also serves on three committees including homeland security, oversight and government reform, and transportation and infrastructure.

As a member of Congress, Norton won unique benefits for her constituents based on their unique situation. She won approval of bills that award $10,000 to local high school graduates to attend any public college in the country or $2,500 to attend certain private colleges. She encouraged home ownership with a $5,000 tax credit that helped stabilize the city's population and other tax breaks aimed at local businesses that employ local residents. She also has shepherded numerous bills aimed at economic development and job creation.

Norton earned a bachelor's degree at Antioch College in Ohio and simultaneously earned her law degree as well as a master's degree in American Studies at Yale University, where the law school awarded her the Citation of Merit as an outstanding alumna. The Yale graduate school also awarded her the Yale Wilbur Cross Medal as an outstanding alumna. She also is the recipient of more than 50 honorary degrees.

Norton served on the board of the Rockefeller Foundation, the board of governors of the Washington, D.C., Bar Association and numerous civil rights and national organizations. She is a third generation Washington resident and is the mother of John Holmes Norton and Katherine Felicia Norton.

The Hiram H. Lesar Lecture Series, established in 1992, honors the founding dean of the SIU law school.