February 23, 2018
Presidential Medal of Honor recipient Sylvia Mendez will present the keynote address during Susquehanna University's Latino Symposium at 7:30 p.m. March 8 in Degenstein Center Theater.
The event is free and open to the public.
Mendez's lecture, My Legacy: Mendez et al. v. Westminster and the Struggle for Equality, will address her experiences as an education activist and the court case involving her family that served as a precedent to 1954's Brown v. Board of Education.
In 1943, Mendez's parents and four other Mexican-American families filed suit against the Westminster School District in Orange County, Calif., for denying the enrollment of their children in district schools. The ensuing decision in 1947 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals desegregated California public schools on the basis that segregation was unconstitutional and violated the 14th amendment.
Mendez went on to earn her bachelor's degree in nursing and a certificate in public health from California State University, Los Angeles. She served as a nurse at the University of Southern California Medical Center until her retirement. Mendez then embarked on a second career as an education activist, advocating for equal access to all forms of education and increasing awareness of the role of Mendez et al v. Westminster and Latinos in the Civil Rights Movement.
In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Mendez the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon a civilian for their service to the nation.
The Latino Symposium is sponsored by The Latino Initiative, the Arlin M. Adams Center for Law and Society, the University Theme Committee and the Susquehanna departments of Modern Languages, Education, History, Sociology and Anthropology, Political Science, and Philosophy, and the legal studies and pre-law programs.