Congressman Scott Rigell
9:00 a.m. Ceremony Speaker
Scott Rigell was elected to represent Virginia's Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2010 and is currently in his second term. (Virginia's second district encompasses all of Accomack and Northampton counties and the city of Virginia Beach, and parts of the cities of Norfolk and Hampton.) He serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on the Budget.
Since taking office in January 2011, Congressman Rigell has made creating jobs, strengthening the military, controlling federal spending and changing Congress his most urgent priorities.
Representing the nation's largest military district, Rigell is working to preserve the region's unique military assets and support U.S. service members, and was instrumental in the successful effort to keep all East Coast aircraft carriers based in Norfolk. He also introduced language improving the maintenance of military housing, later included in the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which President Obama signed into law in early 2013.
The House and Senate passed Rigell's Drywall Safety Act of 2012, which was signed into law by the president in early 2013. This legislation sets chemical standards for domestic and imported drywall and establishes remediation guidelines for disposal of all drywall.
Consistent with his efforts to create jobs for Virginia through energy independent policies, Rigell introduced legislation, passed by the House of Representatives, which would create more than 18,000 jobs and help reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
Prior to his election to Congress, Rigell was a successful entrepreneur, business owner and community leader. The founder and chairman of Freedom Automotive, he and his wife, Teri, own automobile dealerships in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
Rigell served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, rising to the rank of sergeant before receiving an honorable discharge. He earned a B.B.A. from Mercer University and an M.B.A. from Regent University.
2:00 p.m. Ceremony Speaker and Doctorate of Humane Letters Recipient
Geoffrey Canada grew up in the South Bronx in a poor, sometimes-violent neighborhood. Despite his troubled surroundings, he was able to succeed academically, receiving a bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College and a master's in education from the Harvard School of Education. After Harvard, Canada decided to work to help children who, like himself, were disadvantaged.
In his 30 years with Harlem Children's Zone Inc., Canada has become nationally recognized for his pioneering work helping children and families in Harlem and as a passionate advocate for education reform. Joining the nonprofit organization in 1983, he became the president and chief executive officer in 1990.
In 1997, HCZ launched the Harlem Children's Zone Project, which targets a specific geographic area in Central Harlem with a comprehensive range of services. The Zone Project today covers 100 blocks and aims to serve more than 10,000 children. The New York Times Magazine called the agency's work "one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time," noting that The Zone Project "combines educational, social and medical services. It starts at birth and follows children to college. The objective is to create a safety net woven so tightly that children in the neighborhood just can't slip through."
The work of Canada and HCZ has become a national model and has been the subject of many profiles in the media, including features on "60 Minutes," "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "The Today Show," among others, and articles in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
For his years of work advocating for children and families in some of America's most devastated communities, Canada has received numerous honors and awards. In 2005, U.S. News & World Report named him one of "America's Best Leaders" and Time magazine included him in its "Time 100" list of the world's most influential people in 2011. Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed him to the New York Education Reform Commission.
Canada is the author of two books: "Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America" (1995) and "Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America" (1998), both published by Beacon Press. In its review of "Fist Stick Knife Gun," Publishers Weekly wrote: "A more powerful depiction of the tragic life of urban children and a more compelling plea to end 'America's war against itself' cannot be imagined."