The civil rights movement of the 1960s helped define the way our society thinks and acts today. Since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a march on Washington, D.C., 35 years ago, millions of people have viewed their place in America in a different light.

Now, the Vineyard has the chance to experience part of that legacy. Cong. John Lewis visits the Island today to celebrate the anniversary of the movement and reflect on the meaning of acts of service.

He will be the keynote speaker at a public event at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs from 2 to 3:30 p.m. today, where he will discuss the civil rights march and notions of human equality.

Along with Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, James Farmer, Roy Wilkins and Dr. King, Mr. Lewis was one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement. He was one of the planners of the 1963 March on Washington, and is the only living major speaker from that event.

Mr. Lewis served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which was responsible for many sit-ins and other nonviolent demonstrations. During the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, he organized voter registration drives and community action programs. The following year he led demonstrators in Selma, Ala., in a protest known as Bloody Sunday, a dramatic day that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

During the course of his work, Mr. Lewis was arrested 40 times and assaulted repeatedly, sometimes suffering serious injury.

Now a Democrat from Georgia, he is the highest ranking African-American member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He serves as the chief deputy Democratic whip.

Along with sharing his thoughts on civil rights, Mr. Lewis will introduce his recent autobiography, Walking With the Wind. The book discusses his transition from a boy picking cotton and preaching to chickens on his family’s tenant farm to a man helping guide a nation through some of its most challenging changes.

Following the program, a reception will be held on the grounds of Union Chapel, where Mr. Lewis will sign copies of his work. This is preceded by a book signing at Bickerton and Ripley Books in Edgartown from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. today.

Alongside Mr. Lewis at Union Chapel are expected to be several Islanders seeking to perpetuate the essence of Dr. King’s work. Marianne Larned is editor of Stone Soup for the World: Life-Changing Stories of Kindness and Courageous Acts of Service, a collection of stories focusing on improving the quality of children’s lives. She will be on hand with contributing author Mrs. Trude Lashe to present the books to children as part of a back to school campaign by the Stone Soup Foundation.

Randi Vega will read a story about Dr. King from Marianne Larned’s book. Bob Tankard, principal of the West Tisbury School, will then speak about continuing Dr. King’s dream for genuine human equality and understanding.

Nine-year-old Sebastian Corwin will explain how his own life has been affected by Dr. King, and other Island students will read from Mr. Lewis’s speech during the March on Washington and the I Have A Dream address by Dr. King.

The program, reception and book signing are free, and everyone is encouraged to attend.