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Actor Edward James Olmos to present Centennial Lecture

September 20, 2010

Edward James Olmos, a respected actor and passionate community activist, will present the annual Flinn Foundation Centennial Lecture at 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at Arizona State University’s Gammage Auditorium. The lecture, "We’re All in the Same Gang," is free and open to the public.

In his presentations, Olmos emphasizes culture and racial harmony as the American ideal. Born in Los Angeles to a Mexican immigrant father and a Mexican-American mother, he talks about his heritage and the need to reconcile history books with actual history. He emphasizes the importance of education and personal responsibility

Often at the forefront of social causes, Olmos has been named by Hispanic Magazine as the nation’s most influential Hispanic-American.

Having started out as a rock and roll singer, Olmos branched out into acting in the late 1960s, earning a Tony nomination on Broadway before he moved on to movies and television. In the 1980s he won a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his role an authoritarian police lieutenant in the TV series “Miami Vice.”

He received an Academy Award nomination for best actor in “Stand and Deliver” for his portrayal of real-life math teacher, Jaime Escalante. He appeared in many other films including “Blade Runner,” “American Me,” “Mi Familia,” and “Selena.” He also had a recurring role in the NBC drama “The West Wing,” and from 2003 to 2009 he starred in the Sci-Fi Channel’s “Battlestar Galactica” miniseries.

In 1997 he co-founded both the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and the non-profit Latino Literacy Now, which has produced book festivals around the country. A year later he founded Latino Public Broadcasting, funding programming that focuses on Latino issues.

He was one of the driving forces that created “Americanos: Latino Life in the U.S.,” a book project featuring more than 30 award-winning photographers, later turned into a Smithsonian traveling exhibition and HBO special. Olmos also makes appearances at juvenile halls and detention centers to speak to at-risk teenagers, and he has been an international ambassador for UNICEF.

His talk is presented by Barrett, the Honors College. He will be at ASU for several days, joining students for several class sessions and informal presentations.

This is the 21th year for the annual lecture which was established by an endowment from the Flinn Foundation, to bring some of the world’s most influential intellects to campus. It has become one of ASU’s premier events, featuring noted diplomats, scientists, playwrights and authors.

Tickets are required for the free event and are available at the Gammage box office. They also are available at or by calling the box office at 480-965-3434, though service fees will apply when ordering by internet or phone. Free parking is available in the Gammage lot.