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Olympic gold medalist to speak at free public event hosted by Grand Valley

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Legendary Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills is coming to Grand Rapids this week for a public talk hosted by Grand Valley State University.

“A Conversation with Billy Mills” is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, at GVSU’s Eberhard Center, 301 Fulton St., in the Paul Johnson Hall, according to a university news release.

Mills, of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) tribe, won Olympic gold in the 10,000 meter race during the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. He remains the only American to ever win the event, according to the release.

Since his Olympic win, Mills has gone on to become a prominent role model for Native American youth. He founded a nonprofit called Running Strong for American Indian Youth, through which he has raised millions of dollars to help Native American youth.

“Billy Mills is a legend among Native Americans,” said Levi Rickert, publisher and editor of Grand Rapids-based Native News Online, who will co-facilitate Thursday’s event. “I look forward to having a conversation with him so that people can learn about his accomplishments and how he has worked hard to inspire Native youth to succeed in life.”

The conversation, which is free to the public, will be facilitated by Rickert, a citizen of the Potawatomi tribe, and GVSU Native American Student Initiative Coordinator Belinda Bardwell, a citizen of the Odawa tribe.

“There’s a whole generation of those who don’t have any knowledge of his accomplishments. This is a great opportunity for them to learn about how Billy Mills overcame obstacles to win the Olympic Gold and what he has done in the ensuing years,” Bardwell said in a statement.

Thursday’s event is sponsored by GVSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, Division of Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach, and Division of Inclusion and Equity, according to the university.

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