There are 14.7 million American children living in poverty — a fact that Children’s Defense Fund founder and president Marian Wright Edelman calls “a national moral disgrace.”
“America’s poor children did not ask to be born; did not choose their parents, country, state, neighborhood, race, color or faith,” Edelman wrote in “Ending Child Poverty Now,” a Children’s Defense Fund report. “In fact, if they had been born in 33 other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries they would be less likely to be poor.”
Edelman will discuss the report at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy in a lecture titled “Ending Child Poverty in America Now.”
“She’s an icon,” said Maureen Rovegno, associate director of the Department of Religion. “Everyone knows her passion and identifies her with the historical vision that she’s had in understanding the needs of young people.”
Rovegno said Edelman has spoken at Chautauqua in the past, but her work made her a logical choice to open a week of lectures that focuses on the moral, ethical and social aspects of raising boys.
“Her world has been early childhood advocacy as an ethical imperative,” Rovegno said.
According to its website, the Children’s Defense Fund is a nonprofit organization that seeks to “level the playing field for all children” by advocating for programs that help children who face poverty, abuse, neglect and obstacles that prevent access to health care, education and moral and spiritual support.
“The biggest external threat to American security, military and economy does not come from the outside,” Edelman said in an interview with Tavis Smiley. “It comes from our failure to invest in all of these children who are our future workforce.”
Edelman is a graduate of Spelman College and Yale University Law School. She was the first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar. In addition to her work at the Children’s Defense Fund, she has served as the office director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign. She is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award.
“If our communities have poor, homeless and hungry children and families and we volunteer at homeless shelters or donate to food pantries and think we’ve done our part, we are only half-right,” Edelman wrote in an op-ed for The Huffington Post. “But we are not finished if we are not also fighting to prevent and eliminate the violence of joblessness, poor education, poverty and hunger; the inequalities and injustices that feed and accompany them; and the unjust systems that create them.”