by Stacy Hanna
The Battle Creek Enquirer
(Originally published by the Battle Creek Enquirer on April 18, 2005, and used with permission. The opinions expressed by the Battle Creek Enquirer, visiting Expert in Resident, or the host organization do not necessarily represent those of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.)
Edelman is best known for founding the Children’s Defense Fund, a national organization whose mission to “leave no child behind” has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families.
That theme has echoed through Edelman’s entire professional life as an advocate for disadvantaged Americans.
While growing up in a small South Carolina town, Edelman witnessed racial segregation firsthand and those unforgettable images seem to have fueled her life’s work.
She graduated first from Spelman College, then Yale Law School in 1963 and moved to Mississippi, becoming the first African-American woman to be admitted to the state bar. She previously directed the NAACP Legal Defense and the Educational Fund office in Jackson, Miss.
The author of several books, Edelman has been honored for her writings with the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award and the highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2000.
In a 2001 testimony before the House Budget Committee, Edelman said, “One in six children in the United States — 12.1 million — still live in poverty. In fact, children are more likely to be poor today in this time of unprecedented wealth than they were 20 or 30 years ago. The overall poverty rate in 1999 was almost three percent higher than in 1969. Nearly 11 million children are without health insurance, 90 percent of whom have working parents. These are not acts of God. They are our moral and political choices as men and women, citizens and leaders.”
“We are thrilled to host Mrs. Edelman’s visit to Battle Creek,” said Mike Larson, president and chief professional officer of United Way of Greater Battle Creek. “It’s not every day that we have a chance to hear from a person with such vast experience in promoting opportunities for children and their families. I’m sure those who hear Mrs. Edelman speak will learn a great deal that can be used to make Battle Creek a better place in which to live.”