“Is America’s dream big enough for every fifth child who is poor, every sixth child who is Black, every seventh child who is Hispanic, and every eighth child who is mentally or physically challenged? Is our world’s dream big enough for all of the children God has sent as messengers of hope?” – Marian Wright Edelman
Austin College Posey Leadership Award Recipient: Marian Wright Edelman
For the Children
Marian Wright Edelman has devoted her life’s work to bring equality and justice into lives and communities. As founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, she has spent nearly four decades advocating for America’s children, in whom she places her hope for the future.
Austin College will recognize Edelman’s contributions to the world by presenting her the 2012 Austin College Posey Leadership Award on Thursday, April 12, 2012. She will speak to students on campus that day prior to a public lecture at 7 p.m. at the Wyly Theatre in Dallas. The award will be presented before her Dallas address.
Edelman has been described as a relentless advocate for disadvantaged Americans throughout her professional life. Under her leadership, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families. The organization’s “Leave No Child Behind” mission is to ensure every child a “healthy start, a head start, a fair start, a safe start, and a moral start” in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.
For millions of children in the U.S., Edelman says, life remains about poverty, hunger, neglect, and abuse. Through CDF, Edelman’s mission of hope and change continues through research, drafting of legislation, lobbying, and educational support on issues affecting children. The organization has worked on issues of childhood disease and immunization, homelessness, early childhood education, juvenile justice, child abuse, foster care, and after-school programs.
A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman began her career as a civil rights attorney in the mid-1960s when, as the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. In l968, she moved to Washington, D.C., as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., began organizing before his death. She founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children’s Defense Fund. For two years, she served as the director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University and in l973, founded CDF.
Edelman has received more than 100 honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. In 2000, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. She has been named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, and U.S. News & World Report named her one of “America’s Best Leaders” in 2008. She also received the 2011 John Jay National Leader for Justice Award. The chair of the Spelman College Board of Trustees from 1976 to 1987, Edelman was the first woman elected by alumni as a member of the Yale University Corporation, serving from 1971 to 1977.
A prolific writer, Edelman’s books include the #1 New York Times bestseller The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours; and Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change; The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation; Guide My Feet: Meditations and Prayers on Loving and Working for Children; Stand for Children; Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors; Hold My Hand: Prayers for Building a Movement to Leave No Child Behind; I’m Your Child, God: Prayers for Our Children; and I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children.
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