Children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman to speak

Called “the most influential children’s advocate in the country” by The Washington Post, Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, will deliver the annual Bertha May Bell Andrews Memorial Lecture in Ethics and Education at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 12, in the Bates College Chapel, College Street. The public is invited to attend free of charge.

Edelman has been an advocate for the disadvantaged for her entire professional career. Under her leadership, the Washington-based CDF has become a strong national voice for children and families. CDF’s mission is “to leave no child behind.” According to Edelman, the organization strives to ensure every child a “Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life with the support of caring families and communities.”

A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman began her career 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, Miss. In 1968, she moved to Washington, D.C., as counsel for the Poor People’s March that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. began organizing before his death. Edelman founded the Washington Research Project, CDF’s parent body, and for two years, she served as the director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University. She began CDF in 1973.

Known worldwide as a tireless advocate for poor children throughout the United States, Edelman writes a monthly column, “A Voice for Children,” and a weekly column, “Child Watch.” She is also the award-winning author of The Measure of Our Success, Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change, Guide My Feet: Meditations and Prayers on Loving and Working for Children, Stand for Children and The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours.

Her latest book, Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors (Beacon, 1999), spans Edelman’s remarkable career and pays tribute to her mentors who include Fannie Lou Hamer, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Benjamin Mays, a 1920 graduate of Bates College who became the president of Morehouse College. Edelman’s many honorary degrees and awards include the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award and the MacArthur Foundation Prize. She served on the Spelman College Board of Trustees as chair from 1976 to 1987.

A signature talk at Bates since 1975, the Andrews Lecture is a memorial to Bertha May Bell Andrews, who served on the Bates faculty from 1913 to 1917 and established the women’s physical education program at the college. The lectureship was established by her son, Dr. Carl B. Andrews of the Bates class of 1940.

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