Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), will deliver the Stony Brook University Presidential Lecture on Tuesday, May 7 at 4 pm at the Staller Center for the Arts. The event is free and open to the public. Mrs. Edelman, leader of the preeminent non-profit child advocacy organization, has worked tirelessly over the past four decades to ensure a level playing field for all children.
Mrs. Edelman, a graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, began her career in the mid-60s 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, DC, 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 CDF. For two years she served as the Director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University and in l973 began CDF.
“Our students, faculty and staff are very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear one of the world’s foremost child advocates in Marian Wright Edelman,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD. “She is a tremendous role model and has accomplished so much throughout her career on behalf of the disadvantaged. From her work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to the advent of the Freedom Schools program and everything in between, she has undoubtedly touched countless lives.”
Under her leadership, the CDF, now in its 40th anniversary year, has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families. The organization’s Leave No Child Behind mission is to ensure every child receives 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. Since 1992, the CDF has been operating the Freedom Schools program, an educational, recreational and cultural enrichment program that provides a safe, fun and nurturing learning environment during the summer months for underserved youth.
Mrs. Edelman served on the Board of Trustees of Spelman College which she chaired from 1976 to 1987 and was the first woman elected by alumni as a member of the Yale University Corporation on which she served from 1971 to 1977. She has received more than 100 honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. In 2000, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings which include: Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change; The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours; 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; I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children; and The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.
Mrs. Edelman is a board member of the Robin Hood Foundation and the Association to Benefit Children, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. She is married to Peter Edelman, a Professor at Georgetown Law School. They have three sons, Joshua, Jonah, and Ezra, two granddaughters, Ellika and Zoe, and two grandsons, Elijah and Levi.