(Originally published on April 17, 2008)
After an hour s talk replete with daunting statistics about wealthy America s millions of poor children, Marian Wright Edelman took a question from a young man at last night s Authors! Authors! talk.
What can he do when faced with adversity because of his age, he asked, an edge of frustration in his voice. He is, he said, a recent college graduate getting involved in local politics. How do you collect your energy to make change?
Edelman, founder and president of the Children s Defense Fund, stripped it down for him.
It s hard. It s hard. It s hard. We ve been at it 40 years. We have a framework of laws, but we still have a long way to go, she said before an audience of nearly
700 at the talk, cosponsored by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. You have to have a very firm conviction about what is right.
You keep planting the seeds and watering them, she said. The Civil Rights movement was a long time a-borning. Things have to ripen.
And you will lose, she told him. But change is possible. And don t you dare give up.
Her thick, barely graying hair pinned back, Edelman, 68, read her speech quickly and rather quietly. That, coupled with her being too far from the microphone resulted in many in the audience at the Great Hall of the Stranahan Theater being unable to hear much of what she offered. Sound problems also scrubbed a video slide-show she began screening.
Nevertheless, her decades of advocacy for the voiceless reenergized, she said, by her love of her four young grandchildren was obviously appreciated by the crowd.
You re my hero, one woman told her.
Flanking the podium were poster-sized photographs of three boys. Two, she said, didn t have dental insurance and each died from an abscessed tooth.
The third died of kidney cancer after going five months without health coverage.
God didn t make two classes of children, she said: one with a birthright to health care and the other without.
There s nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we have the resources and technology to get rid of poverty.
She encouraged people to take their children with them to vote, to turn off violent television, to restore civility in families, and to seek teaching careers.
I think teaching, after parenting, is the most important way we re going to shape the future, she said. And if you don t love children, get out of the classroom.
Electing leaders committed to ending childhood poverty ( I m so glad we have some good choices, she said when asked if she supports Sen. Barack Obama for president) in November is essential.
But even more important is that individuals speak up, organize, and act.
We need a citizen s movement.
Contact Tahree Lane at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6075.