Commencement Address
photo Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, is known as an eloquent speaker and tireless champion of children and their families. Under Edelman's leadership, the Washington-based Children's Defense Fund has become a strong and effective national voice for children, especially poor, minority, and disabled youth. The mission of the private, nonprofit organization is to educate the nation about the needs of children and encourage investment in children.

   Edelman, a graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, 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, Mississippi. In 1968, she moved to Washington, D.C., as counsel for the Poor People's March that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., began organizing before his death.

   Edelman 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 1973 began the Children's Defense Fund.

   She also is the recipient of several honorary degrees and awards, including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship. In addition, she served on the board of trustees of Spelman College, which she chaired from 1976 to 1987.

   Edelman is the author of several books, including Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change, The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours, and Guide My Feet: Meditations and Prayers on Loving and Working with Children.

   Edelman's address to University degree candidates and their families will crown UT's celebration of the Year of the Child, an initiative to improve the lives of children and to celebrate the ways in which UT is involved in the lives of children.

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19 December 96
The University of Texas at Austin
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