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Currently, more than 16.1 children live in poverty in the United States. "Across the nation, 10 states plus the District of Columbia had child poverty rates of 25 percent or higher.... Only New Hampshire had a child poverty rate of 10 percent or lower," Marian Wright Edelman recently wrote in The Huffington Post. "When it comes to ensuring equal chances for children everywhere in our country we have a long way to go. And when we realize that nationwide a child is born into poverty every 29 seconds, it should sound alarms from coast to coast."
Mrs. Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans for her entire professional life. As Crown Lecturer in Ethics, she will discuss income disparity and the state of America's poor 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 1968, 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 1973 began CDF. 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. Her most recent book is called The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.
The Crown Lecture in Ethics, named for benefactor Lester Crown, brings speakers to Duke to explore ethical issues across all disciplines. Previous Crown lecturers include Rwandan Paul Rusesabagina, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and conservationist Jared Diamond, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jody Williams and award-winning science writer Rebecca Skloot. Mrs. Edelman's talk is co-sponsored by the Sulzberger Family Fund of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy.