Marian Wright Edelman's Child Watch® Columns

Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman is a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans and is the President of CDF. Under her leadership, CDF has become the nation's strongest voice for children and families.

Her Child Watch column is sent every Friday to subscribers and posted to The Huffington Post weekly.


Child Watch Column Archives

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  • 01/18/13
    Child Watch® Column: "How We Can Truly Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."
    In his last Sunday sermon at Washington National Cathedral, Dr. King retold the parable of the rich man Dives who ignored the poor and sick man Lazarus who came every day seeking crumbs from Dives’ table. Dives went to hell, Dr. King said, not because he was rich but because he did not realize his wealth was his opportunity to bridge the gulf separating him from his brother and allowed Lazarus to become invisible. He warned this could happen to rich America, “if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.”
  • 01/11/13
    Child Watch® Column: "The Massive Human and Moral Cost of Gun Violence"
    The United States of America has spent a trillion and a half dollars on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars so far, purportedly to protect our children and citizens from enemies without, while ignoring the reality that the greatest threats to child safety and wellbeing come from enemies within.
  • 01/04/13
    Child Watch® Column: "New Year Resolutions"
    As New Year’s Eve countdowns wound down, many people turned to the familiar ritual of taking stock of where they are now to make resolutions for what they can do better in the new year. We all measure our accomplishments and shortcomings in different ways. Some people count numbers on a scale or in a savings account. But what if we decided to take stock as a nation by measuring how we treat our children?
  • 12/24/12
    A Christmas Day Prayer for America as We Celebrate the Birthday of the Most Famous Baby in History
    O God, forgive and help us transform our rich and powerful nation where toddlers and school children die from guns sold quite legally.
  • 12/24/12
    A Christmas Day Prayer for America as We Celebrate the Birthday of the Most Famous Baby in History
    O God, forgive and help us transform our rich and powerful nation where toddlers and school children die from guns sold quite legally.
  • 12/21/12
    Child Watch® Column: "It Is Time to Act to Protect Children Against Gun Violence"
    Over the past few days we’ve all learned a bit more about twenty beautiful six- and seven-year-olds who each seem as if they could have been any of our children or grandchildren. Jessica asked Santa for new cowgirl boots for Christmas. Daniel’s family said he “earned” all the ripped knees on his jeans. James liked to remind people that he was six and three-quarters. Grace loved playing dress-up and with her dog Puddin’.
  • 12/14/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Dear God! When Will It Stop?"
    The horrendous news from Newtown, Connecticut has pierced our hearts. A black-clad man in his 20s armed with two semi-automatic handguns entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School and made an elementary school for kindergartners through fourth graders the scene of the worst mass shooting in a public school in American history. Twenty children were shot and killed. Seven adults were shot and killed. We don’t yet know how many were wounded. We do know dozens of parents are experiencing the worst nightmare any parent could imagine. We do know more than 500 young children in the school are traumatized.
  • 12/14/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Dear God! When Will It Stop?"
    The horrendous news from Newtown, Connecticut has pierced our hearts. A black-clad man in his 20s armed with two semi-automatic handguns entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School and made an elementary school for kindergartners through fourth graders the scene of the worst mass shooting in a public school in American history. Twenty children were shot and killed. Seven adults were shot and killed. We don’t yet know how many were wounded. We do know dozens of parents are experiencing the worst nightmare any parent could imagine. We do know more than 500 young children in the school are traumatized.
  • 12/07/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Determined to Make a Difference"
    This year New York is facing the worst homeless crisis since the Great Depression. The city homeless population included a record-breaking 42,888 children. The many ways poverty scars a child today and long into the future are well-documented. Children who have to navigate the harsh reality of homelessness on top of poverty often fall through our already porous safety nets and disproportionately drop out of school and then too often drop into the prison pipeline.
  • 11/30/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Speaking Up for and Demanding Full-Day Kindergarten"
    About four million American children celebrated a very big milestone this fall—their first day of kindergarten. Far too many were already a step or more behind their peers. If we want all of our children to be school-ready so that they can become college, career, and workforce-ready, it’s long past time to offer universal quality prekindergarten followed by universal full-day kindergarten in the United States.
  • 11/21/12
    Child Watch® Column: "A Thanksgiving Prayer to Stand for Children and Our Nation’s Future"
    Children did not ask to be born, did not choose their parents, state, zip code, race, or income level. I share the belief of all great faiths that every child is sacred. I believe in America’s promise, yet to be fulfilled, that every child and person has a right to a fair and level playing field on which to survive and thrive. That millions of our children lack the most basic protections of health care, nutrition, housing, safety, early childhood development supports, education which prepares them for college or career and productive work, and stable family support, threatens our national, economic and military security now and in the future.
  • 11/16/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Giving Thanks for the Hard Times"
    Thanksgiving is a season when many Americans gather with our families over full dinner tables to count our blessings. Seventeen-year-old Eva Maria Turcios and her family take very little for granted any day, including the blessing of having any dinner at all: “I mean, there were nights where we didn’t have anything to put in our stomachs. Like we’d just have to drink water. And I guess there’s times where we didn’t know where we were going to live. But now it’s just a normal thing for us. When we’re faced with problems like that, we don’t sit there and cry about it. We don’t sit there and wait for someone to do something for us. My mom and I just figure out something, a way for us to make it to the next day, to put food in our stomachs, to have a roof over our heads.”
  • 11/09/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Forward for Children"
    For all those who voted, our work and duty is not done. We need to make sure to tell the President and Congress to “be very careful what you cut” and make our voices heard now and for as long as necessary. Children, the poor and the middle class cannot afford more devastating cuts and instability as they continue to struggle against hunger, homelessness, joblessness, and loss of summer school and regular school days as a result of this long economic downturn.
  • 11/02/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Paying it Forward After Beating the Odds"
    When Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, spoke at the Children’s Defense Fund’s recent national conference, she shared some details about her son that reminded the audience both how special Trayvon was to his family and at the same time how much the happy, social high school student was like any mother’s child. “He was very affectionate. He loved to hug and kiss us at 17. He was still a loving teenager . . . He liked to go to the movies. He liked to go to the mall. He liked to dress nice. He had to smell good. He used to talk on the phone all the time with the girls . . . He was just a loving guy. He loved sports. He loved the outdoors. If he was in this room right now, he would be walking around talking to a lot of you right now.”
  • 10/26/12
    Child Watch® Column: "'We Have Decided to Turn the Pain into Power'"
    When Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, spoke at the Children’s Defense Fund’s recent national conference, she shared some details about her son that reminded the audience both how special Trayvon was to his family and at the same time how much the happy, social high school student was like any mother’s child. “He was very affectionate. He loved to hug and kiss us at 17. He was still a loving teenager . . . He liked to go to the movies. He liked to go to the mall. He liked to dress nice. He had to smell good. He used to talk on the phone all the time with the girls . . . He was just a loving guy. He loved sports. He loved the outdoors. If he was in this room right now, he would be walking around talking to a lot of you right now.”
  • 10/19/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Making America America"
    Dr. Vincent Harding, an acclaimed historian, religious scholar, and activist known for his work with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., believes America is a wounded nation. Even after so many years of struggle, he is convinced that America can and must get better.
  • 10/12/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Inspiring Lessons from Ruby Bridges: A True American Heroine"
    As a six-year-old first grader in New Orleans in 1960, Ruby Bridges became the first Black student to attend an all-White elementary school in the South. She showed unforgettable loving forgiveness and courage when faced with the ugly screaming White mobs who jeered and taunted her every day as she walked into William Frantz Elementary School. Federal marshals had to escort Ruby to school, but she never quit or turned back. Ruby astonished her teacher one day when she asked Ruby why she had paused and talked to the crowd of White adults that morning, and Ruby responded, “I wasn’t talking. I was praying. I was praying for them.”
  • 10/05/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Power is in Your Person"
    As the founder of the Agricultural Workers Association, the co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers union, and the founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation for community organizing, Dolores Huerta has spent decades working relentlessly to improve social and economic conditions for farm workers and to fight discrimination in all forms. In the process she has improved the lives of countless children and families, especially poor and immigrant families. Huerta started out with a mission to be a teacher, but quickly realized that most of her students were children of farm workers who lived in poverty. She couldn’t stand seeing the children coming to class hungry and needing shoes and she thought she could do even more to help them by organizing their parents. Huerta’s many successes over the years have proven her right about the power every person can have once they are ready to claim it and work together with others for change.
  • 09/28/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Families Struggle: Child Poverty Remains Epidemically High"
    The U.S. Census Bureau’s new poverty data for the states show millions of families struggling mightily to keep their heads above water in the wake of the Great Recession. Fourteen states saw statistically significant increases in their child poverty rates, 26 states saw small increases, and nine states and the District of Columbia saw small declines in child poverty rates last year. But the morally scandalous bottom line is clear: 16.1 million children are poor in our rich nation with more than seven million living in extreme poverty, too often scared, hungry, and homeless.
  • 09/21/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Undocumented and Unafraid"
    Carlos Amador emigrated with his family from Mexico in 1999 at age 14 and lived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant for almost 13 years until he recently received conditional permanent residency. Higher education for someone like him seemed like an impossible dream when Carlos finished high school. But he was determined to make it happen.
  • 09/14/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Ryanomics Assault on Poor and Hungry Children"
    The Ryan budget does not name or touch any of the many expensive incentives, loopholes or subsidies that help the powerful and the wealthy. It doesn’t close loopholes or rein in incentives to corporations who invest in or take jobs overseas to the tune of about $129 billion over ten years. It doesn’t touch the tax advantage for private equity partners which now provides a $15 billion windfall over ten years or the tax preferences for oil and gas companies that cost about $40 billion a year.
  • 09/07/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Holding on at the 'Center of Hope'"
    Every 29 seconds, a child is born into poverty in America. Every 29 seconds. One hundred and twenty-four children every hour. Children like 10-year-old Tyler, five-year-old Keiris, and four-year-old Jerimiah, who live with their mother, Christina Wyatt, 24, in Middletown, Ohio. Last summer the family moved into the Center of Hope for Women and Children, a homeless shelter, after their apartment was robbed and they were evicted. Their only income at that point was a Social Security disability check for Tyler, who has Down syndrome. “I had to, really,” Christina said about moving into the shelter. “We didn’t have anywhere to go.”
  • 08/31/12
    Child Watch® Column: "The Racial Divide: Will It Widen or Close?"
    When Dr. Khalil Muhammad speaks people listen. He is a scholar, historian, and the director of the New York Public Library’s renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Dr. Muhammad knows a lot about the importance of being mindful of learning from history. When he spoke about equality of opportunity to 1800 young leaders at a Children’s Defense Fund’s Haley Farm leadership training session in June, he explained that our nation is testing the old saying “those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
  • 08/24/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Without a Gun How Many Lives Would Have Been Saved?"
    When news broke of the murders at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on August 5th, people of all faiths and backgrounds and the first responders who came to the scene to help were horrified by the ambush on men and women as they prepared for worship services. Leaders across the country quickly denounced the hate crime and the FBI immediately began investigating the attack as a possible case of domestic terrorism. But as easy as it was for all of us to be outraged by another senseless attack and heartbroken by the congregation’s stories, it was difficult to be surprised by how it took place again in a nation unwilling to curb guns designed just to kill lots of people in the hands of lawless people. Would this have happened without a semi-automatic gun and high-capacity clips of bullets?
  • 08/17/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Mapping the War on the Right to Vote"
    At the Children's Defense Fund’s recent national conference Barbara Arnwine, the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a leader of Election Protection, the nation's largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, issued an urgent call to action. Right now assaults on voting rights across the country in advance of the 2012 elections are keeping her very busy.
  • 08/10/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Be Careful What You Cut"
    Right before the U.S. House of Representatives left for the summer to go home to campaign for your vote, they voted to extend the Bush era tax cuts for the richest Americans – millionaires and billionaires. For more than ten years the richest one percent have received almost $750 billion from these tax cuts. Income and wealth inequality have grown astronomically threatening the very fabric of our democracy. The top one percent in our nation now possesses more net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined. In 2008, the 400 highest-income taxpayers earned as much as the combined tax revenue of 22 state governments with almost 42 million citizens. It’s way past time to reset our moral and economic compass, demand a more just tax system where those with the most pay their fair share, and stop the reverse Robin Hood policies that take from the poor and young to give to the rich and powerful.
  • 08/03/12
    Child Watch® Column: "The State of America’s Children 2012"
    Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” When we look at the state of our union and the state of America’s children in 2012, his words ring very true. It’s impossible to deny that our nation’s economy, professed values of equal opportunity, future, and soul are all in danger right now.
  • 07/27/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Critical Investment Advice from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke"
    On July 24th, Dr. Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, gave a video keynote speech to 3,200 community and youth leaders attending the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati—not on the details of national fiscal policy, but on the crucial importance of effective early childhood supports and public education to the success of our economy.
  • 07/20/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Pushing Children Out of School—A New American Value?"
    In 1642 the Massachusetts General Court passed one of the very first laws about education in what would become the United States. It ruled that because it was apparent “the good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any Common-wealth,” all parents and guardians were required to make sure children received “so much learning as may enable them perfectly to read the English tongue, & knowledge of the Capital Lawes.” Educating children well enough to read and understand the laws of the community was considered so critical that local selectmen were put in charge of making sure it was done—and they would be able to tell children hadn’t been educated properly if they became “rude, stubborn & unruly.”
  • 07/13/12
    Child Watch® Column: "The Politics of Power and the Precious Right to Vote"
    “The first fact that we need to understand is that America has a longer history of disenfranchisement than it does of enfranchisement. What do I mean by that? At the time of the American Revolution when America was finding its footing, more than two-thirds of the people who resided in the colonies couldn't vote. You had to be white, you had to be male, you had to have property, and you had to be privileged. This history of America is a history of political exclusion . . . It was because people were trying to control power from the very beginning.”
  • 07/06/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Ending the Cradle to Prison Pipeline and Mass Incarceration—the New American Jim Crow"
    A Black boy born in 2001 has a one in three chance of going to prison in his lifetime and a Latino boy a one in six chance of the same fate. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world: 7.1 million adult residents-one in 33-are under some form of correctional supervision including prison, jail, probation, or parole. Michelle Alexander writes in her bestselling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness that there are more adult African Americans under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. In 2011, our state and federal prison population exceeded that of all European nations combined. Something's very wrong with this picture.
  • 06/29/12
    Child Watch® Column: "See Something, Say Something"
    On June 25th, the U.S. Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama banned mandatory sentences of life in prison without parole for juveniles. This is a major victory for children and for America and a giant step forward for justice for children. Until this week, America was the only country in the world to routinely condemn children as young as 13 and 14 to die in prison.
  • 06/22/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Saving Our Democracy: A Loud Wake Up Call"
    I had the recent privilege of attending the annual dinner of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights honoring Congressman Barney Frank and National Council of La Raza head Janet Murguia. After affirming the enormous progress our nation has made in overcoming bias against people of color and gays and lesbians, Wade Henderson, the very thoughtful Leadership Conference head, issued one of the most eloquent and sobering warnings I’ve heard about the enormous dangers to America’s democracy we face today. We must heed and act upon his words.
  • 06/22/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Saving Our Democracy: A Loud Wake Up Call"
    I had the recent privilege of attending the annual dinner of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights honoring Congressman Barney Frank and National Council of La Raza head Janet Murguia. After affirming the enormous progress our nation has made in overcoming bias against people of color and gays and lesbians, Wade Henderson, the very thoughtful Leadership Conference head, issued one of the most eloquent and sobering warnings I’ve heard about the enormous dangers to America’s democracy we face today. We must heed and act upon his words.
  • 06/15/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Detours and Danger Warnings on the Road from Slavery to Freedom"
    On June 16th, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio is hosting a Juneteenth celebration commemorating the jubilant day in 1865 when the last Black slaves got word they were free more than two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. On June 17th, labor, civil rights, education, and community leaders, child advocates, and citizens are joining together in a silent march in New York City to protest the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policing tactics. These two events cover very different places and times but are connected as part of the slow, hard and unfinished journey towards freedom and racial justice in our nation. Although we have come a very long way on the arduous road from slavery to freedom, we still have a long way to go.
  • 06/08/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Tolerance of Poverty"
    The latest edition of UNICEF's report on child poverty showed the United States ranks second out of 35 developed countries on the scale of what economists call “relative child poverty” with 23.1 percent of its children living in poverty. Only Romania ranked higher. It was another shameful reminder that, as economist Sheldon Danziger put it, “Among rich countries, the U.S. is exceptional. We are exceptional in our tolerance of poverty.”
  • 06/01/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Freedom Summer"
    When Kyla was in the third grade, she failed the state-required end-of-grade tests at her Charlotte, North Carolina elementary school. Her grandmother was worried that summer school wouldn’t be fun, but then she heard about the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® program, and she knew Kyla...
  • 05/25/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Time to Stop 'Stop and Frisk'"
    This Father’s Day, June 17th, the Children’s Defense Fund-New York and I will be joining George Gresham, President of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the Children’s Defense Fund national board member, Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder and President of the National Action Network, other advocates, elected officials, union leaders, and citizens to mount a silent march down Fifth Avenue to protest the New York City Police Department’s harsh stop and frisk policy.
  • 05/18/12
    Child Watch® Column: "No Holiday for Hunger"
    Summer is usually imagined as a carefree time for children and families—a lazy, relaxing season filled with cookouts, backyard picnics, and trips to the ice cream truck. We don’t usually equate “summer vacation” and empty stomachs.
  • 05/11/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Working Hard to Get Back on Track"
    Since childhood, 21-year-old Ashante Dickens has had a clear goal: “I want to be an elementary school teacher. That’s my passion.” She got good grades in school, and did well enough in high school to be allowed to take a few early enrollment classes at a nearby college in early childhood education. She was on the road to realizing her dream when a family problem changed her course.
  • 05/04/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Poison in America"
    The growth in hate groups and the use of their divisive and negative language in the mainstream political and media arena is cause for national alarm. Already this year several horrendous hate crimes, possible hate crimes, and crimes committed by people with ties to hate groups have received national attention.
  • 04/27/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Safe Harbor for the Homeless"
    Five-year-old Kamari and his three-year-old brother Shamarr clown around in the dining room of the YWCA Family Center in Columbus, Ohio. They and their mother, Stekeshia Harris, slept on cots in the shelter’s library for their first three nights there because there were so many homeless families needing shelter—a 330 percent increase from two years ago.
  • 04/20/12
    Child Watch® Column: "SNAP: Cutting What Works?"
    This week has been a devastating one for children and the poor. It began with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urging members of the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee for “moral and human reasons” to “protect programs that serve poor and hungry people over subsidies that assist large and relatively well-off agricultural enterprises.”
  • 04/13/12
    Child Watch® Column: "What a Difference a Gun Makes"
    On April 16, 2007, our nation suffered its deadliest shooting incident ever by a single gunman when a student killed 32 people and wounded 25 others at Virginia Tech before committing suicide. Five years later, have we learned anything about controlling our national gun and gun violence epidemic? A look at just a few of the sad headlines across the country so far this year suggests we haven’t learned much or anything at all.
  • 04/06/12
    Child Watch® Column: "America’s Public Schools: Still Unequal and Unjust"
    Millions of children in America are denied the opportunity to receive a fair and high quality education. In March, the U.S. Department of Education released new information showing that children of color face harsher discipline, have less access to rigorous course offerings, and are more often taught by lower paid and less experienced teachers.
  • 03/30/12
    Child Watch® Column: "How Our Nation Can Protect Children, Not Guns"
    When the Children’s Defense Fund released its new report, Protect Children, Not Guns 2012 in March, we dedicated it to the memory of Trayvon Martin and the thousands of other children and teenagers killed by guns in America, including the 5,740 killed in 2008 and 2009 according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The fight to uncover the truth of what happened the night Trayvon Martin died hasn’t ended but basic facts that have never been in dispute are starkly clear.
  • 03/23/12
    Child Watch® Column: "It’s Past Time to Protect Children Not Guns"
    Thousands of people across the country have poured into the streets—from New York to Sanford, Florida—to demand justice for Trayvon Martin. Hundreds of thousands more stepped up to protest online. In response to the public outcry, the Sanford Chief of Police has temporarily stepped down and the state prosecutor has stepped aside.
  • 03/21/12
    Child Watch® Column: "Walking While Black"
    Every parent raising Black sons knows the dilemma: deciding how soon to have the talk.
  • 03/16/12
    Child Watch® Column: "A Healthy Start: Protecting Great Gains for Children in the Affordable Care Act"
    Since our founding almost forty years ago, the Children’s Defense Fund has fought to ensure that all children in America receive the healthy start they need and deserve. Next week marks the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal health reform legislation, which has been a giant national step forward in reaching that goal.
  • 03/09/12
    Child Watch® Column: "The American Promise: The Right to Vote"
    Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right . . . The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong—deadly wrong—to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of States rights or National rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.
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