Youth Justice


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.

“What happens this year will determine the future of American democracy for generations to come. This is the first presidential campaign conducted in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. As with Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson, this is a rare ruling that narrows, not widens, American democracy. The fortunate few with unlimited resources can engage in unlimited campaign spending and big money could shout out the voice of the people. An all-out assault on democracy is underway in America including:

  • Anti-voter laws from requiring photo IDs to restricting voter registration that seek to disfranchise vulnerable voters, including African Americans, Latinos, low-income Americans, young people and senior citizens;
  • Attacks on newcomers to our nation, such as the anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and Alabama and copycats all across this country, that codify racial and ethnic profiling as legitimate law enforcement policy;
  • Restrictions on the right to organize unions and bargain for a better life and livelihood in the public and private sectors;
  • A war on women’s rights, from earning equal pay for equal work to making her most personal choices without government interference;
  • Efforts to defund, de-unionize, demonize and privatize public services of all kinds, from our public schools to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; and
  • The unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominations that has left the nation with more than 90 current and future vacancies on federal courts, making it almost impossible for most Americans to have their cases heard in a timely manner.

The old saying really is true: Justice delayed is justice deferred. But American progress must never be a dream deferred.”

Wade Henderson will be moderating a robust discussion of these issues in a plenary session on Saving Democracy: Creating One America July 24, 2012 at the Children’s Defense Fund National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Joining him will be Robert Edgar, President and CEO of Common Cause, Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Democracy is not a spectator sport. It is as strong and genuine as its citizens who choose and hold accountable their leaders. Please make sure you do your part to ensure honest and fair elections in our nation this year.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child 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. For more information go to

Mrs. Edelman’s Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.