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Marian Wright Edelman-2013 Commencement Speaker

March 4, 2013

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

I am pleased to announce that Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, has accepted my invitation to serve as the Colorado College 2013 Commencement speaker. 

In addition to being the recipient of a Colorado College honorary degree in 1999, Edelman completed her undergraduate degree at Spelman College and went on to graduate from Yale Law School in 1963.  Originally from Bennettsville, S.C., Edelman began practicing law in 1964 when she became the first African-American woman to be admitted to the Mississippi Bar.  Before moving to Washington, D.C., in 1968 to serve as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign that Martin Luther King, Jr. began organizing before his death, Edelman directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Miss.   

After her work with the Poor People’s Campaign, she founded the Washington Research Project, a public interest law firm and the parent body of the Children’s Defense Fund, and served as the director of the Center for Law and Education at Harvard University for two years.  In 1973, she founded the Children’s Defense Fund.  This organization serves as an advocacy and research center for children’s issues, particularly those pertaining to poor, minority, and disabled children.  Alongside the work she continues to do as president of the Children’s Defense Fund, Edelman also served on the Spelman College Board of Trustees, which she chaired from 1976 to 1987. She was the first woman elected by alumni as a member of the Yale University Corporation, on which she served from 1971 to 1977.

Over the course of her illustrious career, she has received over 100 honorary degrees and many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize, the Heinz Award, and a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.  On top of this, she received the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her writings, which include: “Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change”; “The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours”; “Guide My Feet: Meditations and Prayers on Loving and Working for Children”; “Stand for Children”; “Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors”; “Hold My Hand: Prayers for Building a Movement to Leave No Child Behind”; “I'm Your Child, God:  Prayers for Our Children”;  “I Can Make a Difference: A Treasury to Inspire Our Children”; and “The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation.”

I am honored to have the opportunity to welcome such an impressive and compassionate person as Marian Wright Edelman to serve as our 2013 commencement speaker. 

Warm regards,

Jill Tiefenthaler