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President of Children’s Defense Fund, Marian Wright Edelman, to Deliver 159th Commencement Address

April 1, 2016
Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman, award-winning advocate, and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, will be the keynote speaker at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary’s 159th Commencement on May 13th, 2016. Wright Edelman will also be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters. The Commencement service will begin at 10:00 a.m. at First United Methodist Church of Evanston.

Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), has long been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans. After earning degrees from Spelman College and Yale Law School, she was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar and began her career directing the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Mississippi. Soon afterwards, she moved to Washington, D.C. and served as counsel for the Poor People's Campaign. Wright Edelman founded the Washington Research Project, the precursor to CDF. In 1973, she founded CDF and under her leadership, it has become the nation’s strongest voice for children and families.

“We are privileged to welcome Mrs. Wright Edelman to the seminary campus as our commencement speaker this year,” said Lallene Rector, president of Garrett-Evangelical. “Her relentless work on behalf of children has inspired our own recent child advocacy emphasis and the seminary’s sponsorship of the Garrett-Evanston Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools site. Mrs. Wright Edelman’s life is an embodiment of deep faith and active love of neighbor. It is a powerful testimony not only for our graduating class, but for all persons of faith.”

Wright Edelman has received over a hundred honorary degrees and many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award for her many writings. She is a board member of the Robin Hood Foundation and the Association to Benefit Children, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Marian Wright Edelman is married to Peter Edelman, a Professor at Georgetown University Law Center. They have three sons and four grandchildren.