Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Marian Wright Edelman

American Activist for the Rights of Children, President and Founder of the Children's Defense Fund

"Service is the rent each of us pays for living - the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time or after you have reached your personal goals."

"Our children are growing up now in an ethically polluted nation where substance is being sacrificed daily for shadow."

"Just because a child’s parents are poor or uneducated is no reason to deprive the child of basic human rights to health care, education, proper nutrition. Clearly we ignore the needs of black children, poor children, and handicapped children in the country."

"Parents have become so convinced that educators know what is best for children that they forget that they themselves are really the experts."

"Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree."

"If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much."

"We do not have a money problem in America. We have a values and priorities problem."

"It's time for greatness -- not for greed. It's a time for idealism -- not ideology. It is a time not just for compassionate words, but compassionate action."

"If you don't like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.""

"Why were we able to put hundreds of thousands of troops and support personnel in Saudi Arabia within a few months to fight Saddam Hussein when we are unable to mobilize hundreds of teachers or doctors and nurses and social workers for desperately underserved inner cities and rural areas to fight the tyranny of poverty and ignorance and child neglect and abuse?"

"You really can change the world if you care enough"

"If you as parents cut corners, your children will too. If you lie, they will too. If you spend all your money on yourselves and tithe no portion of it for charities, colleges, churches, synagogues, and civic causes, your children won't either. And if parents snicker at racial and gender jokes, another generation will pass on the poison adults still have not had the courage to snuff out."

"Investing in [children] is not a national luxury or a national choice. It's a national necessity. If the foundation of your house is crumbling, you don't say you can't afford to fix it while you're building astronomically expensive fences to protect it from outside enemies. The issue is not are we going to pay -- it's are we going to pay now, up front, or are we going to pay a whole lot more later on."

"We are willing to spend the least amount of money to keep a kid at home, more to put him in a foster home and the most to institutionalize him."

"No person has the right to rain on your dreams."

"The old notion that children are the private property of parents dies very slowly. In reality, no parent raises a child alone. How many of us nice middle-class folk could make it without our mortgage reduction? That's a government subsidy of families, yet we resent putting money directly into public housing. We take our deduction for dependent care yet resent putting money directly into child care. Common sense and necessity are beginning to erode old notions of the private invasion of family life, because so many families are in trouble. "

"Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time."

"Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it."

"You're not obligated to win. You're obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day."

"Never work just for money or for power. They won't save your soul or help you sleep at night."

"So often we dwell on the things that seem impossible rather than on the things that are possible. So often we are depressed by what remains to be done and forget to be thankful for all that has been done."

"You were born God's original. Try not to become someone's copy."

"I was taught that the world had a lot of problems; that I could struggle and change them; that intellectual and material gifts brought the privilege and responsibility of sharing with others less fortunate; and that service is the rent each of us pays for living -- the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time or after you have reached your personal goals"

"The question is not whether we can afford to invest in every child; it is whether we can afford not to."

"You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable and transform even the biggest nation."

"We must not, in trying to think about hwo we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee."

"I've tried to teach what I learned all those years in my mother and father's house, all those things I didn't realize I was learning and that I never knew I'd be so grateful for. When you have love and it's proffered every day in a kind of tender, yet stern insistence and even reckless laughter, when it is given to you and you accept it in life as a thing as natural as rain or snow, or the littler of leaves in fall, you can't help but take it for granted. For a bewildered while you incorrectly understand that the world has given you this because it's there in equal measure, everywhere. You never know until it's too late to do anything about it, how sweet the effort is: how lasting the human will to love can be in the breast of people who want to make it for you, who want to give it to you, without calculating what's in it for them, without thinking at all of what it will mean when you grow to full adulthood, see the world as it is, and forget to mention what you have been given. Every day of my grown-up life, I have wanted to do what my parents did. I have wanted to widen the province of love and weaken hate and bitterness in the hearts of my children. And I've done these things because of what I got from my family, all those lovely years when I was growing up, being loved and cherished and, unbeknown to me, and in the best way, honored, for myself."

"Understand and be confident that each of us can make a difference by caring and acting in small as well as big ways."

"Children under five are the poorest age group in America, and one in four infants, toddlers and preschoolers are poor during the years of greatest brain development."

"Don't be afraid of hard work."

"Amidst protestations of 'Who can be against the children?' too few people are FOR children when it really matters."

"A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back - but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you."

"Children don't vote but adults who do must stand up and vote for them."

"Children must have at least one person who believes in them. It could be a counselor, a teacher, a preacher, a friend. It could be you. You never know when a little love and support will plant a small seed of hope."

"Don?t feel entitled to anything you don?t sweat and struggle for"

"Every day of my grown-up life, I have wanted to do what my parents did. I have wanted to widen the province of love and weaken hate and bitterness in the hearts of my children. And I've done these things because of what I got from my family, all those lovely years when I was growing up, being loved and cherished and, unbeknown to me, and in the best way, honored, for myself."

"Failure is just another way to learn how to do something right."

"Far less wealthy industrialized countries have committed to end child poverty, while the United States is sliding backwards. We can do better. We must demand that our leaders do better."

"Family and moral values are so central to everything that I am."

"I don't care what my children choose to do professionally, just as long as within their choices they understand they've got to give something back."

"Education is a precondition to survival in America today."

"I feel very lucky to have grown up having interaction with adults who were making change but who were far from perfect beings. That feeling of not being paralyzed by your incredible inadequacy as a human being, which I feel every day, is a part of the legacy that I've gotten from so many of the adult elders."

"I try to act out of faith."

"I who have everything am hanging in there by my fingernails. I don't know how poor women manage."

"I grew up in a very religious family and it is the motivating force to everything I do. I am fortunate to have had adults all around me who really lived their faith, in helping other people and doing the best you can do."

"I wish they would do their homework. I wish they would read my book The Measure of Our Success. In these matters I believe in family above all. I believe in parents. I believe that most parents will do the best job they can. At CDF we always say that the most important thing we can do is support parenting and parents. But most of our public policies and private-sector policies make it harder rather than easier for parents to do their job. I favor parental choice. I was opposed to changes in the welfare system that would demand that mothers go out to work."

"If things are too easy, life is a whole lot less interesting."

"I worry about the kids who have too much. As a parent living in a so-called good neighborhood with children who went to private high school, I found myself spending much time in parent groups worrying about alcohol, unsupervised parties, and parents not being parents."

"If you don't like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time."

"If we think we have ours and don't owe any time or money or effort to help those left behind, then we are a part of the problem rather than the solution to the fraying social fabric that threatens all Americans."