Edelman: 'Reset America's moral compass'
Written by Micki Carter
August - September 2007
August 1, 2007

Marian Wright Edelman implored the UCC crowd, "Our children are not partisan political fodder."

Speaking to General Synod on June 25, Edelman said, "You must insist, you must demand, that this year we will provide health insurance for all our children. … You, as people of faith, must make a strong, unwavering commitment to this cause."

The founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, Edelman was interrupted 24 times with applause.

"We are living in a perilous period in history," she said, reciting mind-boggling statistics coupled with demands for action. "We are living in a time of unbearable dissonance between professed and practiced family values, between calls for community and rampant individual greed … when the three richest Americans make more in a year than 50 million people living in 50 states.

"We must reset America's moral compass," she said.

The 68-year-old daughter of an African-American Baptist minister in South Carolina — who now counts former presidents and current presidential candidates as friends — reached back to her preacher-kid roots to compel thousands of Synod-goers to join the cause of America's children of poverty. "Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that the test of the morality of a society is how it treats its children. Let me tell you that America fails that test every day of the year," she said.

Edelman described the crisis of the "cradle-to-prison pipeline" that sucks in one-in-every-three black boys born in America.

"We've got to name the 'cradle-to-prison pipeline' and we've got to change that pipeline," she said. "Education has a lot to do with it. When only 13 percent of black children and 15 percent of Latino children are reading at grade level, that's condemning that child to economic death. If we can't make the political and social commitment to teach our children to read, where is the will of people of faith?"

But the message she came to deliver was the need to provide total, seamless, portable, uninterrupted health care for every child in the country, and she described the legislation being shaped in Congress this year as perhaps the last, best chance for universal coverage ever.

"You must insist! You must. Small babies die every day of preventable diseases, quite legally. Children die from guns, quite legally. The rich get richer at the expense of the poor, quite legally ... Help us,  as people of faith, never to confuse what is quite legal with that which is just and right."

"These are not acts of God," she said. "They are choices and people of faith must stand up." 

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Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3801
guessb@ucc.org