Marian Wright Edelman on 2016 elections: 'Democracy is not a spectator sport'

On Tuesday, the evening of March 1, Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, was the first to speak in a three-part series hosted by the College of Charleston, the Race and Social Justice Initiative

Edelman started slowly with tales of her childhood, like once having her bedtime story read by Langston Hughes and: "The only time daddy wouldn't give us a chores was when we were reading, so we read a lot." 

Worked her way through altruisms: "We don't need to be big dogs, we need to be strategic fleas." 

Then focused on her passion: children. She noted that more money is put into the prison system than schools, and said, "That's about the dumbest investment possible." This was one of the several times the racially and generationally diverse audience almost as a whole stood up to applaud Edelman's truths. 

During the Q&A part of the evening, Edelman was, of course, asked about 2016's election season, because Hillary Clinton got her start in advocacy in the Children's Defense Fund, where she helped ensure the nonprofit's motto, which 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.”

Earlier, Edelman had said, "Democracy is not a spectator sport," and she was as tactful in her response about the nominees: "Look at what they say and look at their records, then decide for yourself."

The Race and Social Justice Initiative, sponsored by the College of Charleston with support from Google, continues on March 31 with Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and on Oct. 18 with Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic magazine national correspondent and author of the recently published "Between the World and Me," a series of letters to his teenage son. 

ELIZABETH BOWERS