One of today’s strongest activists for ending child poverty recently spoke to an overflow crowd of students, faculty and staff from across USC. Marian Wright Edelman, founder of Children’s Defense Fund, gave the lecture March 29 about the state of child welfare and advocacy opportunities for protecting youth.

“Your voice is so important and we need to keep getting louder and louder,” Edelman said, sharing stories from her life’s work as a lawyer and activist.

USC Visions and Voices, an ongoing series that brings a variety of speakers, performers and events to the USC campuses to engage the community in the arts and humanities, presented the event at Mayer Auditorium on the Health Sciences Campus.

Edelman started her discussion by detailing the latest legal battles for funding children’s programs, including the renewal of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. She highlighted how the epidemic of gun violence across the country affects children and people of color, while advocating for the audience to continue pushing legislators for change until it happens.

“That’s how we got most of the legislation, by refusing to go away,” she said.

Edelman also pushed for the audience to remember several points in the fight for change: plan ahead, don’t pay attention to critics and engage everyone in the common cause for human rights.

“We’re not going to start movements just looking over the top of our computers,” she said. “We have to get out there and meet people and pray with them.”

— Melissa Masatani