Marian Wright Edelman’s Commencement Speech at Colorado College

“I love my role model, Sojourner Truth, who was an illiterate but brilliant slave women who could not stand slavery or second-class treatment of women, but she never lost an opportunity to speak out and one day she got heckled by an old white man who stood up and said he didn’t believe anymore about her anti-slavery talk than for an old flea bite. She snapped back at him, and said, “That’s all right. The Lord willing, I am going to keep you scratching.” I think if we can all remember that if there are enough fleas biting the biggest dog, and there are enough of us who keep coming back when they flick some of us off, we will get gun safety regulations, we will end child poverty. You just have to bite whenever you see injustice, and if enough of us join that flea corps for children, the flea corps against gun violence, the flea corps against child poverty, we will transform our nation and make it un-American for any child to be poor, for any child to be illiterate, for any child to be unsafe and unable to grow up in our rich land.”

                                                -Marian Wright Edelman

              It’s commencement season and we should each have the right to circulate at least one commencement speech.  I’m choosing Marian Wright Edelman’s earlier this month at Colorado College. 

Like all commencement speeches there are a few unavoidable clichés, but Marian remains a brave and original thinker, in whom the passion for social justice has never diminished. She offers the graduates the seven lessons she shared with her three sons.  They are worth a read.

You can find both the video and the printed transcript  @ http://www.coloradocollege.edu/commencement/  

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