Edelman brings message of hope, advocacy

Sandra ClarkGossip and Lies

Educators are “doing God’s work – the most important work on earth,” Marian Wright Edelman said in Knoxville last week. The founder of the Children’s Defense Fund brought the Billie Grace Goodrich Lecture to an audience of University of Tennessee faculty and students.

Edelman, 78, seemed tired. She had come from Washington, where one big issue is restoration of the Children’s Health Insurance Program which expired Sept. 30. CHIP provides health insurance coverage to some nine million children through federal/state funding.

The Children’s Defense Fund has commissioned a study to determine the cost of child poverty. “Next year, we’ll make a big call to end child poverty,” she said, on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s poverty march.

Afterwards, Edelman answered questions and spoke less scholarly, suggesting “strategic fleas” as a strategy. “Enough fleas biting can make any dog move.”

Edelman has local ties. The Children’s Defense Fund operates the Alex Haley farm in Clinton as an education center and retreat. The Fund sponsored a Freedom School in Knox County this summer, and trained Freedom School leaders here a few years back. That gathering brought Civil Rights legends Andrew Young and U.S. Rep. John Lewis to town.

“If you don’t love children, get out of the classroom,” she said. She drew applause with her advocacy for early childhood education: “Who would build a house without a foundation?”

She said children need respect, high expectations and affirmation. “It’s hard to be what you cannot see.” Children need hope.

Edelman accepted $100 from the local chapter of Jack & Jill, a youth group developing the next generation of African-American leaders. Program speakers were Susan Benner, Mary Jane Moran and Cara Djonko-Moore.

Gossip & Lies

Norma Mertz was at the Edelman lecture. “When I started (at UT), I was the only woman in a department of 16. Now I’m head of the department,” she said. “That’s because you won’t retire,” I responded. “Just like you,” she grinned.

Shelby County commissioners are considering pay raises for officials elected in 2018, including the 19 commissioners themselves. The first reading is today, according to the Memphis Daily News. Six countywide offices would see pay hikes ranging from $15,537 for the assessor to $37,945 for the sheriff. That’s the raise amount, not the salary. The commissioners would get a 9.3 percent raise to $35,100 annually for a part-time job.

Attorney Don Bosch was aggressive on Sunday’s Inside Tennessee. When James Corcoran said he doesn’t like a one-size-fits-all approach to short-term rentals, Bosch said to let homeowner associations set policy would be “legislatively chaotic.” Corcoran, also a lawyer, said, “Sure, it would be difficult, but (deciding) it is part of the job we’re signing up for.”

Scott Frith observed on Tennessee This Week that while Corcoran was running for state representative in the Republican Primary last year (he lost), his current opponent, Seema Singh Perez, was campaigning for Bernie Sanders.

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