They Cannot Fend for Themselves

That is why Marian Edelman became a top lobbyist for children

The path that led Marian Wright Edelman to become one of Washington's most unusual lobbyists began on April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Then a civil rights lawyer practicing in Jackson, Miss., Edelman had sought out a group of black teenagers, hoping to dissuade them from violence. But when she tried to warn them that looting and rioting in the streets "may ruin your future," one boy angrily shot back, "Lady, why should I listen to you? Lady, I ain't got no future."

Haunted by the boy's hopelessness, Edelman resolved to dedicate herself to providing...