Marian Wright Edelman, attorney and founding president of the Childrens Defense Fund, is one of five children of a Baptist minister. She graduated from Spelman College, a historically black institution, and Yale Law School; she was the first woman to pass the state bar exam in Mississippi. Edelman has spent her professional life as an activist for disadvantaged Americans, especially children. She has received many honors and awards, and her writings include Children out of School in America (1974), Black and White Children in America (1980), and Families in Peril: An Agenda for Social Change (1987). The essay that follows is the first chapter of her book The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours.