News Releases

Jan 21, 2013

Marian Wright Edelman urges focus on education at the 23rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Breakfast


MINNEAPOLIS, Minn - Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, urged a sold-out audience at this morning’s 23rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast to invest in education.MarianWrightEdelman

“We need to wake up,” she said to the nearly 2,000 people at the Minneapolis Convention Center and live TV audience watching on TPT (Twin Cities Public Television).  “And we need to recognize that we have to invest now, and invest with urgency and with persistence so that we can give every child a chance to be able to function, work and contribute in this very complex, changing world and economy.”

In her remarks, she said that failing to improve educational disparities will have implications for the United States’ security and future.  “Will the United States be a beacon or a blip in history?”

A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman began her career in the mid-1960s when, as the first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Miss. In l968, she moved to Washington, D.C., as counsel for the Poor People's Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began organizing before his death.

In 1973 she founded the Children's Defense Fund and, under her leadership, it has become one of the United States’ strongest advocates for children and families.

The theme of the 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast is Education: The Fierce Urgency of Now. King referred to civil rights as “the fierce urgency of now” in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

“Minnesota’s fierce urgency of now must be to create the best education system for all of our kids, including kids of color and low-income students, to excel to their full potential,” said Martin Abrams, chair of the 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Committee and a marketing director at General Mills.

The event also featured remarks from Dr. Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer of UNCF, who spoke about the critical importance of education. “It is indeed our era’s great emancipator; or as Frederick Douglass called it, the pathway from slavery to freedom.”

The event was broadcast live on TPT and will be rebroadcast on the statewide Minnesota channel during January and February.

Singing and music filled the Minneapolis Convention Center ballroom with performances from singer Ann Nesby and Greater Praise and Fortress choirs.

The breakfast included the presentation of the Local Legend community service awards. This year’s Local Legend winners are Warren Bowles, veteran actor and director; Eric Mahmoud, chief executive officer of Harvest Prep Academy; and John Turnipseed, director of the Center for Fathering.

As in the past, the St. Paul Area Council of Churches hosted six simultaneous free breakfasts, which extend the reach of the breakfast and provided an opportunity for people in St. Paul, Mahtomedi and Duluth, Minn. and River Falls, Wisc., to watch the event together.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast began when UNCF and the General Mills Foundation joined together to host a community celebration to honor the legacy of King. What started with 800 guests in 1991 has grown to be one of the largest King holiday breakfasts in the nation. Past speakers have included Gen. Colin Powell, USA (Ret), Naomi Tutu, Cory Booker, the late Yolanda King and U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

During the breakfast, Ellen Goldberg Luger, General Mills vice president and General Mills Foundation executive director, encouraged the audience to commit to volunteerism in the spirit of Dr. King by filling out a service commitment card. Commitment cards are available online.

Learn more about the 23rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast by visiting

UNCF (United Negro College Fund) is the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students' education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 38 member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 20 percent of African-American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 900 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized motto, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."® Learn more at

The mission of the General Mills Foundation, celebrating 58 years of giving, is to nourish communities.  Continuing its tradition of generous giving and global community support, General Mills contributed more than $143 million to charitable causes in fiscal year 2012.  General Mills invests in and collaborates with community organizations and programs that focus on alleviating hunger, advancing nutrition wellness and improving K-12 education.  In addition, 83 percent of U.S. employees volunteer.  To learn more about the ways General Mills nourishes lives through philanthropy and community engagement, please join us on Facebook at or visit us at

For more information, contact:

Maerenn Jepsen
General Mills