"We stood together as an American people--red, white, brown, black, and yellow; young and old; rich, middle class, and poor; female and male; physically and mentally challenged; Jew and Gentile; Christian and Moslem; Hindu, Buddhist, and Baha'i; believers and nonbelievers--each an inextricable part of the amazing sacred mosaic of God's universe and of America's democracy.
"We came with many concerns and by many means for you, our children. Some of us walked and some came by wheelchair. Some came by rail, air, and bus. Some came alone and some in groups. Some came with family and some had no famimly. Some of us had one or more homes to protect our children from the cold, heat, and storms of life. Some of us had no home or place to call our own. No one was excluded.
"Everyone agreed on one crucial thing: that no one in America should harm children and that everyone can do more to ensure that you grow up safe, healthy, and educated, in nurturing families and in caring communities. You are entitled to your childhood, safety, and hope.
"In this nation, the poorest baby born in the Mississippi delta, Montana plains, Texas barrios, Arizona reservations, and inner-city ghettos has the same God-given and America-promised birthright of fair opportunity, respect, and protection as the middle-class child born in the suburbs of Shaker Heights, and as the most privileged child born on Park Avenue.
"Each and every American child adds or subtracts, multiplies or divides America's problems and potential, and fulfills America's nightmares or dreams.
"President Lincoln warned that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." That's why we remember his words and are acting to renovate our divided and battered national house to make sure it has room and justice enough for all.
"When Jesus Christ invited little children to come unto Him, He did not invite only rich or middle-class, male, white children without mental or physical challenges, from two-parent families, to come. He invited all children to come, as do all the great faiths, to renew America's and God's sacred covenant with every child.
"It is always the right time to do right for children, who are being born and formed in mind, body, and spirit every minute as life goes on.
"Young people, families, child advocates, citizens: keep standing together for children every day until all America stands with us. Take at least one step for just one child, and you will make a difference.
"Be confident that you do not stand alone: we all stand together. We will do our very best for you, and in doing so, leave our seeds of service to God. He will make of them twoering oak trees of hope in whose shade you can play and laugh and live and grow again all over America.
"Whoever you are, wherever you are anywhere in America--stand up and commit to leave no child behind. If you cannot stand, raise your hands. If you cannot raise your hands, then lift your eyes or open your ears and hearts. If you do, you, our children, and this great nation will do God proud when He comes.
"Trust in God's love. God lifted up Abraham Lincoln--a poor, rural Kentucky boy--to the presidency of the United States to save our Union from slavery and sectionalism. God used a courageous slave woman named Harriet Tubman to lead slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad just as God can use you to heal our communities.
"Let us end with a prayer."
O God, forive our rich nation where small babies die of cold quite legally.
O God, forgive our rich nation where small children suffer from hunger quite legally.
O God, forgive our rich nation where toddlers and school children die from guns sold quite legally.
O God, forgive our rich nation that lets children be the poorest group of citizens quite legally.
O God, forgive our rich nation that lets the rich continue to get more at the expense of the poor quite legally.
O God, forgive our rich nation that thinks security rests in missiles rather than in mothers, and in bombs rather than in babies.
O God, forgive our rich nation for not giving You sufficient thanks by giving to others thier daily bread.
O God, help us never to confuse what is quite legal with what is just and right in Your sight.
Marian Wright Edelman, Stand for Children rally, June 1, 1996