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NCYL Board President Peter Edelman Outlines Areas of Opportunity for Legal Advocates

Peter Edelman, president of NCYL’s Board of Directors, was the keynote speaker at the July Litigation and Advocacy Directors Conference in Chicago. Edelman said social welfare attorneys are trying to meet the demands of higher poverty rates, even as the federal government has begun to focus more on lowering the deficit, and less on social services.

“You are trying to help people who desperately need help, in an atmosphere where state and local governments are broke and the federal government is tightening the purse strings. Your work has never been more important, or harder. Demand is way up and you have less money to respond,” said Edelman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

Peter Edelman

Peter Edelman

He identified six areas of opportunity for legal advocates:

  • Implementation of the health care law
  • Low-wage work
  • Extreme poverty and TANF
  • Public education
  • High-risk youth
  • Concentrated poverty


Click here to read Peter Edelman’s speech
at the conference, sponsored by the National Legal Aid and Defender’s Association.


Peter Edelman has served on the NCYL board since 1997, and was elected board president in 2005. A social policy expert and anti-poverty activist and scholar, Edelman has been on the faculty at Georgetown University Law Center since 1982. During President Bill Clinton’s first term in 1992, Edelman served as counselor to the secretary and then assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. As a young man, he worked as legislative aide and speechwriter to the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. Edelman later served as issues director for Sen. Edward Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1980. Edelman’s book, Searching for America’s Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope, was published by Houghton-Mifflin in January 2001. Edelman lives in Washington, DC with his wife, Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund. They have three grown sons.

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