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Proclaiming that America now has the unique opportunity to eradicate poverty, renowned activist Marian Wright Edelman opened the fourth annual National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness last night before a crowd of over 300 students and community representatives. Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund, called upon the students -- representing dozens of universities and high schools nationwide -- to "translate their ideas into real and permanent solutions [to end poverty]." Edelman delivered the keynote address as part of a weekend conference being held at the University. The conference -- hosted in the past by Harvard University, the American University, and Northwestern University -- includes discussion panels, speeches and workshops in which approximately 500 student representatives will plan their strategies to fight hunger and homelessness. Decrying the Reagan administration for slashing welfare programs, Edelman cited dozens of statistics which place the United States far below other countries in health care and education. "Investing in children is not a luxury but an absolute national necessity," added the lifelong crusader for children. "The money is there [to fight poverty], it's just a matter of national choice." Edelman is the author of several novels, including Portrait of Inequality, and has been at the forefront of the fight for the rights of the impoverished for over three decades. The activist told a captivated audience that every 47 seconds another child is abused, every 26 seconds another runs away, and every minute a teenager gives birth. "We must mount a massive movement which is powerful enough to change the philosophy of today's policymakers," added Edelman in her half hour address. Comparing the students to thousands of gnats, she claimed that together, the army of volunteers could "annoy policymakers into action." Edelman's five part strategy to help end children's plight, includes massive public education about society's health and welfare crisis, personalization of childrens' suffering, greater involvement of individuals in community organization, coalition building, and "training an army of volunteers." The keynote address ended with a standing ovation. "[Edelman's speech] really put the problems of homelessness into persepective," according to University of Wisconsin junior Shannon Fenner. She added that the speech was "really motivating." The conference continues this afternoon with a seminar on discrimination and poverty in the Nursing Education Building at 1:45 p.m. This evening, the conference will host a discussion group on Student Activism in the 90's in room B-1 in Meyerson Hall. Both panels are free and open to University students.

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