Photo: Dale Robbins

Peter Edelman

Anti-Poverty Advocate

Peter Edelman is a distinguished professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he specializes in issues of poverty, welfare, and constitutional law.  Over the course of his career, which spans more than four decades, Edelman has used his legal expertise and positions in government to become one of the nation’s leading anti-poverty advocates.

As a top advisor and legislative assistant to Senator Robert F. Kennedy from 1964 to 1968, Edelman accompanied Kennedy on his 1967 tour of the Mississippi Delta to investigate the devastating conditions of families living there, an experience that would help shape his policy views on poverty for years to come.

Edelman also served as Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration, until he famously resigned in protest after Clinton signed the 1996 welfare reform bill into law. Edelman was a passionate critic of the law, which he characterized as “a war on the poor of the United States” and “the worst thing” Bill Clinton had done during his presidency. His article about the issue in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done” received the Harry Chapin Media Award.

Edelman has written extensively on the issues about which he’s passionate. His books include Searching for America’s Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope, published in 2001, and Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men, which he co-authored and was published in 2006.  His most recent book is So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty In America.

Peter Edelman earned his B.A. from Harvard College and his law degree from Harvard Law School. Today he lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund and also a lifelong advocate for disadvantaged Americans.