Marian Wright Edelman t580
Marian Wright Edelman



Children’s Defense Fund


I recently received a note from my dear and evergreen friend Maria Nhambu with wise counsel that has circulated for many years under titles like The Balance Sheet of Life and Things We Should All Know. In a world where so much is uncertain and confusing this message is timeless and includes tenets of all the great faiths that help bind us together as human beings:


The most destructive habit: Worry.

The greatest joy: Giving.

The greatest loss: Loss of self-respect.

The most satisfying work: Helping others.

The ugliest personality trait: Selfishness.

The greatest “shot in the arm”: Encouragement.

The greatest problem to overcome: Fear.

The most effective sleeping pill: Peace of mind.

The most crippling disease: Excuses.

The most powerful force in life: Love.

The most dangerous act: Gossip.

The world’s most incredible computer: The brain.

The worst thing to be without: Hope.

The deadliest weapon: The tongue.

The two most power-filled words: I can.

The greatest asset: Faith.

The most worthless emotion: Self-pity.

The most beautiful attire: A smile.

The most prized possession: Integrity.

The most powerful channel of communication: Prayer.

The most contagious spirit: Enthusiasm.


Marian Wright Edelman is founder and president emerita of the Children’s Defense Fund whose mission is “Leave No Child Behind.” For more information, visit

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