Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Edwards Talks Poverty At UC Berkeley

CALLS POVERTY 'THE MORAL ISSUE OF OUR TIMES'

BERKELEY--Senator John Edwards (D-NC) spoke to students at the University of California-Berkeley about the issue of poverty in this country, while sounding like he hadn't lost his campaign spirit since last year's Presidential election.

Looking tan and rested in faded blue jeans and a light blue poplin shirt, Edwards told the audience that was comprised of mostly college students that poverty is the "great moral issue of our time." He spoke on everything from the Bush administration's handling of hurricane Katrina and the role of poverty in the disaster to the view other countries have of the United States.

"With Hurricane Katrina, America saw the face of poverty," said Edwards, "Some people asked 'Why didn't they leave?' They couldn't leave. There was no way. They don't have a car. They don't have a bank account. They don't have a credit card. There was no way to take care of themselves if they left."

He added, "There's two groups in poverty. Those with serious mental and physical disabilities and the vast majority who either work or want to work. This isn't about chartiy. This is about justice, about fairness."

In a jab to the Bush administration, Edwards said, "The last thing we should do is give billion dollar contracts to mult-national corporations, instead, we should be giving people jobs.

According to Edwards, 37 million people live in poverty in the United States and nearly one million have joined the ranks in the past year.

"If you have capital, you'll survive. If you don't--and this is most of the country--you'll struggle," said Edwards.

Edwards also tried to illustrate the difference between the haves and have nots when crisis hits. In Edwards case, his wife's battle with breast cancer.

"Something bad happens to everyone all the time. In my case, your wife get sick and, by the way, she doing fine. Your child gets sick or some financial problems might happen," said Edwards, "The difference between me and you is that I'll get through it. For the poor, there's no way to get out of the ditch."

The inequity of wealth among racial groups in America is a problem Edwards is trying to tackle with these series of speeches on college campuses throughout the country.

According to Edwards, the net worth of blacks in this country is $6,000, while it's $8,000 for Latinos, as opposed to over $80,000 for whites.

"This gap means something and will take a lot less than a hurricane to put them in a ditch," said Edwards.

Part of Edwards' plan for alleviating the issue of poverty is to pour money back into social programs that have either been eliminated or limited by the Bush administration.

His plan includes raising the minimum wage, which Edwards called "a disgrace". Expanding the Earned Income Credit to single working families. Allowing for housing vouchers to the poor that would allow for greater mobility to better areas and schools. Creating assets for poor families where their savings would be matched by the Federal Government to help make a down payment on a house or regular house payments. Edwards also believes that the government should help send kids to college and equated much of his success to school and government programs.

"Some say if you only work hard, you'll succeed. That's a lie. The truth is I could not have gotten by on my own. I had great teachers. I had the benefit of a great state university system and I had my parents, "said Edwards.

Many in attendance echoed the Edwards' sentiments.

"It's hard being a student, you know. Unless you're born with a silver spoon in your mouth like the President, you're going to need some breaks along the way," said Cal student Justin Schwartzman.

"The government is supposed to help people, not just leave them hanging," said Alicia Bates of Berkeley, "The Republicans just want to help the rich and leave the rest of us to fight for the leftovers."

Edwards also touched upon the view of America across the world when it comes to taking care of our own and the spirit of the American soul.

"We have a void of moral leadership in this country," said Edwards, "We have shamed our country with the reponse to the victims hit by hurricane Katrina.

There's genocide in Darfur, Sudan where people are killed because they're black. Where is America? After Rwanda, we said this would never happen again."

He also added, "Where is America's voice? do yo think the planet is watching? It matters because the world will follow America."

Edwards took a brief moment to remember the passing the civil rights hero, Rosa Parks, before his speech. "She showed what strength and character can do for the nation," said Edwards, "She sat down and, in the process, stood up."


Here's more photos from Sen. John Edwards' speech Tuesday night in Berkeley:
Senator John Edwards in Berkeley

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