Edwards to share his message on lifting Americans out of povertyBy Rob McManamy
The charismatic, passionate and articulate former U.S. Sen. John Edwards is speaking out about the need to lift more Americans out of poverty and into the middle class. Edwards currently serves as the Director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This month, the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies will welcome the 2004 vice-presidential candidate to speak at the University about his work on poverty.
“The Harris School is delighted to sponsor Sen. John Edwards’ talk to the University community,” said Susan Mayer, Dean of the Harris School. “The policy issue on which Sen. Edwards will be speaking—reducing poverty in the United States—is of concern to all Americans, and it is even more relevant this year, given the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.”
Featured in a ticketed event as part of the Harris School’s Major Speaker Series, Edwards will speak at 1 p.m., Monday, March 13, in the Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall. Edwards will address the topic “Restoring the American Dream: Fighting Poverty and Moving More Americans into the Middle Class.” His address will be aimed specifically at lighting a fire under students who have embraced the role of public policy in effecting positive social change.
“Speakers like Sen. Edwards provoke, inspire and foster dialogue in a way that complements students’ experiences at the University and in their academic training,” said Mayer.
Edwards started the not-for-profit center last spring at the University of North Carolina School of Law where, in 1977, he received his J.D. and now lectures as an Alumni Distinguished Professor. He served as a U.S. Senator from 1999 to 2005. In 2004, Sen. John Kerry chose Edwards to serve as his running mate atop the Democratic Party’s national ticket in the U.S. general election.
“Before I was involved with politics, I served on the board of Urban Ministries in Raleigh (N.C.), where we worked on issues of poverty and homelessness,” explained Edwards a year ago, when he assumed leadership of the new center. “I feel passionately that we should address the problem because it is a huge moral issue our country faces É and it has not received appropriate national attention for a long period of time.”
However, that changed last summer when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and laid bare the desperate plight of the underclass who could not escape the deadly aftermath of the storm in Mississippi and Louisiana.
“Hurricane Katrina brought poverty to the forefront for the first time in decades,” wrote Edwards in a January 31 post on the progressive Web site TomPaine.com. “But the reality is that the people of the Gulf Coast—the vast majority of them working—were living in crisis for years before the hurricane hit and put them on the news.”
Nationally, he noted, “more than 37 million Americans live in poverty; 13 million of them children ... When history judges us, as a nation and as individuals, it will ask: What did we do to end poverty? How we answer this call will forever define us as a nation.”
With that, Edwards has been particularly focused on inspiring a new generation of socially conscious leaders. And that is one key reason he is bringing his message of hopeful activism to students at Chicago, as well as students at other colleges and universities across the United States.
“Much of the great change in America has been led by students and young people, because they have the idealism and passion that result in enormous energy when they engage in something,” said Edwards. “We want to get college students involved in these issues throughout the country.”