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Former Senator John Edwards speaks about America’s underprivileged

The deadly winds of Hurricane Katrina exposed the ugly face of poverty in the United States, former Senator John Edwards told an enraptured audience last week at Laurie Auditorium.

When bad things happen to poor people, it is harder for them to recover, and poverty has become the great moral issue facing this country, said Edwards, who has made a war on poverty his priority after losing a 2004 campaign for vice president.

Edwards visited the Trinity University campus to deliver a speech on “America - The Land of Opportunity.”

Why did so many New Orleans residents, many of them people of color, remain in that city when floodwaters poured into its streets? Because they had no way to get out, said Edwards of the disaster that hit the Gulf Coast late this summer. “Poor people were stuck in New Orleans. They live on the razor’s edge every day. New Orleans is a microcosm of what’s happening in America.”

Nobody in Congress speaks for the poor, who instead of being engaged in the political system, are engaged in merely staying alive. To help the poor, says Edwards, would make America bigger, better, and stronger. “There is a hunger for us to be involved in something big and important again. What we do together matters. It is enormously important to how we perceive ourselves.”

Edwards came from a working-class family in North Carolina. Solutions to fighting poverty include giving poor people a chance to work, and providing poor children with a chance to get an education by working up to 10 hours per week in exchange for tuition and books.

“It’s about breaking down barriers,” Edwards says. After the government’s failure in the New Orleans disaster, “we should know the world is watching us; they know about poverty and want to know what we’re going to do about it.”

Edwards also disavowed any intention to campaign on the Democratic ticket for president in 2008, saying instead that he would decide at a later date whether he would run for that office. “What I want you to do is help me fight poverty in this country. This is my cause, what I care about. If I can do something about this I’ll be proud of my life.”

By Michael Cary

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