Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, 2004 Democratic vice-presidential candidate, delivered Gonzaga University School of Law’s annual Luvera Lecture on Tuesday, January 10, 2006, at the Columbia Tower Club in Seattle.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, KOMO TV, KIRO Radio and TVW TV covered the event. Edwards’ speech will be broadcast in its entirety on TVW. Washington Law and Politics Magazine will also carry a feature. Watch for announcements of the TVW broadcast in the Spokane area.
Edwards brings crusade on poverty to Seattle
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
By CHRISTINE FREY
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
Poverty is a great moral issue facing the country, and Americans have an obligation to address it, John Edwards, the former senator and vice presidential candidate, said Tuesday in Seattle.
He urged Americans to launch a grass-roots movement to tackle the issue and suggested that the government raise the minimum wage.
It is wrong that 37 million Americans live in poverty, Edwards said: “I think we, all of us, have a moral responsibility to do something about it.”
Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina and the 2004 running mate of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, is now the director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina.
He has been traveling around the country speaking about poverty — what he called his “life’s work now” — and appeared in downtown Seattle at a luncheon held by the Gonzaga University School of Law for about 100 people.
The issue of poverty in the United States was highlighted after Hurricane Katrina.
Edwards traveled to Louisiana after the hurricane and met New Orleans residents who had been displaced by the flooding.
He told the Seattle audience about the people he encountered — a man whose wife drowned after he could no longer hold on to her hand; another who lost his home and job.
In his travels, Edwards has met with poor in 35 states, many of them single mothers, he said. The stereotype that people who are poor are lazy or don’t help themselves isn’t true, he said; he saw many who are doing all they can for their children.
“They need help,” he said. “They need somebody to stand up and fight for them.”
The national minimum wage, currently at $5.15 an hour, is “a disgrace,” he said and should be raised.
He also called for ending economic and racial segregation in American neighborhoods, potentially by giving housing vouchers to low-income families so they could move into better neighborhoods.
“We have a fundamental question that we should be asking ourselves as a nation, and that question is: Do we really believe that all of us have equal worth? Do we? Because I do,” he said.
Edwards, the son of a millworker, was the first in his family to attend college. He pursued a career as a lawyer and later served in the U.S. Senate.
The United States also must address poverty globally, he said, recalling a recent trip to slums in India where what he saw — children going to school where there was sewage in the streets — caused him to have trouble sleeping at night.
There is a void in the country’s moral leadership in the world, he said, and the United States is absent from major international issues, such as what he called the genocide in Sudan.
“The world knows that we’re willing to use our muscle,” he said. “They see that every single day. Here’s what they want to know from us: Are we actually willing to lead on the huge moral issues that face the world? That’s the leadership America should be providing.”
Edwards spoke for about 30 minutes, and then took questions from the audience.
In a news conference after his appearance, Edwards said he would ensure that his wife, Elizabeth, is well before considering a presidential bid in 2008. She was diagnosed with breast cancer after the 2004 election.
In the meantime, tackling the poverty issue is his “passion.”
“I’ll just see down the road where that leads.”
P-I reporter Christine Frey can be reached at 206-448-8176 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Luvera Lecture Series
Established in 1990, The Luvera Lecture Series features the nation’s brightest minds, and is designed to inspire Gonzaga University Law School students and alumni. The series is underwirtten by Seattle attorneys Paul and Lita Luvera, Gonzaga Law School graduates and partners in The Luvera Law Firm. Lita Luvera also serves on the Gonzaga University Board of Regents.
Gonzaga University School of Law
Gonzaga University School of Law was established in 1912 and accredited by the American Bar Association in 1951. The Law School is committed to providing its students with an excellent legal education informed by its humanistic, Jesuit, and Catholic traditions and values. In the best of the Jesuit tradition, the Law School strives to educate the whole person so as to impart to its graduates the ethical values, substantive knowledge, and practical skills they need to become effective advocates and compassionate counselors.