Former vice presidential candidate John Edwards, now head of the University of North Carolina law school's new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, delivered a well-received speech yesterday at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
As a Christian who strives to follow the teachings of Jesus, I like what he has to say.....
Edwards says ending poverty biggest issue facing country by Mark Pratt, Associated Press Writer
Ending poverty is perhaps the single largest issue facing the nation, former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards said Wednesday.
"We must end poverty in America because the content of our country's character is at stake," Edwards said at a forum sponsored by Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Thirty-six million Americans live in poverty, Edwards said, and the private sector as well as the government has a responsibility to address it.
"Every day each one of us faces a moral choice. We can either look the other way or we can face up to those who live in poverty and pledge to end it," said Edwards, whose speech was called "Restoring the American Dream."
Edwards talked about a couple from North Carolina who started an institution that loans money to the poor to start their own businesses, which he called "the perfect example of what you can do if you have the heart and the backbone to do it."
They started in 1985 with $77 they raised in a bake sale, he said, and have provided $3.9 billion in financing to people living on the margins of society while also destroying the stereotype that lending to the poor is risky.
Edwards, the son of working-class parents and a former medical malpractice lawyer who was Sen. John Kerry's vice presidential running-mate in 2004, represented North Carolina for one term in the Senate. Last month he became head of the University of North Carolina law school's new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.
In that capacity, he said, he has traveled all over the country meeting with the poor, and listening to their concerns.
He said the nation has made successful steps to eradicate poverty in the past, mentioning Social Security, Medicaid, Head Start, and the earned income tax credit, but that more must be done.
The nation can pull many people out of poverty by raising the national minimum wage, which he called "a disgrace," by overhauling the health care system, by protecting the rights of workers to organize and unionize, and by helping families build assets so they have something to fall back on during financial emergencies, Edwards said.
He said it was wrong that large corporations paid their CEOs millions of dollars while paying thousands of workers $7 per hour.
Edwards said the Bush administration's tax cuts for people earning more than $400,000 a year cost the country revenue that could be used to help the poor.