Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards visited Florida A&M last year to rally voters; this week Edwards had another agenda-poverty.
Thursday, as part of the Opportunity Rocks Tour, Edwards encouraged FAMU students in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Auditorium to join college students across the country and speak out against poverty.
“I don’t think this is a complicated thing,” Edwards said. “Poverty has a face in this country and it’s largely a face of color. There is a huge void and we need the young people of America to fill it.”
In discussing the important role young people play in the fight against poverty, Edwards called for a movement against poverty on college campuses around the nation. He reminisced about past movements fueled by young people:
“We need you to spark a movement that says it’s not OK for people in our country to be stuck in poverty,” Edwards said. “We need racial and economic integration of our communities. This is the place to spark that movement. Young people have changed this country in the past. Young people can change this country again.”
Anita Favors, president of the Florida Consumer Action Network, agreed.
“Most people push the least of us in the background,” Favors said. “This is a good move. We must give a little to those less fortunate.”
Edwards addressed the lack of moral leadership in America and the government’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina relief:
“Where are we?” Edwards asked. “Where is America’s voice? Are we going to turn our backs on 37 million people who live in this country? The government was slow and inefficient in its response, but not the nation.”
Edwards said the nation is always “ready to do something big” and that young people have historically been the leaders.
Many members of the audience supported the prominent politician’s push against poverty.
“Many times when things are taken off primetime news, people stop thinking about it,” said Andrew Collins, a sophomore business administration student from Atlanta. “Sen. Edwards is one of a few national figureheads still prominently fighting against poverty.”
Andrew Gillum, a city commissioner and FAMU graduate, also believes poverty is an issue that needs to be addressed.
“Sen. Edwards is exposing a very important issue that has always been around in this country,” said Gillum. “Poverty never had a visible advocate. Because of Edwards’ role and position, poverty now has a national and global representative.”
For some in the audience, the issue hit close to home.
David Grimes, 19, a sophomore Florida State University student from Miami, understands poverty and appreciates Sen. Edwards stand.
“Coming from Miami, it hits home,” said Grimes, a political science major. “For the third year in a row, Miami was ranked the No. 1 poorest major city in the United States. It’s encouraging to know that there are major players out there no longer ignoring the issue.”
In the 2004 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, Miami dropped to the third poorest major city in the nation, with over 20 percent of its residents living in poverty.
According to the Opportunity Rocks Web site, the goal of the two-week, ten-college tour is to get more young people involved in their communities and to get them involved in advocating for policies that expand opportunity.
In addition to asking students to join together and get involved in efforts fighting poverty, Edwards asked students to commit to volunteering 20 hours of community service.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for young people,” Edwards said.
“If we as students can unify efforts with other HBCUs, and host national campaigns and gain national support, we can really make a difference,” Collins said.
The tour’s next stop is the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Contact Johnitta T. Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org