Former senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards spoke at Florida A&M University Thursday as part of his College Tour 2005: Opportunity Rocks.
Edwards’ tour is focused on creating a grassroots effort to end poverty in America. Student Government Association President Ramon Alexander said the tour would visit only 10 universities in the nation, and that FAMU would be the only HBCU.
In his speech, Edwards said the government would never do anything serious about poverty without grassroots pressure from the American people.
“They (poor people) need a champion. They need someone to speak for them. I came here today to ask you to be that champion,” Edwards said.
He noted that the disaster in New Orleans had drawn attention to poverty and that now was the time to address it.
“Poverty has a face in this country, and it is largely a face of color,” Edwards said.
He said one of the reasons he came to FAMU was that, “a lot of…students don’t have to read about poverty to know what it’s about.”
He offered some possible solutions, such as an increase in the national minimum wage, education incentives and housing vouchers that allowed people to move to good neighborhoods.
Edwards called on young people to be the heart of the movement.
“Young people have changed this country before. They can do it again,” he said.
Edwards encouraged students to volunteer 20 hours per week. Those in attendance were asked to fill out forms with their phone numbers and e-mails so they could be notified of where their help was needed. Students can also register at www.oppurtunityrocks.org.
Most of the students interviewed seemed to have a positive reaction to Edwards’ remarks.
“I feel it’s very important that he came to FAMU, a black university, to encourage us to come together to help out poor people in America,” said Jasmyne Lynn, a FAMU DRS student.
Brent Lang, student body president at FAMU DRS said, “I love the fact that he is focusing on poverty.”
The two said they looked forward to returning to their high school to get other students involved.
“I feel like politicians are disconnected. Not him (Edwards), but those that are in the White House now can’t relate to the real world. I feel like he (Edwards) understands because he’s coming from the experience of being poor,” said 22-year-old Camille Campbell, a fifth year pharmacy student from Ft. Washington, Md.
SGA Vice President Philip Agnew said the speech was good, but it left him unsure of its purpose.
“I didn’t really know what his message was. I thought he had some good ideas. I expected a little more from him as a former candidate for vice president of the United States,” Agnew said
Erika Miron, a third year pharmacy student said Edwards was trying to promote unity and that she appreciated that.
“He’s trying to integrate. I think there is still a lot of segregation going on.” The 20-year-old Tampa native added, “If people do what he says I think there will be a positive outcome.”
Contact Mackenzie Turberville at firstname.lastname@example.org