Former Sen. John Edwards
Fundraiser for Dallas County Democrats
Prairieview Middle School Gym
Waukee, Iowa
August 11, 2006

Thank you very much.  I'm happy to be here with all of you.  Let me give you a quick report on Elizabeth.  Elizabeth's doing great, which is the good news, doing very, very well.

And what I'd like to do is just take a few minutes to talk about sort of what's happening in the world today and particularly what all of us have been seeing on our television screens for the last few days.  You know we have this ongoing conflict between Hezbollah and the Israelis, we've got Hamas launching missiles out of Gaza into Israel, we have the ongoing war in Iraq, which is an extraordinary mess, something I think we have a responsibility to do something about to change the failed policy that we're seeing now from the Bush administration.

And let me just say to all of you--most of you know this already, one of the reasons that you're probably here--but I voted for the Iraq resolution and I have since said, and I stand by this, that my vote was a mistake.  I take responsibility for that.  I think it's important for us to tell the truth about those of us who supported this war and now believe it was a mistake.  I thought some time ago it was a mistake.  [applause].  In addition to that we have in Iran as president Ahmadinejad trying to obtain a nuclear weapon, which is an extraordinarily dangerous thing.  So we live in a very dangerous world, there's no question about that.  But if you look at the way this administration and America for that matter has been reacting, which is really what it is, reacting, you don't see any long-term view about what America needs to be doing.

I've spent a lot of time traveling around the world the last couple of years, and I give speeches, I've met with a lot of leaders around the world.  The one thing that's clear to me is the world does not see you.  They don't see your character, they don't see what you're made of, they don't see what you care about, what your priorities are.  Here's what they see.  They see America expanding America's use of its military.  They see what they perceive to be America trying to expand its influence in the world.  What they don't see is they don't see our better angels.  They don't see that we're willing to engage in issues that are outside our own self interest.  They don't see that we care about the huge moral issues that face the planet.  And there's so many chances for us to do something about this.

I mean global poverty.  Half our planet lives on $2 or less a day, three billion people, and where is America; where's American leadership?  We are dragged kicking and screaming to doing anything.

Right now there's a genocide going on in Africa, in Sudan and Darfur.  Hundreds of thousands have already died, women are being raped, families driven from their homes.  We said, my country said, after Rwanda, we would never let this happen again.  Not on our watch.  Remember the phrase?  It's happening right now, right in front of us.  Genocide.  Where is America?  We're better than this.

I'm telling you tonight there will be a child born, more than one, in Africa with AIDS because their mother has AIDS and they can't afford a $4 dollar dose of medicine.  A whole new generation of children with AIDS.  Where is America?  Human rights abuses in Russia and China.  You know the world does not see who you are.  They don't.  They don't see what we're made of.  We desperately need for the world to see who you are and who the American people are.  [applause].

I want to say something about our party.  We get all caught up in very important local races, statewide races and then national races where we go out and work for our party.  I love the Democratic party, but I want you to know something.  I love my country more.  And there is so much more than our party at stake.  If you think about this for a minute there are really only two major parties in America, and we've seen what one party will do over the last six years.  We've alienated and driven away the rest of the world.  They have absolutely no idea what we're made of and what we care about.  We have to be the saviour.  Our party has to be the leader.  We have to bring America to the right place.  And when I say it's not just about our party, it's about the future of the country we live in.  For that matter it's about the future of the world we live in because we are the only superpower.  When we don't lead, no one leads.

So when you're out there working in these elections--these local elections, these statewide elections and the national elections--I want you to think beyond the Democratic party.  Because literally the future of America and the world is at stake here.  And the world needs to see who we are.  The need to see what we're made of.  [applause].

And I'll tell you something else they need to see.  Not just what we would do around the world, but they need to see what we would do here at home.  You know I always believed, I bet many of you did too, when I was growing up, America was this great model for the rest of the world.  This was before Abu Ghraib, this was before Guantanamo, it was before the war in Iraq.  We were the country that was looked up to.  Everyone wanted to be like us; they wanted to emulate us.

Well they don't [inaud.] look at what we do around the world, they also look at what we do here at home.  When those images that came on to our television screens out of New Orleans, we're not the only ones who saw 'em.  The whole world saw 'em.  What they want to know from us is will the richest and most powerful nation on the face of the planet actually turn its back on 37 million of its own people who wake up every day worried about feeding and clothing their children.

And one thing that our country, our people understand that politicians just don't seem to get is what we do for the victims of the hurricane, for that matter what we do for millions of Americans who live in poverty every day, it's not about them.  We don't do it for them.  We do it for us because it says something about who we are.  It says something about the character of America, how our people respond to...[applause, inaud.].

Now if they want to-- You know I don't want to be pie-in-the-sky you know like I don't believe in the real world, but there is one thing I am sure of.  I spent the last three or four years going all over this country.  There is a hunger in America.  A hunger to be inspired again.  People are looking for something big and important [applause, inaud.].  We, our party, we need to give it to them.  We used to be the party of big ideas.  We were the party of backbone and courage and leadership.  We need to be that party again.  Not just for the world and not just for our party, but for America.  Our country needs us so badly.

And by the way it's not just doing something about poverty.  That's a piece of it; it's just a piece of it.  You know we have a huge moral obligation to do something about 46, 47 million of our own people who have no health care coverage.  [applause].  And when I say do something about it let me be very clear.  I'm talking about universal health care coverage--every man, woman and child in America.  Which includes dental coverage, it includes mental health care coverage, mental health parity.

There's another issue.  We should be the party that leads the Apollo Project that takes America away from its dependence on oil in the Middle East.  We have to change where we are today.  We have to.  [applause].

But I want to say something about this; this applies across the board to what I'm talking about.  We've got plenty of politicians in America.  What we need are leaders, and we need leaders that will tell us the truth.  [applause].  You cannot, you cannot, you listen to these politicians--  Listen.  Do we need to invest in clean alternative sources of energy?  Of course we do.  Wind, solar, biomass, biofuels, ethanol, all things that people in Iowa know a great deal about.  But it is not the truth to tell the country that we're going to solve our dependence on oil just by doing that.

We need to ask America for a new kind of patriotism, patriotism about something more than war.  We need to say to the country, it is important for your country for you to be willing to conserve.  It is important for your country for you to be willing to sacrifice.  Because we can't innovate our way out of this.  We can't.  It's going to require both.  People are going to have to be willing to sacrifice.  We can't drive vehicles that get 12 miles to the gallon and think that we're going to solve this problem.  It will never happen.

And just one other issue.  You know I don't you about you, but I don't want to live in an America where we're giving up our individual liberties in the name of freedom.  [applause].  We've seen too much of that... [inaud.]  One thing we should not doubt.  All of us would embrace the [inaud.] intelligence operation, the law enforcement operation that brought down this planned attack, announced yesterday; that's a great thing.  But we should never for a minute doubt [inaud.]... we, the Democratic party, we will America safe, we will keep America strong economically, militarily, but we should never doubt that our liberties are most in jeopardy in times like this, every single day.  And we cannot give up what we are and who we are in the name of the war; we can't do it.  [applause]

...possibly missing a bit due to tape...

...You know I remember when I--I was a teenager when this happened.  I remember watching Bobby Kennedy go through Appalachia and show this country the other America.  So many Americans didn't know anything about it, didn't want to think about it.  And he inspired me and in fact a whole generation of Americans to engage, to care, to get involved.  We need to give America something big and important to engage in again.  And one of those things needs to be ending poverty.  We can end poverty in the next 30 years.  [applause].  We can reduce poverty by at least a third in the next ten years.

And people who say there's nothing--  By the way, and by the way, I listen to these politicians, I hear this all the time.  They say well you know if you've been successful in your life it's because of your own hard work and your responsibility and if you've failed it's because of your failure.  It's just not the truth.  All of us know it's not the truth.

And I use my own life as an example.  I grew up in a family--some of you might even remember that I'm the son of a mill worker.  [laughter].  I started thinking what I should say is now I'm the son of a dot, dot, dot, 'cause anybody in American can fill in the blank.  But it is true that I like many of you grew up in a normal American family.  My parents worked in the mill, my grandparents did.  They didn't go to college, and I was lucky to be the first person in my family to actually go to college.  But more important, I've now had everything you could every have in this country.  I didn't get here by myself.  I had my country with me every step of the way and that means public school teachers and a great state university for my education.

Listen.  National community matters.  It matters what we do together.  Because I said earlier, it says something about who we are and what we care about.  And those people who say there's nothing that can be done, they're wrong.  There are lots of things that can be done.

We can raise the minimum wage in America--ought to be at least $7.50 an hour.  [applause].  We can expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, give low income families a refundable tax credit.  [applause].  We can help make it easier, not harder, for unions to organize in the workplace so working people have a voice.  [applause].  We can help people save; we can set up savings accounts for low income families, match what they're able to save.  We can do something about the extraordinary racial and economic segregation that exists in America.  [applause].  You know those pictures that came out of New Orleans into our living rooms were disturbing.  But that doesn't just exist in New Orleans, it's all across this country.  We have to face up to this.  We can't continue to put our head against a wall like we have for decades and pretend it's not true.

Here's an idea about what we can do.  Suppose we take the housing vouchers we've used for decades to cluster poor people together in bad neighborhoods and instead we expand them, we have more, but we use them in a different way to create some mobility for these families so they can move across these economic and racial barriers that exist in America.  [applause].

Access to college.  You know we have so many young people who want to go, can't go because they can't pay for it.  Bush has cut billions of dollars out of the federal budget from the student loans.  Here's what we ought to do instead.  We've got a model that we're doing this in a poor county in Eastern North Carolina.  We call it College for Everyone.  What we say is you graduate from [inaud.] high school, you're qualified to go to college; if you commit to work your first year at least ten hours a week, we pay for your tuition and books.  In other words we give these kids a simple way to go to college.  We don't just give it to them; they have to work for it, but then it makes it--  What we've learned is it works.  A huge percentage of the kids in this small county in Eastern North Carolina have signed up for it.

So don't tell me there's nothing we can do.  There are things we can do about health care, about poverty in America, about energy independence, changing the way the world looks at us, allowing the world to see who we really are and what we're made of, what our moral fiber is.

But what I want to say to you, and I'm going to actually end with this, what I want to say to you is we can't stand by and hope somebody else is going to do this for us.  We can't.  When I talk about us needing to do these things, I'm not talking about me.  I'm talking about us, all of us, because our strength and our power is when we act together, when we stand arm and arm for the things that we believe in with backbone and strength and vision and passion. [applause].

And so I'll end tonight--I want to take a few minutes to be able to speak to y'all--but I want to end tonight with a line that I borrowed from a woman who is no longer living, but she would end her speeches when she was rallying people around important causes by saying you know the leaders we've been waiting for are us.  She's exactly right.

If we want to live in a moral, just America and if we want America to lead in a moral and just world, we can't stand on the sideline and hope somebody else will do it.  We have to do it.  Every single one of us.  Together we can do it.  We can inspire this country.  God bless you.  Thank you all for coming.  A pleasure to meet with you.  [applause].

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