Duty to help should be core U.S. belief, Edwards tells The Eagle

Increased minimum wage, better health care and social security will help the 36 million Americans who live in poverty said former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards at last night's address in Bender Arena.

Edwards took a break from touring some of America's most impoverished areas to speak at the event, as he now directs the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which aims to alleviate the country's poverty problem.

The Eagle had the opportunity to sit down with Edwards before his speech.

While he wasn't interested in talking about the presidential campaign, Edwards was eminent in his cause of addressing a concern, as he says, hasn't gotten much attention in the last 40 years.

"The result is they lose their job, they lose their home, all of a sudden they are in a shelter, then their kids don't have health care, its terrible and very dangerous cycle," said Edwards, who talked about the many people he has met while touring.

Edwards surveyed D.C. poverty situation and visited the non-profit organization Martha's Table which provides assistance to the homeless.

"There are of people having a hard time in the District, it's not shocking I know," he said.

Under the Bush administration's policies, a lot of cut backs are being made to services that could help struggling families. Among those cutbacks, Edwards said that is an effort to cut back Medicaid, a health care program many low-income families depend on, especially for their children.

"For folks living on the margin who don't have anything to fall back on, they don't have any assets, they live literally on paycheck to paycheck if they are working ... and if the slightest thing goes wrong, then they are in trouble," Edwards said. "And one of those not slight things that can go wrong is that they don't have health care coverage because Medicaid is cut."

But Edwards said there are a number of opportunities to help current situation. These include raising the minimum wage and building assets.

According to Edwards, African American families have a $6,000 average net worth, Hispanic families have $8,000 net worth and white families, about $80,000.

"That asset gap is a huge deal because even if people are working and they are able to pay for their apartment or pay for their home," he said, "if they don't have anything to transfer on to their children, generation to generation, then it just continues the cycle of poverty."

Furthermore, Edwards said that the public wants strength in their national leaders and there is strength and conviction in a core set of beliefs.

"Our responsibility is to make it clear to the country to make what those core beliefs are," he said. "Things like our responsibility to help those who are living on the margin, which is where poverty comes which is something I care about even before I got into politics"

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