November, 4th, 2006, I was fortunate enough to hear John Edwards speak at Pasadena California’s All Saints Episcopal Church. I was not alone, the large progressive church was packed, and more than five hundred were in the overflow room. His charismatic personality was even more evident in person than it is on television. He was there to sell his new book, Home: The Blueprints of our Lives. Yet he spoke for only moments about the book and quickly moved to a town hall style meeting, question and answer session. All Saints Episcopal’s liberal congregation has been under investigation by the IRS for a sermon given in 2004 by Rector Emeriti George Regas, questioning the Iraq war. In keeping with the congregation’s character, the questions they posed to Edwards were progressive in Nature.
While not declaring his own candidacy for the 2008 presidential campaign, he did speak about the challenges facing the next president. “The overriding responsibility of the next president is to try to restore America’s leadership in the world…We didn’t used to be the country of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. . . We were different. We were the defender of human rights. We were the country that everyone looked up to and respected, and I want to see us be back in that place.” Edwards expressed how to achieve that goal. “You don’t lead by just being powerful. It takes more than that.”
Edwards spoke about his recent trip to China and how it was difficult it was to talk to them about human right because they would question our authority to judge them when we have Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. He made it clear that the world is watching us. “Do we think the world does not see what we are and are not doing?” They notice that the richest country in the world does nothing about women who can’t afford the four dollar drug to prevent transmitting AIDS to her unborn child. That America is not doing anything to resolve the situation in Dufar. Saying, “How can the United States of America claim the platform of moral leadership when we stand by and let a genocide take place?”
He tackled domestic issues, reviving his Two Americas theme from the 2004 election. He spoke about the inequitable taxation of Americans. He noted that many wealthy Americans, who derive the majority of their income from capitol gains, are taxed at a lower rate than their secretary, whose income is derived from her own labor. He advocated a taxation system that respected labor. He expressed concern about the rising cost of college education and healthcare. He addressed poverty as a moral issue. We will have to wait to see if John Edwards offers his leadership and moral authority to resolve these issues as a candidate for the next President of United States.