Helping hands

Published 12:47 am Thursday, May 10, 2007

By Staff
John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, has made poverty a key issue in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
That’s admirable.
Opponents and critics have made an issue of his wealth a key component in their attacks on him. They call into question his credibility on poverty, citing his multimillion dollar home and haircuts that cost $400. That’s understandable.
Edwards, the son of a mill worker, made his millions as a trial lawyer. He didn’t inherit his millions; he worked for them.
Edwards said his campaign’s message is simple — to make sure all Americans have a chance for such success.
Personal wealth shouldn’t make one ineligible to help the poor. If anything, someone with millions of dollars is in a good position to help the poor, not by just giving them money but helping educate the poor and providing them with the tools needed so they have opportunities to make something of themselves.
That’s what Edwards did. He made the most of opportunities that came before him. He chose to work hard. He chose to get an education. That’s a good way to look at life.
Edwards is open to criticism that he spent more time campaigning for the presidency when he was a senator than he spent on Capitol Hill voting on issues important to his constituency in North Carolina. To take him to task for daring to improve the lot of the nation’s poor, well, that’s reaching far for something with which to taint him.
And Edwards may not win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. He may not be the best candidate seeking the Oval Office. But he is the one candidate focusing on poverty. For that reason alone, he deserves attention. Edwards may have some excellent ideas on how to improve the plight of the nation’s impoverished, perhaps even the world’s poor.
The former senator left his job as the head of a center that studies poverty-related issues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He’s written a book, “Ending Poverty in America,” on that topic.
Edwards also told The Associated Press that wealthy people, himself included, have a duty to weigh in on the issues, and he vowed to continue doing so. He may find some allies.
Edwards and fellow Democrat Rep. Dennis Kucinich, also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, have produced comprehensive plans to fight poverty. Their plans call for increasing access to preschool programs, universal health care and affordable housing.
When it comes to fighting poverty, as George E. Curry wrote in the Chicago Defender, “Although it’s still early in the campaign season, it’s not too early to begin addressing this critical issue.” Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge and the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, is right on the money.
Fighting poverty must not be about government give-away programs, except in extreme cases. This nation should look after widows, orphans and the like. Fighting poverty must include programs that provide opportunities for people to better themselves through education, developing job skills and on-the-job training. Edwards realizes this.
Fighting poverty must be about helping hands instead of handouts.
Helping hands, even if they reach into a pocket for $400 to pay for a haircut from time to time, are reaching out to help someone. That’s more than some people, including some of Edwards’ critics, are doing.