John Edwards Tells Us: Your Country Needs You
When Saheli told me our little brother Ben Brandzel had chosen to work for John Edwards's campaign, I knew I wanted to learn more about Edwards. I was impressed by reading and viewing his speeches, and by his efforts to urge Congress to stand firm in ending the war on Iraq. On Thursday I attended Edwards's Small Change For Big Change event at San José State University.
We generally expect politicians to tell us what they will do for us. What moved me most was not what John Edwards promised us, but what he asked of us. John F. Kennedy famously said: "Ask not what your country can do for you---ask what you can do for your country." It's been a long time since I've heard a public call to sacrifice, yet this is precisely what constitutes leadership. John Edwards OneCorps is not just a campaign organization, but also puts these ideals into action: "John Edwards One Corps members aren't waiting until the election to help build the one America we all believe in - we also engage in local service projects and issue advocacy to start transforming America today." For instance, the Orlando One Corps is holding a Canned Food Drive today.
When Edwards called us to action against poverty and disease, in America and around the world, he said we could not just stand by: "We're better than this." The beauty of this statement is that if, looking through the jaundiced eyes of cynicism, we evaluate it as a vote-getting strategy, we can only conclude that he wouldn't think it is a vote-getting strategy unless he actually believed that we are better, or aspire to be.
I was particularly heartened when Edwards said, "Instead of spending 500 billion dollars in Iraq, ...suppose America led an international effort to make sanitation and clean drinking water available in the Third World." This is a cause that is dear to my heart, as Saheli noted when she mentioned my frequent touting of WaterPartners International. Improving sanitation and access to clean drinking water has enormous leverage in the effort to eradicate global poverty and disease. It doesn't require new ideas or technology, simply our will to make it happen. As Peter Singer wrote in the New York Times Magazine last December, we can achieve not only this but all the Millennium Development Goals, with little hardship to any of us. I hope that Edwards's vision will catalyze this movement.
Afterward I met Edwards briefly and asked him about maintaining America's scientific and technical leadership, specifically through the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. He said that funding for these agencies should be "significantly enhanced", and apologized that he wasn't able to give me more specifics right at that moment. I look forward to learning more about what he proposes from his campaign.
ToastyKen saw Edwards speak on Wednesday, and blogged about it.
Crossposted from More Fantasticness.