Good morning. I'm here in New Orleans to, I'm in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans to announce that I'm a candidate for the presidency of the United States in the election of 2008. The reason I'm here, actually the best explanation of the reason I'm announcing here in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans are these young people who are behind me right here and who worked with me yesterday at this house just over to my right.
New Orleans in so many ways shows the two Americas that I have talked about in the past and something that I feel very personally, and it also exemplifies something that I've learned since the last election, which is that it's great to see a problem and to understand it; it's more important to take action and actually do something about it. And I think that's why I'm in New Orleans, is to show what's possible when we as Americans, instead of staying home and complaining about somebody else not doing what they're supposed to do, we actually take responsibility and we take action. And I don't mean we take action after the next election, I mean we take action now.
And that's what these young people have been doing. They were with me at a food bank in New Orleans a couple of days ago, here working yesterday; earlier this year we were not in the Ninth Ward, but in St. Bernards Parish with 700 young people who gave up their spring break to come here and work to help rebuild New Orleans. This is an example of what all of us can do if we actually take it upon ourselves to take responsibility.
And we want people in this campaign to actually take action now. Not later, not after the election. We don't want to hope that whoever's elected the next leader of the United States of America is going to solve all our problems for us, because that will not happen. And all of us know it. Everyone listening to the sound of my voice right now knows that.
If we actually want to change this country and we want to move America the way it needs to move we're going to have to do it, all of us together. Instead of staying home and complaining, we're asking people to help. You know all of us have so much to contribute. We have different things to contribute. And we want you to help not starting later, but starting right now. And that's why we're here in New Orleans--because Americans can make a huge difference here.
You walk around in these neighborhoods and what you'll hear is most of the good that's been done in New Orleans has been done by faith-based groups, charitable groups and volunteers, people who cared enough to come here and spend some time and actually do some work. Get their hands dirty. Well that's what we need to do again; it's what America needs to do again. And that's what's going to be the basis for my campaign.
This campaign will be a grassroots, ground up campaign where we ask people to take action. You know some of these young people are wearing OneCorps shirts, which is an organization that we started a few months ago for the purpose of getting thousands of people involved around America in helping make a difference and actually doing something and taking action.
And what I've seen--I learned a lot in the last campaign as some of you heard me talk about, but I've actually learned more since the last campaign 'cause I've seen first hand what actually happens when instead of waiting for somebody else to take care of our problems, we do something.
You know we were concerned about the Congress not having raised the minimum wage so we went out to six states, not just me by the way, there were a lot of people involved in this, and went out to six states and got it on the ballot and raised the minimum wage in six states in America, which is a good thing. We've made college available to young kids who are actually willing to work while they're in college for their tuition and books. We've organized thousands of workers around this country so that they can have a voice and have decent wages and decent benefits. It's helped strengthen America, strength the middle class and grow the middle class in this country which is important for all of us.
So it's not like we don't know what needs to be done. And this is not rocket science. Everybody in America who's listening to me right now knows what we need to do. They know about the challenges we face and they know what needs to happen. So we would ask everyone who's interested in changing America, who's interested in actually taking action to join us. You can join OneCorps by going to JohnEdwards.com. These young people and thousands of others have joined this cause already and we ask you to join us too. Because we can't wait for someone else to do this for us; there is just too much at stake.
And I want to actually talk for a minute about what's at stake.
You know my own view is that actually the biggest responsibility of the next president of the United States is to reestablish America's leadership role in the world, starting with Iraq. And we need to make it clear that we intend to leave Iraq and turn over the responsibility of Iraq to the Iraqi people. The best way to make that clear is to actually start leaving. Which is why I've said we ought to be taking 40 to 50,000 troops out now and that ought to continue over time. The problem in Iraq is not one that's susceptible to a military solution; it's going to require a political solution. Fighting between Shi'i and Sunni has been going on for centuries and a political solution is the only viable way that there's going to be any success in Iraq over the long term.
And it is a mistake, I want to be absolutely clear about this, it is a mistake for America to escalate its role in Iraq. It is a mistake to surge troops into Iraq. It sends exactly the wrong signal to the Iraqis and the rest of the world about what our intentions are there.
So it's, and by the way it's not just Iraq that'll help establish America's leadership role in the world again. We have to show that we have the moral authority to lead. We can't lead through raw power. And in order to do that, we're going to have to lead on things that at least in the short term seem like they're beyond our self interest. Things like the genocide in Sudan and Darfur. We said after Rwanda we'd never let anything like this happen again. Well it's happening right now. America needs to lead. I was in Uganda a few weeks ago where there are huge atrocities going on in northern Uganda. America can make an enormous difference there. I was there with the International Rescue Committee, who are another group of Americans that are making a huge difference in the world.
There's so many opportunities. Global warming, which is a huge moral issue for America and for the entire world. We need to ask Americans to be willing to be patriotic about something beyond war. We need to ask America to be willing to conserve, to take the steps necessary to get off our addiction to oil, to create a new energy economy in this country. It's critical to America being able to do what it needs to do in the 21st century. We ought to be the example for the rest of the world.
It's not just what we do over there. It's also what we do here. You know we got 46, 47 million people without health care coverage. When are we finally going to say America needs universal health care? 'Cause we do; we need it desperately. We--I spoke earlier about this issue of poverty and the two Americas. I've been running a poverty center for the last couple years at the University of North Carolina, which I'm very proud of, and we've developed a whole new set of ideas about what we ought to do about poverty.
But we should be the example for the rest of the world. We're not the only ones that saw these pictures that came out of New Orleans. The whole world saw them, and we need to show that the most powerful nation on the Earth won't stand by and let this continue. So whether it's poverty, energy, health care, demonstrating that we are once again the beacon for the rest of the world, which is what we need to be, not just for us, but also for them. 'Cause when America doesn't lead, there is no stability. We are the stabilizing force in the world, we are the pre-eminent power in the world, and we need to maintain that power. We need to maintain our strength; it's what allows us--gives us the capacity to lead. But we also have to show that we have a responsibility to humanity. And the world needs to see that from us. They need to see our better angels again. Because it will affect the way they respond to us, and it will affect our ability to lead.
So we're asking everyone who's listening to join us in this cause. As I said earlier, you can join us by joining OneCorps, but there's so much good to be done out there and together we're going to do it. We are going to do it together. And I'll be happy to take questions from anyone who has them.
Come on, there are a lot of people here. I can't believe you don't have a question.
QUESTION: Considering the fact that right now all the big national media pundits and everybody are saying that, you know having Hillary Clinton and Obama are the front runners, what are you going to do to dispel that notion? Do you think that maybe the Earth will begin to shift a little bit today with this announcement and maybe you'll get more attention?
EDWARDS: I hope the Earth shifts but I hope it shifts in a different way and in a different direction. I, speaking for myself, I hope that anyone who's considering running for president--and I've been through this as everybody knows--is doing it because they want to serve. I've made my own personal decision and my family's made the decision that this is the best way for me to serve my country. And if I really believe that, which I do, then I want the best human beings possible to run for president of the United States. We need a great president in 2009, because of all the problems and the challenges that we face. So whether it's on our side or the other side I hope good people run.
The change that I want to see though has nothing to do with the candidates.
It has to do with getting Americans involved and engaged in changing their
own country. Because I'm telling you, and everybody knows this, everybody
knows this; they don't need to hear it from me, they know it in their gut,
if we wait for the next election, and we stand by and hope that the next
person that's elected president is going to solve all our problems for
us, we are living in a fantasy world. It will never happen, never
happen. We have to take the action to change this country.
QUESTION: [off mic.]...New Orleans is too. Are you kind of like one hand is rubbing the other here?
EDWARDS: Well I hope so. For those of you who couldn't hear the question was, you know are you doing some good for New Orleans; is New Orleans doing some good for you? That's basically what you're asking.
I hope we're doing some good for New Orleans, because if you walk--as
you know very well--as you walk around to these houses and through these
neighborhoods--we're in the Ninth Ward, earlier this year I was in St.
Bernard's Parish doing work, and, along with a bunch of other people--what
you hear is people they feel like they're just forgotten, that no one's
paying any attention. And in the worst hit areas of New Orleans,
as everyone in New Orleans knows, they certainly don't need me to tell
'em, you don't see much change. The change, I will say though
on a positive note, the change that has happened has been mostly done by
volunteers and volunteer organizations. So if we can help bring Americans
to New Orleans to help rebuild this great city and get people to pay attention
to what's actually going on here, I feel like we've done a good thing.
QUESTION: ...patriotic about something other than war. What do you mean and does that mean Americans should pay higher taxes to achieve benefits for global warming or universal health care.
EDWARDS: Well I can give you some examples. We ought to be patriotic as Americans, not just as a government, although the government plays a critical role in helping to rebuild New Orleans. We ought to be patriotic to do something about global warming. I don't mean in an abstract way. I mean we've made mistakes in the past. We walked away from Kyoto unilaterally, which was in my judgment a serious mistake.
If you're under the age of--people often think about global warming as something that's going to affect the next generation--if you're under 60 and something doesn't change global warming is very likely to affect your life. And this is another example of a place where Americans can get off their addiction to oil, we can drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, we can invest in some of the cleaner alternative sources of energy--wind, solar, biomass--there are a whole series of things that we need to do, because it's not, just by the way, a global warming or an energy security question, it's also a national security question, because it drives so much of our policy, particularly in the Middle East, and that has got to change.
QUESTION CONT'D: Taxes? Taxes, Senator Edwards?
EDWARDS: Oh, I'm sorry. The answer to that question is we
do need in my judgment to get rid of some of the tax cuts that have been
put in place, particularly for people at the top. I think that it
may be necessary to put in place a tax on some of the windfall profits
that oil companies are making in order to implement some of these changes
that I've just talked about. I think it's also really important that
we be honest with people. We;ve gotten in a deep hole in terms of
our deficit. We have investments that need to be made. I've
talked about some of them; investments to strengthen the middle class,
investments to end poverty, universal health care, which I'm completely
committed to, some of these energy proposals that I've talked about briefly
here today--those things cost money. So we're going to have to invest
if we're going to transform America the way it needs to be transformed
to make us successful in the 21st century, which is going to require rolling
back some of these tax cuts, in my judgment, that have been put into place.
QUESTION: ...from Hurricane Katrina, and you've pointed out properly that much of the work that's going on here has been, much of the lifting has been done by volunteer groups, faith-based groups, school groups.
QUESTION CONT'D: Are you saying that there's a large role for the government, for the federal government to play in the rebuilding of New Orleans, that it's not now doing?
EDWARDS: Of course there is. And my own view about this is, this was a place where presidential leadership would have been critical. I really do believe that. I think if the president of the United States had come to New Orleans, spent some time here. I mean the president has a lot of responsibilities; he can't stake himself out for the long term in New Orleans, but he should have spent a period of days here, saw what was actually happening on the ground and then demanded action. He should have had somebody at a high level coming into his office every day-- If I had been president I would have had somebody coming into my office every morning, and I would say to him what did you do in New Orleans yesterday? And then the next day, what did you do yesterday? What steps do we need to take. What are we not doing? What are the people in New Orleans telling us that we're not doing? And unfortunately that's the kind of thing that
Dec. 28-To IA. Iowa Historical Building in Des Moines. To NH.
Dec. 29-Little Harbour Elementary in Portsmouth, NH.
Silver State Pavilion, Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, NV.
Dec. 30-Brookland Health and Wellness Center in West Columbia, SC.
The Green at Southern Village in Chapel Hill, NC.