From Foster's Citizen Online
By GEOFF CUNNINGHAM Jr.
PLYMOUTH — Former U.S. Senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards gave a local Democratic group a boost on Saturday when he appeared at a barbecue.
The North Carolina politician focused his comments on poverty, calling the fight against it "one of the great moral causes" politicians and citizens must address.
He spoke to about 130 residents at the barbecue, which was located in Riverside Park and sponsored by the fledgling Plymouth Area Democrats.
Edwards, a trial lawyer, left his Senate seat after his failed run for the White House with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry last year. He has been heading the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
Edwards discussed his work at the center and with One America Committee — a political action committee focused on working to curb poverty by electing Democratic candidates. Edwards said he has been traveling the nation and speaking with the economically disadvantaged to learn what can be done to help them.
He told Saturday's audience that too little attention is directed toward the roughly 36 million people in the country struggling to get by.
"I want to hear what people's struggles are ... it's been a great learning experience for me," Edwards said.
He told the crowd he's heard heartbreaking stories of good people who have little to no access to health care — a circumstance he described as a "disaster."
Countries like England have recently engaged in major programs to combat poverty, he said.
"When are we going to make that kind of commitment," he asked.
He also blasted Congress for failing to raise the minimum wage, calling it a "national embarrassment."
He said while Republicans tout themselves as the party that defends freedom and moral values, Democrats instead look out for people without a voice.
"Freedom does not belong to the Republican Party," he said.
Edwards urged the crowd to take action on a grass-roots level. He stressed the importance of engaging young people.
Also speaking at Saturday's event was Concord lawyer Paul Hodes, who announced he'll again challenge Charles Bass for the state's 2nd District U.S. House seat.
The Plymouth Area Democrats officially formed in January. The group has been meeting on the third Wednesday of each month at the Plymouth Senior Center. Between 30 and 50 people usually attend the monthly meetings.
Chairwoman Martha Richards said she was thrilled Edwards spoke at the event.
"We've had a great group, and it's wonderful to see Democrats come out of the closet and take a stand on the issues," she said.
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