After completing his “Road to One America” tour, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards wrote a letter to the president urging him to visit poverty stricken parts of the nation. “Earlier this week, I went on a journey that started in New Orleans, went through the Mississippi Delta, Memphis, Cleveland, Youngstown, Pittsburgh, Virginia and ended in Prestonsburg, Kentucky. At every stop, I met with incredible people who are working hard every day and still living in poverty. I did it to try to help the rest of the country hear the voices of people who are often forgotten — people living in poverty and on the losing end of economic unfairness. I did it to show that we can solve these problems and there is hope,” Edwards wrote.

He also implored the president to take a leadership position on the issue of poverty. “As you approach your final days in office, you have a chance to finally stand up and lead on this important issue. However, unless you choose to lead and start helping solve poverty in America, the next 550 days of your presidency will all but ensure that the 37 million Americans who wake up in poverty today will only grow. If you choose to do nothing on poverty, the next 550 days of your presidency will only ensure that the more than 5 million Americans who have fallen into poverty during your presidency will only grow.”

He then challenged President Bush to tour impoverished areas of the country with him. “So today, I am writing to challenge you to come with me and visit the places in America that are too often ignored — places like Marks, Mississippi, West Helena, Arkansas, Wise, Virginia and Whitesburg, Kentucky — and expose yourself to the harsh realities of poverty in America, and how much worse American families are under your presidency. Go to the cities and towns where I have gone. See and talk to the good and decent Americans with amazing character who struggle with incredible poverty. Incredible poverty, Mr. President, which has only worsened every day over the last 7 years because of the failure of your leadership and the terrible effects your policies have had on millions of families.”

Edwards reminded the president that poverty is a problem that can be resolved. “Poverty is not an intractable problem. There are solutions that work. We can reward work and create opportunity with lower taxes for working families, stronger unions, more job and affordable housing opportunities, better schools and stronger families. Poverty is not a New Orleans problem, a Pittsburgh problem or an Appalachia problem. It is an American problem. And it’s America’s responsibility. And America needs a president who will lead on this issue, not turn his back on 37 million forgotten Americans.” He concluded with, “The 37 million Americans living in poverty and the hundreds of millions of others who know in their hearts that America can do better deserve a president who will lead on this issue. Mr. President, don’t wait for the next hurricane. The time to act is now.”

Of course, President Bush will do no such thing. Poverty has never been a Republican issue. In fact, some Republicans blame the poor for their own plight, and bury the issue behind rhetoric about the free market, but one of the upsides of a long presidential campaign is that we, the voters, get to hear about many issues. Yesterday, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) gave a speech which talked about urban poverty, and today, John Edwards wrote about urban and rural poverty.

Urban poverty is often talked about at the expense of the rural poor. Poor rural Americans are America’s forgotten poor. It isn’t important to me that John Edwards is rich, or that his hair cuts are expensive, what matters is that he is talking about an issue that is consistently ignored by both parties. If it true that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then the United States is in a whole lot of trouble, because for decades now our strong have been getting stronger, and our weak even weaker. We can never eliminate poverty, but we can give people the skills and opportunities that  reduce poverty. We give money to nations around the world every year for this purpose, so maybe it is time that we spent a little of that money at home.

Full text of Edwards’ letter 

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at 

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at

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