COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former Sen. John Edwards told about 200 college students gathered at USC Friday that the country "desperately needs change," and he asked College Democrats of America to stand up and fight with him to "create a moral and just America."
Edwards, of North Carolina, told young people gathered here for a three-day national convention they face a system and a government that are "rigged" and still validate two Americas. He pointed to the nation's expensive health care system, its skewed economics and also to a troubled education system as examples.
"We need a movement," he told the students, who traveled here from across the country, many of them on buses. Edwards got his best ovation when he told the students they could be part of the "movement" that ends the war in Iraq and puts an end to the genocide in Darfur, Africa.
"We need you to be patriotic about something other than war," he said in issuing his charge to the students.
Edwards is one of five Democrats speaking to college Democrats this week in Columbia. He brought a populist message that calls on young people to get involved by helping others. His campaign organized 40 students from the College Democrats to help out Friday at Harvest Hope Food Bank.
Edwards is in third place in most polls in South Carolina, but he said it is "very early" in the Palmetto State and noted his poll numbers are better now than they were at this point in the 2004 election, when he carried the state in the Democratic primary.
"My job is to make sure South Carolinians know that I know their lives," he said after the rally.
State Democratic Party chairwoman Carol Fowler told the college students the country's condition reminds her of the 1968 election, when young people helped bring an end to the Vietnam War and pushed for social change at home. That movement spurred young people like her to get involved in politics, she said.
"You can do that again," she told students, urging them to return to their hometowns and motivate their college peers to become involved.
Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean was supposed to speak at the rally but was delayed in a flight from Washington, D.C.
Jeffrey Ioimo, 20, a senior majoring in political science at Auburn University, agreed with Edwards that it is still early in the 2008 campaign. "I think he has a chance as long as he talks about issues Americans care about," Ioimo said.
"He talked about issues everyday Americans are concerned about. We are worried about whether we will be able to send our children to college and whether they will be healthy enough to go to college."
(c) 2007, The State (Columbia, S.C.).
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