Yesterday morning former North Carolina Senator John Edwards spoke to a crowd of over 1,000 at our Annual Urban Ministries Prayer Event.
The audience appeared almost spellbound by his words, even those who didn't agree with all that he said. The room was focused, attentive and responsive.
We tried our best to keep the event non-partisan or at least bi-partisan. Our very effective, Republican County Judge Margaret Keliher offered the invocation and thanks for our meal.
And, Mr. Edwards warned us each time he brushed up to the line of partisan politics, always bringing a laugh to the crowd.
But, I think it is fair to say, his speech wasn't about partisan solutions or politics.
Senator Edwards spoke powerfully about what he believes are "American values."
For him the problem of poverty presents our nation with a "moral crisis."
Referring to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and to the plight of persons of color in the United States, he said the situation shamed our nation around the world.
He boldly declared that the stereotypes peddled about the poor are simply not true. He said at one point the notion that low-income persons are lazy is simply a lie.
I couldn't agree more.
His presentation was inspiring. The content was straightforward and moving.
He talked about the same things we talk about all the time at Central Dallas Ministries:
Community--he spoke strongly about the recovery of a "national community"
Work and the rights of laboring people
Education and higher education for all who desire it
Access to health care
Leadership over politics
Quality of society
I was fortunate to have two occasions, during what turned out to be a rather long day, to visit one-on-one with the Senator.
He is impressive.
But it's not just because he is charming and charismatic.
He is real. He is down to earth. He listens. He believes deeply what he is saying. He comes from his heart and he obviously has the intellect to make the connections between head and heart that will make our nation stronger.
His leadership at the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity (for which he works tirelessly) at the University of North Carolina is no front for his future political aspirations. It is what he calls "the work of his lifetime." The fact that he is only major political figure talking about these rather unpopular issues in this way confirms the authenticity of his personal mission. And I can tell you he will not stop his conversation.
At one point in his speech yesterday I realized just how real the guy is. He talked about how segregated the United States remains today. We live separated from one another for the most part--divided by class, race and ethnicity. He has some ideas about how to overcome this situation.
But what got me was this line:
"This is not good for any of us. This is not good for America."
He is correct.
Over the past 12 years living and working in inner city Dallas, I've learned he is right .
Thanks, Senator Edwards! You blessed our day and our city!_________________________________
To read a story in today's Dallas Morning News, click here.