John Edwards ended his campaign yesterday afternoon at the same place he started it and with the same theme -- ending poverty as a moral imperative. In the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Edwards said that he was stepping aside in this presidential campaign, but that he would now continue his life-long work for economic justice. Before announcing his decision, he called both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to ask for a pledge to make ending poverty central to their campaigns for president and to their presidencies if they are elected.
John Edwards has changed the shape and the agenda of this campaign. He has put the needs of the poor and working families on the political agenda for the first time in many years. His clear and consistent voice has made sure that universal health care, fundamental issues of economic inequality, and the plight of so many Americans who are barely getting by would be on the front burner of this election campaign. John Edwards has championed the poor more than any white presidential candidate since Robert Kennedy did many decades ago. His campaign may have ended, but he has already shaped the priorities of this election year in a decisive way.
Again, he reminded us that "we have a moral responsibility to each other," as his valiant wife Elizabeth could be seen wiping a tear from her eyes. Because, he said, "But for the grace of God, there goes us." He called for an end to government "walking away" from poor and working people. Nobody has spoken of the 37 million Americans who wake up every morning in poverty more than John Edwards.
As he was on his way to give the announcement to withdraw from the presidential race, he stopped to talk to some homeless people under a bridge. One woman said, "Promise me you won't forget us." Edwards promised that he wouldn't. I believe him. I have admired John Edwards greatly -- especially among the presidential candidates in recent years -- and today I was so proud of him once again.
He closed by saying, "This son of a mill worker's gonna be just fine. Our job now is to make certain that America will be fine... it's time for all of us, all of us together, to make the two Americas one." And yesterday he made a commitment for his party (to which he is now likely to continually hold them to account): "We will never forget you. We will fight for you. We will stand up for you." He said to all of those he had heard in the past several days asking him to speak for them, "I want you to know that you almost changed my mind."
The Bible says that a nation will be judged, more than anything else, by how it treats its poorest and most vulnerable. And seldom do we see a political candidate who sounds like a biblical prophet. So I just want to say thank you to John and Elizabeth Edwards. You may not become president this time, but you have been a prophet to the nation and will continue to be. As you said in your closing remarks, your presidential campaign may be over, but it's time to get to work. And I know we will be working together. God bless you both.
Read the transcript of Edward's announcement here.