John Edwards on Principles & Values

Democratic Nominee for Vice President; NC Jr Senator

We shouldn't use the Constitution to divide the country

I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and so does John Kerry. I also believe that there should be partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples in long-term, committed relationships. But we should not use the Constitution to divide this country. No state for the last 200 years has ever had to recognize another state's marriage. This is using the Constitution as a political tool, and it's wrong.
Source: Edwards-Cheney debate: 2004 Vice Presidential Oct 5, 2004

Halliburton paid millions in fines for false financial data

The company that Cheney was CEO of, that did business with sworn enemies of the US, paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false financial information. It's under investigation for bribing foreign officials. The same company that got a $7.5 billion no-bid contract, the rule is that part of their money is supposed to be withheld when they're under investigation, as they are now, for having overcharged the American taxpayer, but they're getting every dime of their money.
Source: Edwards-Cheney debate: 2004 Vice Presidential Oct 5, 2004

The Bush administration has flip-flopped on many issues

The Bush administration was first against the 9/11 Commission; then they were for it. They were against the Dept. of Homeland Security; then they were for it. They said they were going to put $2 trillion of the surplus when they came into office aside to protect Social Security; then they changed their minds. They said that they supported the troops; & then while our troops were on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, they went to the Congress and lobbied to have their combat pay cut. They said that they were going to do something about health care in the US. And they've done something: They've made it worse. They said that they were going to fund their No Child Left Behind; $27 billion short today. Over & over, this administration has said one thing and done another. Bush said at his 2000 debate saying: I'm for a national patients' bill of rights. McCain & Kennedy and I wrote it, got it passed in the Senate. We don't have a patients' bill of rights because of Bush. They've gone back & forth.
Source: Edwards-Cheney debate: 2004 Vice Presidential Oct 5, 2004

Halliburton got a $7.5 billion no-bid contract in Iraq

EDWARDS: I mentioned Halliburton in connection with the $87 billion. This is relevant, because he was pushing for lifting sanctions when he was CEO of Halliburton. Here's why we didn't think Halliburton should have a no-bid contract. While he was CEO of Halliburton, they paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false information on their company, just like Enron & Ken Lay. They did business with Libya and Iran, two sworn enemies of the US. They're now under investigation for having bribed foreign officials during that period of time. Not only that, they've gotten a $7.5 billion no-bid contract in Iraq, and instead of part of their money being withheld, which is the way it's normally done, because they're under investigation, they've continued to get their money.

CHENEY: The reason they keep mentioning Halliburton is because they're trying to throw up a smokescreen. They know the charges are false. If you go to factcheck.com, you can get the specific details with respect to Halliburton.

Source: Edwards-Cheney debate: 2004 Vice Presidential Oct 5, 2004

Judge values based upon deeds, not words

Where I come from, you don't judge someone's values based upon how they use that word in a political ad. You judge their values based upon what they've spent their life doing. When a man volunteers to serve his country and puts his life on the line for others, he represents real American values. He's prepared to keep the American people safe, to make America stronger at home and more respected in the world. Kerry knows the difference between right & wrong. He wants to serve you. Your cause is his cause
Source: Acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention Jul 28, 2004

Ensure tomorrow will always be better in our one America

We are Americans and we choose to be inspired. We choose hope over despair, possibilities over problems, optimism over cynicism. We choose to do what's right even when those around us say, "You can't do that." We choose to be inspired because we can do better, because this is America where everything's still possible. What we believe is that you should never look down on anybody. We should lift people up. We don't believe in tearing people apart. We believe in bringing them together.
Source: Acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention Jul 28, 2004

Would consider an Edwards-Kerry ticket

Q: Have you heard anything that either one has said that would make it impossible for you to run together as a ticket if it came to that? Would you run with John Kerry?

EDWARDS: I think an Edwards-Kerry ticket would be powerful.

Q: Are you saying that if you get this nomination, you will ask him to join you?

EDWARDS: He certainly should be considered. He's a very, very good friend.

Q: And where does Edwards stand in your thinking?

KERRY: I want to thank him for the consideration. I appreciate it.

Q: Is he on your list?

KERRY: I don't have a list. I'm running for the nomination.

Q: But do you see any view that would make it impossible?

KERRY: I take nothing for granted in this effort. And if I win the nomination, then I'll sit down and think about who I ought to run with.

Q: What quality-and his hair and smile don't count-does Edwards possess that you wish you had?

KERRY: I think he's a great communicator. He's a charming guy. He's a good friend of mine.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary debate at USC Feb 26, 2004

Two Americas: one does the work, the other reaps the reward

Today, under George W. Bush, there are two Americas, not one: One America that does the work, another America that reaps the reward. One America that pays the taxes, another America that gets the tax breaks. One America that will do anything to leave its children a better life, another America that never has to do a thing because its children are already set for life. One America -- middle-class America - whose needs Washington has long forgotten, another America - narrow-interest America - whose every wish is Washington's command. One America that is struggling to get by, another America that can buy anything it wants, even a Congress and a President.

2004 is a make-or-break election because we need to create one America again. And that is the one thing George Bush will never do. Dividing us into two Americas - one privileged, the other burdened - has been his agenda all along.

Source: Speech in Des Moines, Iowa, "Two Americas" Dec 29, 2003

Make America an ownership society

    Under my plan, every American will have the chance to be an owner - to buy a home, save for college, or put money aside for a secure retirement. The ownership society should look like American society, not George Bush's secret society.
  1. We'll give struggling families a chance to realize the American dream, with a $5,000 tax credit toward the down payment on their first home. There is no better way to build a strong, secure nest egg, and get ahead for the long haul than owning a home.
  2. I want to make college affordable with my College for Everyone plan. For those young people who are willing to work 10 hours a week and can get into a university-you'll go tuition free for the first year.
  3. We need to reward family. We can start by offering a family leave newborn child tax credit of up to $2,500.
  4. When the time comes for Americans to retire, I want to help families who can't afford to put money away now by giving them a helping hand, a match of up to $1 for every $1 they save.
Source: Speech in Des Moines, Iowa, "Two Americas" Dec 29, 2003

Democrats should address values of `guns, God, and gays'

Edwards criticized Howard Dean for advocating a strategy of winning votes in the South by forcing the debate beyond "guns, God and gays." Dean has argued that Democrats lose in the South because the debate often centers on controversial social issues, such as gay rights, rather than economic issues. Edwards began attacking Dean earlier this month for seeking to "duck the values debate," which Edwards said is important to Southern voters. "Some in my party want to duck the values debate," Edwards said in a recent speech. "They want to say to America, `We're not interested in your values; we want to change the subject to anything else.' That's wrong," he said. "You can't tell voters what to believe or what to vote on. Where I come from, voters are looking for answers, not attitude."

Although Edwards has expressed strong support for gay civil rights issues, his latest comments could be seen as a coded message, distancing himself from gay rights as the campaign approaches the Southern primaries.

Source: Lou Chibbaro Jr., SouthernVoice.com Dec 26, 2003

Mill-town job persuaded him to get college education

In high school, the ambitions I had were vague; I only wanted to please my parents. And they wanted me to do things that would make me happy. At first I didn't understand why they had such a strong ambition for me to find a life beyond the mill town. But at one of my early summer jobs in a weaving room, I began to understand how genuinely hard the life of my parents-and so many other people-really was. And why they wanted something different for me.

The weaving room was massive, with great throbbing looms and a big system of ducts that pulled as much dust as possible out of the generally foul air. The noise was deafening, the ducts poorly lit, and the lint that stuck to them was black and wet. I was sixteen, and my job was to clean those ducts. At night I would come home caked with sweat and covered with some obscure residue, and my mother's face would always grow tense as she opened the door and I walked into her clean house. "Now you see," my dad would say, "why you need to go to college."

Source: Four Trials, by John Edwards, p.122 Dec 1, 2003

On birth of 1st son, thanked wife for what he always wanted

[In July 1979 Edwards' wife went into labor.] Elizabeth was wheeled into X-ray. Our obstetrician read the X-ray and recognized that the baby would not be able to fit through the pelvis, and so he prepared for a cesarean delivery. Hospital policy being what it was in 1979, I was left at the delivery room door.

While the anesthesiologist hovered over Elizabeth, she strained to listen to her obstetrician and heard him say, "It's dead." The stillborn baby [from a previous pregnancy] fresh on her mind, she was frantic. Elizabeth did not know that they were talking about the cauterizing machine, which had lost power. It was nearly midnight on July 18 before she was finally relieved by the sight of our son, alive, healthy, and loud.

When they brought him to me, fresh from delivery, he was discolored and bruised. He was also the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. All I could say to Elizabeth was "Thank you for giving me what I always wanted."

Source: Four Trials, by John Edwards, p. 49-50 Dec 1, 2003

Makes most speeches from notes, not a prepared text

Today I give speeches on the Senate floor much as I presented my closing arguments as a trial lawyer. I don't read from a prepared text. Instead, I organize a body of ideas and then distill them down to a short series of points that I write out on a piece of paper, barely legible, even to myself. This approach doesn't always yield the most flowing rhetoric, but it allows me to speak to the jurors from the heart. The struggle to earn and keep credibility begins the first time the jury sees you, and it does not end until the jury door closes. An artful and beautifully constructed closing argument read from a sheaf of papers is, in my view, just like the defense's parade of nurses each reciting the same speech. The perfection of it was alluring but does not have the ring of truth to it. If I spoke directly and plainly to the jury, I could convey, however imperfectly, what I truly believed. And that is what I needed to do.
Source: Four Trials, by John Edwards, p. 96-97 Dec 1, 2003

Lawyers help people, lawmakers help many people

[Edwards won the Howard case, which awarded punitive damages against a trucking company for an accident by one of its drivers], who was induced to drive unsafely because of incentive pay. Trucking firms in the state of North Carolina were soon placing greater emphasis on driver safety training, and they were equipping more and more of their vehicles with governors to regulate driving speed. Some companies even abandoned the practice of paying drivers by the mile.

Unfortunately, the insurance company also did what many powerful businesses do, lobbied the state legislature. Soon a bill was passed disallowing punitive damage awards against a company as a result of an employee's actions, unless that particular action was specifically ratified by corporate officers.

Yes, our lawsuit had sent a message, and that message ultimately was: if you don't like the law, change it. The message to me was: If you can't help enough people being a lawyer, consider being a lawmaker.

Source: Four Trials, by John Edwards, p.157-8 Dec 1, 2003

Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with his teenage son

In the summer of 1995, [my 16-year-old son] Wade and I decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with 2 friends.

By the fifth night, before the six-hour push to reach the summit by dawn, I was feeling as helpless as a child. When a harsh chill set in around midnight, I simply couldn't go on. [My climbing partner] asked, "What do you want out of this trip?" I said weakly, "for Wade to make it to the top." And so we agreed: the other three would go on, while I would stay behind with one of the porters.

They made the summit just after dawn. My son said, "I never would have thought I would have been able to do something so hard." The three began the 14-hour journey downhill. Just then, a battered sight came into view. It was me--numb toes, pounding headache, and all. They joined me for the short ascent to the summit.

It took months for two of my toes to regain their feeling. But that wasn't what mattered. That trip to Africa with my son is worth a book in itself. It was worth everything.

Source: Four Trials, by John Edwards, p.165-8 Dec 1, 2003

Lost teenage son in a traffic accident

No one loved the refuge [of our beachhouse] on the Carolina coastline more than [my son] Wade. On April 4, 1996, [when he was almost 17], Wade was behind the wheel of his Jeep Grand Cherokee with his friend Tyler in the passenger seat. Wade took care, as he always did.

I cannot tell you why such care was not enough that afternoon. I can only say that there are crosswinds on certain stretches of that interstate, and one of them swept my boy off the road. Tyler walked away. Wade was dead.

My son Wade remains as alive in my heart today as he was alive in my heart then. Nothing in my life ever hit me and stripped everything away like my son's death.

At the funeral service, our house was filled with friends and family. Then it was not. For many weeks, we felt nothing in that house but Wade's absence.

But we were not about to let go of our son, and it was that determination that brought us out from the paralysis of grief. Elizabeth and I formed the nonprofit Wade Edwards Foundation.

Source: Four Trials, by John Edwards, p.172-3 Dec 1, 2003

Every person should get opportunity they're entitled to

The reason I want to be president of the United States is to change the course of America, to make sure that everyone in this country gets the opportunity that they're entitled to, no matter where they live or what they color of their skin, what family they're born into. That's the America I want to be build as president. And I think those of us on this stage have an obligation, not just to the Democratic Party, but to the American people to make sure we do that.
Source: Debate at Pace University in Lower Manhattan Sep 25, 2003

Favorite song: John Cougar Mellencamp, "Small Town"

Source: Congressional Black Caucus Institute debate Sep 9, 2003

Son of a mill worker can beat son of a president

This election is about what kind of America we are. It's about what kind of America we want to be. It's about taking the power in our democracy out of the hands of that handful of insiders giving it back to the American people. I believe in an America where the family you're born into and the color of your skin should never control your destiny. I believe in an America where the son of a mill worker could actually beat the son of a president for the White House. That's the America I will fight for.
Source: Congressional Black Caucus Institute debate Sep 9, 2003

Will not seek Senate re-election, to focus on presidency

In a letter sent to the North Carolina Democratic Party, Edwards wrote, "I will not seek re-election to the US Senate, in order to devote all of my energy to running for president. Be assured that I will help in any way I can to ensure a Democratic victory in the fall of 2004."

The decision appears to end an issue that had become an albatross on Edwards's presidential bid at a time when his campaign is looking to break away from the middle of the pack of nine candidates. Edwards's refusal to state his plans for the seat had fed an impression among some party leaders and voters that he was not in the race for the long haul. Some national Democratic leaders have said they believe that Edwards, 50, a political novice who was elected in 1998, should sit out this presidential race because of the importance of keeping his Senate seat in Democratic hands.

Source: CNN.com, Randal C. Archibold Sep 8, 2003

Government should honor values that built America

Edwards believes that the way we strengthen America is to have a government that honors our values. Edwards understands that hard work, responsibility, faith, and family are the values that built America, and they are the values we should rely on to shape our future. Edwards' plan offers real solutions for America. His plans will renew our economy by rewarding work and providing tax breaks for working Americans to build their wealth. He has a detailed plan to restore fiscal discipline, return responsibility to corporate America, and rebuild confidence in our markets. He will keep manufacturing jobs in America, and revitalize our small towns and rural economies. And for the first time in history, every child will have health care, and he will bring down the high costs of health care. John Edwards believes that every American should have the same opportunities to reach his or her God-given potential, and believes that this plan is the right plan for America.
Source: Real Solutions For America, campaign booklet by John Edwards Aug 6, 2003

Never hesitate to question Bush about any issue

Q: How will you demand the truth and an end to this conspiracy of deceit of Bush?

A: The Intelligence Committee, on which I serve, has begun an investigation into the intelligence surrounding the war in Iraq. The bill Bush signed allows the income of corporations not to be taxed at all because of tax shelters in places like Bermuda. It wasn't about double taxation-it was about shifting the tax burden away from the wealth of the wealthy. We need to have the courage and backbone to stand up to Bush.

Source: MoveOn.org interview Jun 17, 2003

Fight for values of people and workers over privilege

The president says he wants to have a debate about values. The basic bargain that we make with the American people [is] if you work hard, if you act responsibly, you can build a better life for yourself and for your families. This is the bargain that George Bush is breaking every single day. He comes from a place where wealth is inherited, not earned. He comes from a place where opportunity is hoarded, not shared.

This is going to be a debate about values, Mr. President. It's going to be a debate about the future of America and the kind of country we want. They, the Republicans and George Bush, they honor wealth. We honor the work that produces wealth. They fight to expand special privileges fore special interests. We fight for opportunity for everybody. We believe in taking responsibility. They believe in passing the buck to somebody else.

This is a fight for the working people of America. It is a fight for our values, and it is a fight we will win.

Source: AFSCME union debate in Iowa May 17, 2003

Fight for values of people and workers over privilege

The president says he wants to have a debate about values. The basic bargain that we make with the American people [is] if you work hard, if you act responsibly, you can build a better life for yourself and for your families. This is the bargain that George Bush is breaking every single day. He comes from a place where wealth is inherited, not earned. He comes from a place where opportunity is hoarded, not shared.

This is going to be a debate about values, Mr. President. It's going to be a debate about the future of America and the kind of country we want. They, the Republicans and George Bush, they honor wealth. We honor the work that produces wealth. They fight to expand special privileges fore special interests. We fight for opportunity for everybody. We believe in taking responsibility. They believe in passing the buck to somebody else.

This is a fight for the working people of America. It is a fight for our values, and it is a fight we will win.

Source: AFSCME union debate in Iowa May 17, 2003

Career spent fighting for the working people

Q: People say you don't have the policy experience it takes to become president.

EDWARDS: First, what people are looking for in a president is someone who has the qualities of leadership: strength, character, conviction, good judgment. I'm happy to have people judge me on that basis.

Second, they want somebody who understands their lives. I come from a family where my dad worked in a mill. My mother worked in the post office. I was the first in my family to go to college, and I spent almost 20 years after I worked my way through college and then law school fighting for the same people that I had grown up with.

This is what I have done my entire life, fight for working people, the people I've known all my life. I did it first for 20 years as a lawyer and an advocate, and I've been doing it in the US Senate, and I will be a champion for those very same people in the White House. And the American people want somebody who will stand up for them and stand up to big corporate America.

Source: Democratic Debate in Columbia SC May 3, 2003

Give this White House back to the American people.

I'm running for president because I believe this president has betrayed people like my parents and the people I grew up with. People who work hard everyday, try to do the right thing, act responsibly, and build a better life for themselves and their families. Just because you speak the language of regular Americans, does not mean your agenda is not the agenda of corporate America. Just because you walk around on a ranch in Texas with a big belt buckle doesn't mean you understand and stand up for rural America.

I believe we can build a better life for our families, families like the family I grew up with. But it has to be based on the values of hard work and responsibility, not accounting tricks and corporate greed. I want to bring your values, the values of main street America to Wall street and then to Pennsylvania Avenue. I want to give this White House back to the American people.

Source: Democratic Debate in Columbia SC May 3, 2003

Religious affiliation: Methodist.

Edwards : religious affiliation:

The Adherents.com website is an independent project and is not supported by or affiliated with any organization (academic, religious, or otherwise).

What’s an adherent?

The most common definition used in broad compilations of statistical data is somebody who claims to belong to or worship in a religion. This is the self-identification method of determining who is an adherent of what religion, and it is the method used in most national surveys and polls.

Such factors as religious service attendance, belief, practice, familiarity with doctrine, belief in certain creeds, etc., may be important to sociologists, religious leaders, and others. But these are measures of religiosity and are usually not used academically to define a person’s membership in a particular religion. It is important to recognize there are various levels of adherence, or membership within religious traditions or religious bodies. There’s no single definition, and sources of adherent statistics do not always make it clear what definition they are using.

Source: Adherents.com web site 00-ADH7 on Nov 7, 2000

Member of Democratic Leadership Council.

Edwards is a member of the Democratic Leadership Council:


The DLC’s mission is to promote public debate within the Democratic Party and the public at large about national and international policy and political issues. Specifically, as the founding organization of the New Democrat movement, the DLC’s goal is to modernize the progressive tradition in American politics for the 21st Century by advancing a set of innovative ideas for governing through a national network of elected officials and community leaders.

Who We Are

The Democratic Leadership Council is an idea center, catalyst, and national voice for a reform movement that is reshaping American politics by moving it beyond the old left-right debate. The DLC seeks to define and galvanize popular support for a new public philosophy built on progressive ideals, mainstream values, and innovative, non bureaucratic, market-based solutions. At its heart are three principles: promoting opportunity for all; demanding responsibility from everyone; and fostering a new sense of community.

Since its inception, the DLC has championed policies from spurring private sector economic growth, fiscal discipline and community policing to work based welfare reform, expanded international trade, and national service. Throughout the 90’s, innovative, New Democrat policies implemented by former DLC Chairman President Bill Clinton have helped produce the longest period of sustained economic growth in our history, the lowest unemployment in a generation, 22 million new jobs, cut the welfare rolls in half, reduced the crime rate for seven straight years, balanced the budget and streamlined the federal bureaucracy to its smallest size since the Kennedy administration.

Now, the DLC is promoting new ideas -- such as a second generation of environmental protection and new economy and technology development strategies -- that is distinctly different from traditional liberalism and conservatism to build the next generation of America’s leaders.

Source: Democratic Leadership Council web site 01-DLC0 on Nov 7, 2000

New Democrat: "Third Way" instead of left-right debate.

Edwards adopted Third Way principles of the Democratic Leadership Council:

America and the world have changed dramatically in the closing decades of the 20th century. The industrial order of the 20th century is rapidly yielding to the networked “New Economy” of the 21st century. Our political and governing systems, however, have lagged behind the rest of society in adapting to these seismic shifts. They remain stuck in the left-right debates and the top-down bureaucracies of the industrial past.

The Democratic Leadership Council, and its affiliated think tank the Progressive Policy Institute, have been catalysts for modernizing politics and government. The core principles and ideas of this “Third Way” movement [began with] Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign in 1992, Tony Blair’s Labour Party in Britain in 1997, and Gerhard Shroeder’s Social Democrats in Germany in 1998.

    The Third Way philosophy seeks to adapt enduring progressive values to the new challenges of he information age. It rests on three cornerstones:
  1. the idea that government should promote equal opportunity for all while granting special privilege for none;
  2. an ethic of mutual responsibility that equally rejects the politics of entitlement and the politics of social abandonment;
  3. and, a new approach to governing that empowers citizens to act for themselves.
The Third Way approach to economic opportunity and security stresses technological innovation, competitive enterprise, and education rather than top- down redistribution or laissez faire. On questions of values, it embraces “tolerant traditionalism,” honoring traditional moral and family values while resisting attempts to impose them on others. It favors an enabling rather than a bureaucratic government, expanding choices for citizens, using market means to achieve public ends and encouraging civic and community institutions to play a larger role in public life. The Third Way works to build inclusive, multiethnic societies based on common allegiance to democratic values.
Source: Democratic Leadership Council web site 01-DLC1 on Nov 7, 2000

Member of the Senate New Democrat Coalition.

Edwards is a member of the Senate New Democrat Coalition:

The Senate New Democrat Coalition (SNDC) [is analogous to] the New Democrat Coalition (NDC) in the House. Members of both groups are moderate Democrats who advocate a new centrist, progressive approach to governing and who often reach across party lines to get things done.

Established in 1997, the House New Democrat Coalition (NDC) grew to 64 members between 1998 and 2000, making it the largest caucus in the House. With the success of NDN’s top House candidates on Election Day, the NDC has grown to 72 members in the 107th Congress. The Senate New Democrat Coalition (SNDC), established in 2000, is already 20 members.

In announcing the establishment of the SNDC in February 2000, Sen. Landrieu stated, “The American people are tired of the same old proposals and are demanding that we work together in a more creative way on the many problems facing our nation. Too often here in Washington, the loudest voices are the ones on the far left and far right. That is why this group was formed, to give voice to those in the sensible center.” The SNDC has already made its voice heard on critical issues ranging from education to trade to health care and, with the Senate evenly divided, the Senate New Dems are increasingly determining the balance of power.

Source: Senate New Democrat Coalition web site 01-SNDC0 on Jan 1, 2001

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