EPPING — Former senator John Edwards touted the need for ordinary citizens everywhere to get involved if they truly want to change the course of the country during a campaign stop Saturday at an Epping farm.
"The country needs you," Edwards of North Carolina told a crowd gathered by a pond at Jim and Susan McGeough's White Gate Farm. "We need your voice to be heard. We need you engaged and involved."
Edwards' message hit home with at least one person in the audience. Mary Weaver, of Hampton Falls, said she agreed with the senator and that an impact could be made "if everybody gave some of their time. It doesn't have to be money, just time and compassion."
Edwards also touched upon his other campaign priorities, including closing the gap between the very rich and the rest of the country, helping those at the poverty level improve their situations and global.
He also spoke of his frustration with the status quo in Washington, D.C., and the power wielded by pharmaceutical companies through lobbyists.
"My view is that Washington's broken — I mean completely broken," he said. "I think the system's rigged and it's rigged against you. My view is that we have to take this system on and fight these people."
Edwards said change in Washington needs to come from outside.
"We don't want to trade one crowd of Washington insiders for another crowd of Washington insiders," he said.
In response to questions about how he would close the gap in wealth in the country, Edwards said he would work to make college available for everyone by instituting a program where young people could attend college in exchange for a certain amount of work each week. He would also work to increase the minimum wage and provide universal health-care coverage.
The need for universal health care was even more evident after his recent poverty tour, during which he met a man who has lived for 50 years with a cleft palate because he could not afford surgery.
"I felt outraged — completely outraged," Edwards said of the man's situation in a country like America. "This is outrageous what's going on in this country."
Edwards took a number of questions from those in the audience. Rene Archaumbault, a retired police officer, asked Edwards how he would support public safety. Edwards said he felt programs such as the federal COPS grant program — which helped communities hire additional police officers — should be brought back.
The crowd included both supporters and undecided voters. Brittany Weaver, 19, a political science major at the University of New Hampshire, said she has seen several other candidates speak, including senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Chris Dodd. Weaver said she is still undecided and is most concerned about the war in Iraq and global warming. As for the recent spotlight on the role young voters will play in this election, Weaver said takes the role seriously.
"I think it's good because we are the next generation and I feel like a lot lies on us," she said.
Bob Trask of Stratham, said he felt Edwards was a straight talker but he is still gathering information on other candidates before making up his mind. Trask said he is concerned about radio frequency identification devices and how they might be used by terrorists and wants a candidate who will take the issue seriously.
Linda Stockwell of Epping, said she is an educator and wants to see a candidate who is devoted to education, including alternative forms of education. "I like to look at all the candidates carefully before I make my decision," Stockwell said.