ROCK HILL — Your voice matters. Your vote is not only valuable--its vital, she said, noting another way of making a difference. Contributing your time and energy to help your community can be...effective and rewarding.
A 2009 Harvard law school graduate and native of Raleigh, N.C., Edwards, 30, was invited to speak at Winthrop as part of a series on the presidential election sponsored by Winthrops John C. West Forum on Politics and Policy.
Her message about the need to encourage voter participation resonated with Brierly Wills and Andrew Harris, both sophomore English and History double majors.
We need people like Cate to tell us to get out and vote, Wills said, adding that while 2008 proved that young people are a big voting faction but the message in 2012 has strayed away from the youth vote.
Voter apathy is something that aggrevates me, Harris said. Its a shame that people feel as though their vote is not going to matter.
Edwards also talked about the education foundation she launched in her mothers name, the Elizabeth Edwards Foundation. Her mother was an attorney, author and youth advocate who inspired her daughter.
The foundation will help disadvantaged high school students find success through mentoring, advocacy and public service--all tenets Elizabeth Edwards espoused, her daughter said.
Edwards also serves on the board of directors for Advocates for Justice, a public-interest law firm in Washington, D.C., and New York, and runs the firms Washington office.
As an attorney, she has worked on cases involving employment discrimination and civil rights, she said, warning students of the extreme inaction that comes from people being bystanders, turning their cheek on injustice and discrimination and choosing to be silent and neutral over taking a stand and speaking up.
Encouraging students to take on problems around them, she said they dont have to start nonprofits, cure diseases or spark protests that change an entire country.
The world that you address could be big or it can be small, Edwards said.
Tracing the genesis of her career and attitude toward civic responsibility to the odd and sometimes slightly dillusional space of the campaign trail, Edwards said her first lesson happened in 2004.
Having just graduated from Princeton with a degree in politics, Edwards was 22-years-old and living in New York when her father called her to tell her he was selected as John Kerrys running mate.
Having taken two calls on the matter already that morning, she told him that was totally old news.
Thats when I knew that my life and my familys life had changed, she said.
Edwards hit the campaign trail for her father in 2004 to talk to students and spread the campaigns message. She also campaigned for her father during his 2008 bid for his partys presidential nomination and came through Rock Hill.
Campaigning taught her an enormous responsibility of providing an example to youth, she said. [M]aking honest promises to the people that youre speaking to should be nothing less than the bedrock of our political process and our elections.
Edwards was not available for media questions, but took some written questions from audience members that were screened for content.
None of the questions mentioned her fathers political unraveling after his mistress with whom he fathered a child became public. This year the former U.S. Senator recently beat charges alleging he misused campaign donations to hide his affair. A judge declared a mistrial and prosecutors dropped the case after a federal jury acquitted him of one charge and was hung on five more.
VIDEO: Cate Edwards at Winthrop
Jamie Self 803-329-4062