Edwards: Country needs visionaries for inspiration

Regents Hall echoed with the roar of conversation, shuffling footsteps and the screech of the microphone being tested. Programs were paged through, and glances of anticipation searched the room.

The 2005 Alumni Lecture Series featured John Edwards and Steve Forbes, speaking on “Governing in America: The Power Behind the Politics.”

Forbes, the president and executive officer of Forbes and editor in chief of Forbes magazine spoke mainly on the need for change when it comes to the tax structure of America. “The Bible, which took centuries to write, has 773, 000 words in it. The tax code has 9 million,” he said.

Forbes also said that the government is concentrating on trying to reform the tax structure when it’s a lost cause. “Throw the entire beast in the dumpster,” he said. “Trying to reform the thing is impossible.”

Forbes also spoke about Washington in regards to the taxes. “They call themselves revenue neutral in Washington. They put themselves in a straitjacket. You can’t be half-pregnant,” he said. “It’s not going to be a beautiful baby.”

Forbes highlighted his own plan for the tax structure in the future, called the flat-tax plan. “No family of four would pay tax on their first $46,000 of income,” he said. One of the main advantages, according to Forbes, is “If you tried to change it, everyone could see what you’re doing.”

Forbes said he used to be able to sit down and fill out his tax return and understand it, but wasn’t able to anymore. His solution? “What should happen is that every member of Congress should be made to sit down and fill the bloody thing out without aid,” he said. “(The tax code) would change overnight.”

Edwards focused the meat of his remarks on the need to address widespread poverty. He spoke of two Americas, one privileged, one poor, and the need to bridge the gap between them. “Thirty-seven million people live in poverty,” he said. “That’s a million more than we had last year, according to the Census Bureau.”

Edwards believes that the nation needs something to believe in and would benefit from championing the cause of the poverty stricken. “The truth is that there is a hunger in America for something big and important to do,” he said. “But no one has asked America to step up to the plate.”

Edwards believes that this hunger comes from what people are seeing in the media. “They see Iraq on their TV screens and the government response to Katrina,” he said. “The country needs visionaries-people who will reach into the American soul and inspire them.”

After Katrina hit the coast, Edwards said that Americans saw the response from the country, and they needed to see it. “Will (the help) be transient, or permanent?” he said. “It’s time for us to unite again about the great moral issue surrounding our country.”

Edwards and Forbes briefly answered questions from the audience on the Iraq war, the weakness of the Democratic party and poverty.