In his first public appearance since admitting in Augustto an extramarital affair, former Sen. John Edwards took the stage at Indiana Universityto talk about what an Obama administration would mean for America and the world.The most important thing for President-elect Obama to provide is vision, Edwards said.He called on a new era of American leadership in areas such as foreign policy, climate change, the economy, the Iraq War and health care. Thats what the American people wanted to see, and at the top of the ticket they saw it in Barack Obama, he said.
Edwards also said the election outcomes showed that the American people are ready for something new in politics. The result of last Tuesday was not an accident, he said. He later added, Americans want change, and they wanted something different.
Edwards spoke Tuesday at the IU Auditorium as a part of the Indiana Memorial Union Boards speaker series. The talk was his first since admitting to the affair with a campaign staff member when his wife was battling cancer. During that three-month period, Edwards remained out of the public eye as Barack Obama campaigned for the presidency.
Edwards,a former North Carolina senator, showed few signs of rust after months on the sideline of the election. He was his usual self: confident, relaxed, funny.At one point when talking about the elections, he said McCain came back from the dead to win the Republican nomination.Some in the crowd chuckled at the remark about McCain, who would have been the oldest president elected. That was not a joke, said a smiling Edwards, to which the crowd erupted in laughter.Edwards began the night talking about the election process and said Obamas long primary battle with Sen. Hillary Clinton helped strengthen him as a candidate.Those familiar with Edwards probably recognized familiar pillars from his past stumps on the campaign trail. He said the central cause of his life was eliminating poverty and said he would work for the rest of his life to achieve it. He also hit on some of his typical campaign themes, such as universal health care and strengthening the economy.One of Edwards strongest messages was the need for America to be a world leader again. He sharply criticized the Bush foreign policy of the last eight years. America cannot bully its way to making the world a safer place, he said.Edwards said Obama will make the United States respected once again on foreign shores. He also said economic and energy problems are international as well as domestic issues.Without global cooperation, he said, these problems cannot be solved, and America needs to lead the way.Edwards spoke for about 30 minutes and then fielded 13 questions for another half hour.Questions were selected from those written down before the speech, including some about Clinton and Sen. Joe Liebermen, a Democrat-turned-independent who is being heavily criticized by his former party for campaigning with McCain before the election.Edwards dodged any controversial remarks during questions and made no reference to his affair or his wife.He applauded grassroots organizational work done in cities like Bloomington during the elections. He said the youth brought a freshness and energy to the campaign this year.We need you, Edwards said. America needs you, and I hope you stay involved.