Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Road to One America: the Youngstown Business Incubator and Hill House in Pittsburgh

This is my third and final diary about the stops on John Edwards's Road to One America Tour that I visited on July 17, 2007. Previously, I've written about the Mount Pleasant neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, where residents are plagued by predatory lenders and home foreclosures, and also Beatitude House in Youngstown, Ohio, a transitional shelter for homeless women working to get back on their feet. Today's diary focuses on the last two stops on the tour that day: the Youngstown Business Incubator in Youngstown, Ohio and Hill House in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Youngstown Business Incubator was a very unusual stop on the Road to One America Tour. Youngstown used to be a big steel town with a lot of manufacturing jobs, but it has fallen on hard times. The Business Incubator is working to create partnerships between business, education, government, and the community to attract better jobs and high tech jobs to the area and train local workers to take those jobs. It is a model for how communities that have lost manufacturing jobs can transition to business models that will be more competitive in the new global economy.

John Edwards met with local business leaders in a roundtable discussion at the Youngstown Business Incubator. I was able to record some of the meeting on video before the battery died in my camera.

Here are some key points that were made during the discussion:

YBI links entrepreneurship and education, helping to keep kids in schools and help local businesses to create job opportunities. These job opportunities help local graduates stay in the Mahoning Valley.

Youngstown is making an effort to become the poster child for what needs to happen throughout the Great Lakes. This is a major transition, which requires local, state, and national help.

The key to the success of YBI is in creating partnerships on many levels. This includes private sector/public sector partnerships, profit/nonprofit partnerships, and business/government partnerships.

John Edwards called it a model for what can be done nationally.

Later that afternoon, Edwards visited Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he toured the facility at Hill House, then gave a rousing speech.

Hill House is a community organization which has multiple programs for education of youth at different ages, as well as Senior services and other community services. Prior to Edwards's speech, three graduates of various Hill House programs spoke about how those programs have helped them.

The first success story was a young woman who had participated in their Mission Discovery science education program, become a counselor in the program, and is now about to enter college on a full scholarship.

The second success story was that of a young man who, although once a gang member and drug dealer, learned parenting skills and life skills through their fathers program, and now coordinates that program.

The third success story was a woman who had at one time been addicted to drugs, homeless, and had her children taken away from her. The Hill House helped her to get clean, get her life back on track, get housing and get her children back.

After the speeches by the graduates of Hill House, John Edwards spoke about some of the problems facing working people in this country, some of the things he had witnessed on the Road to One America tour, and the programs he would propose to help solve these problems.

We've got 37 million people in this country who live in poverty. 15 million live in deep poverty. I mean intractable, deep poverty. It is not OK. The work that Dr. King began in Marks, Mississippi - that work has to continue today, and he has left this legacy in our hands. He has left this responsibility to us.

Here's an excerpt from his description of his visit to Cleveland earlier that same day:

In a one block radius - 38 homes in foreclosure. 38 homes. And this is not a poor neighborhood. These are working, middle-class people. The one thing that we've got to make sure everybody in this country understands and knows in their gut is that this cause, this march that we're on to end poverty and give opportunity, real opportunity to everybody, is not just about the poor. Everybody's at risk. Everybody is vulnerable.

One new thing I want to say a word about tonight is what we need to be doing about our schools. I'm sure some of you followed this U.S. Supreme Court ruling that turned Brown vs. Board of Education on its head. Taking away the power of schools to voluntarily desegregate - huge mistake. Huge mistake. But we don't just have racial segregation in our schools in America. We have huge economic segregation, and everybody knows it. [inaudible due to applause] ...it's not true that we have one public school system in America - oh, no we don't. We've got two public school systems in America. We've got one for those who live in wealthy suburban areas and then one for everybody else. One for kids who go to inner city schools and poor rural schools and one for everybody else. We have got to build one public school system.

His proposed solutions for economically segregated schools include bonuses to good schools that take in kids from the inner city and creating magnet schools in the inner city that will attract kids from all over.

Toward the end of his speech, Edwards called on all of us to help in the fight to end poverty.

What we need - what we need, brothers and sister, is we need a movement. We need a movement to end poverty in this country. We need a movement to lift up all those people that I've seen in the last day and a half. I carry them around inside me. I do. When I say this cause is the cause of my life - as long as I'm alive and breathing, I'm going to speak for them. I'm going to fight for them, and I'm going to stand up for them, but I need you. I need you in this cause. They need you. They need your courage. They need your strength. They need your voice to be heard, because it is the only way that they're going to have the chance that they're entitled to. It is the only way that they're going to have the dignity that every human being in this country ought to have. You know, if I can paraphrase Gandhi, you've got to be the change that you believe in. You can't stay home and help somebody else is going to do this for you.

After his speech, Edwards stayed around to answer some questions. I had a hard time getting close enough to him for my camera to pick up the audio, but here's a short clip where I think you can hear him OK. In this video, he's talking about football, affordable housing, and magnet schools.

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Blogger bettync said...

I like Senator Edward's commitment to helping people build assets. Home ownership is beyond the reach of many people. I like his ideas to make it possible. His ideas do not just help the poor, they will strengthen our communities and make our country a better and more secure place for everyone.

July 25, 2007

Blogger dk2 said...

There is not a more dedicated Presidential Candidate to the needs of the general public, hard working americans than John Edwards.

He is the best choice for me for 2008.

July 25, 2007


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