Kids Talk Construction With VP Candidate John Edwards

Sat August 07, 2004 - West Edition

SAN ANTONIO (AP) A group of disadvantaged youth told Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards on July 25 that their lives had been turned around by a federal construction program his running mate helped establish.

Edwards visited the construction site –– the future training center for the San Antonio Silver Stars WNBA basketball team –– as he wrapped up approximately three weeks of cross-country campaigning and fund raising ahead of the Democratic National Convention.

“I had a lot of jobs similar to the jobs you have described,” Edwards told about a dozen teenage participants in the Youth Build program. “What you learn is hard work won’t hurt you. It will help make you better.”

The North Carolina senator, who earned millions as a trial lawyer before running successfully for the Senate in 1998, repeatedly emphasizes his humble roots in a small Carolina textile mill town.

John Kerry, who accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on June 29, has proposed an increase in the $65 million now being spent annually on the Youth Build program, which he helped to establish.

“You should be proud of what you’ve done,” Edwards told the youth. He said the program allows “people to get back on the right track.”

Students told him of how they helped straighten out their lives by engaging in various construction jobs and learning valuable job skills.

One of them, Torrey Lyons, 16, told Edwards he was involved in demolition. “I like to tear down the walls and straighten things out,” he said. “Any questions?”

Edwards laughed and said he didn’t think so, but told Lyons and the other teens, “You’ve learned a lot. You can use those skills, too.”