CAUSE Youth Leader Questions John Edwards at Presidential Forum

December 20, 2007 -- Central Coast Alliance United for a...

By Cesar Hernandez, CAUSE Community Planning Director/Lead Organizer

On the afternoon of Saturday, December 1st, Erica Fernandez, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE) youth leader and senior at Hueneme High School, stood confidently on-stage at the Heartland Presidential Forum in Des Moines poised to ask Sen. John Edwards her question. She passionately told her story of Oxnard and Malibu’s struggle to stop a multi-billion dollar foreign corporation from building a Liquefied Natural Gas storage facility off our coastline. She finished her story with her questions, “Do communities like mine or people like me not deserve a clean and healthy environment?  Sen. Edwards, our vision is equality and justice, what will you do to make our society and country a place where we are “all in it together?”

Erica was selected to be one of 30 people to address one of the presidential candidates.  Senator Edwards heard and responded to her question on the issue of environmental justice at the nationally televised Presidential forum.  Earlier this year, Ms. Fernandez was involved in the campaign that stopped one of the largest mining companies in the world, BHP Billiton, from building a liquefied natural gas facility off the coast of Oxnard.   Ms. Fernandez was determined to stop BHP Billiton because if approved, it would have become the worst contributor to air pollution in our county.  As the daughter of farm workers, Ms. Fernandez understands well the health risks faced by agricultural workers and their families.  Her father suffers from a serious respiratory illness and the BHP Billiton project posed a significant risk to his health.  Ms. Fernandez was recently recognized for her work by the Earth Island Institute and received one of six national awards for her involvement in this campaign. Click here to see a video about Erica Fernandez.

This presidential campaign season will see more stories and hear more debate about our country’s values.  The real conversation began at the Heartland Presidential Candidate Forum when grassroots community groups ignite a new values debate in American politics as five presidential candidates are challenged to offer bold solutions for getting America back to where we are at our best.  Senator John Edwards, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Chris Dodd, Senator Barack Obama and Congressman Dennis Kucinich confirmed to attend the forum on December 1, 2007 at HyVee Hall in Des Moines, in which hundreds of community groups launched a major national campaign for Community Values that is about creating a new standard in politics and advancing a new national agenda that does not accept leaving people behind as we strive for prosperity as a nation.

“This nation is at its best when we recognize that our individual success and prosperity depends on the collective responsibility of us all working together to solve our shared problems,” says Deepak Bhargava, executive director of Center for Community Change.  “Whether it’s providing relief for hurricane victims, building an immigration system that is just and humane or ensuring fair wages and decent working conditions for us all, America can and must do better.”

Community leaders who have been in the trenches dealing with social issues have bold and fresh ideas to offer in the perennial debate over the condition of the nation.   The Campaign for Community Values is not a Washington-led campaign, but is rather deeply-rooted in the community, diverse, authentic and powerful.  Its membership in the hundreds of thousands has the power to reach millions.  This campaign will boldly defy the ‘on your own’ mentality in Washington that is failing America and will lead the nation in challenging political leaders to end the status quo and build a society that shares the ladder of opportunity.  Healthcare, immigration reform and worker rights are key issues that impact us all and are a focus of the Campaign for Community Values.