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Cate Edwards launches youth movement

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An "organized political voice" for young folks. "Social gatherings," and the politicians (and policy types) come to you. With music and food. That sounds pretty good, if they can pull it off.

And maybe they can--the founders of Generation Engage include a Rockefeller and our own Cate Edwards, the Princeton-educated daughter of once-and-future (?) presidential candidate John Edwards. GE, based in Washington, D.C., has national intentions, but they're starting in Virginia and North Carolina.

First event here: Saturday, April 23, 5:45-7:30 p.m. at Kings, 424 S. McDowell St., Raleigh. It's free--the music is part of Kings' Spring Fling weekend. Mayor Charles Meeker's coming, and other such. But the point is "to hear from one another," not just them.

Some questions for Edwards, via e-mail (they've been edited for length):

Independent: First things first: How's your mom?

Edwards: My mom is doing great. She has been incredibly strong throughout this entire process, and now that she's in the last stages of her treatment [for breast cancer], she is feeling good and preparing to move back down to North Carolina.

Will she and your dad be there Saturday?

No. This is a program created by young people for young people. Although my parents are very supportive of and excited about Generation Engage, this is something that I am doing independently.

What's your role in Generation Engage?

I am one of eight board members, a group of under-30s who got together after the last election with a new idea--that too much time and money has been spent on getting young people to listen. What young people need, we believe, is a way to respond. Our democracy, after all, is a dialogue, not a monologue. Generation Engage strives to give non-college youth a direct channel of communication with the candidates who seek to represent them.

What exactly are you hoping to do in Raleigh/the Triangle?

North Carolina will, over the next two years, be one of two states in which Generation Engage will launch pilot programs. We are concentrating specifically on the 49 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds who have no college experience. By building grassroots social infrastructure where it is needed most, Generation Engage's outreach will be: 1) substantive and serious, not a mass marketing campaign or celebrity appeal; 2) sustained and independent of election cycles; 3) genuinely inclusive of all political viewpoints; and 4) built to provide a channel of communication between non-college youth and the candidates who seek to represent them.

Beginning this summer, Generation Engage's team of eight regional directors and one state director [to be based in Raleigh] will be organizing weekly events for our members at recognizable social venues--community centers, pool halls, bars, places of worship, recreation centers. With candidates for statewide office, federal representatives and national political figures to attend these events, these "Hot Spots" will offer our members what labor unions, church groups and other social institutions offer theirs: an opportunity to find political relevance in numbers.

What are the issues you yourself would like to see young people get involved in here?

Our program is really not designed to put forward any specific issues. It's designed to build infrastructure where it currently does not exist.

Free BBQ and music--are you passing the hat?

We will be celebrating the launch of Generation Engage. Live music and BBQ will be provided at no cost and all are welcome.

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