ROCK HILL When she smiled, you could see her mother.
When she spoke of her frustration that the poor were barely mentioned at the Democratic National Convention, you could hear her father.
Seven weeks before the Nov. 6 election, Cate Edwards daughter of former presidential candidate John Edwards and the late Elizabeth Edwards implored students at Winthrop University on Tuesday to get involved.
Even if its just to cast a vote.
Your voice matters on multiple levels, Edwards, 30, told about 100 students at the universitys John C. West Forum on Politics and Policy.
The more you vote, especially young people, the more people pay attention to you.
She knows about getting involved.
When she was 18, her father won a seat in the U.S. Senate and almost immediately was touted as presidential material.
At 22, a month after graduating from Princeton University, she was traveling to college campuses across the country to stump for the 2004 Democratic ticket, Sen. John Kerry as president and her father as vice president.
In October, 2004, Edwards accompanied her mother to a Wisconsin rally, and in the crowd spotted a girl holding a sign: Cate Is My Hero.
By then, she said shed seen enough of the process to know a campaign worker probably had made that sign. But that day she learned that to that person you can be a hero, or you can be a disappointment, Edwards said. So, to me, that Cate Is My Hero sign was not just another campaign trick. For me, it showed I had an enormous responsibility.
The responsibility of making honest promises to people youre speaking to should be nothing less than the bedrock of our political process and elections.
Foundation honors mother
Her life hasnt been the cozy upbringing of the privileged. Her older brother, Wade, died in an automobile accident in 1996. Her mother died of breast cancer in late 2010, and earlier this year, her father was tried on six counts of campaign finance violation charges.
She was by his side every day of the trial, including the last day when a jury acquitted him of one count and was deadlocked on the other five.
Cate Edwards was invited to speak at the Winthrop forum because of her history with college students on the campaign trail.
These are kids who are increasingly interested in community service but are increasingly more cynical about politics, said Karen Kedrowski, the forums director and chair of Winthrops political science department. Cate connects with them.
Edwards also spoke about the Elizabeth Edwards Foundation, started a year ago in Raleigh to honor her mother and continue her work of helping students from low-income families go to college.
Once students are chosen, the foundation will help them prepare for, get into and go to college.
We teach these students to find and use their voice through various forms of advocacy, said Edwards, a Harvard Law School graduate who is a partner in a new public interest law firm based in Washington, D.C., and New York.
You dont have to cure a disease, or spark a protest to make a difference.
Feels good to vote
Mainly she came to talk to college students about not being bystanders.
She told them that politicians have become too partisan, which turns off young people.
Through history, she said, college students have successfully pushed for change in the civil rights movement and protesting the Vietnam War.
Her mother taught her that she didnt need to be the one who shouts the loudest. Being loud never changed anybodys mind.
Its the message that influences, she said, challenging the students to become advocates for others.
It feels good to vote and make your voice heard, Edwards said. If we refuse to be bystanders, and take our civic and social responsibilities seriously, we lift up those around us, we lift up America, we lift up the world we lift up ourselves.