Edwards Courts Shallow-Pocket Voters In Birthday Fundraiser

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards used his Sunday birthday fundraiser - an event light on cash but heavy on voters - to urge his shallow-pocket supporters to donate their time to help mobilize his campaign.

While most presidential campaign fundraisers feature thousand-dollar-a-plate meals, Edwards returned to his hometown roots with an event featuring backyard barbecue and pie. The entrance fee: $15.

Campaign officials said more than 500 people attended.

"If you want to see big, bold change in this country - your country needs you. It needs you badly," Edwards, who turned 54 on Sunday, told the crowd. "The great movements in the American history did not start in the Oval Office, they started out across America."

To an audience comprised of many college students from his nearby alma mater, the University of North Carolina, Edwards noted that many grass-roots movements began with the nation's youth. He compared the current need for change to the Civil Rights movement, ending the War in Vietnam and the movement to end apartheid in South Africa.

"We need you in this cause," Edwards said, pleading for volunteer time instead of donations at the fundraiser dubbed "Small Change for Big Change."

Edwards said his presidency would immediately redirect the country's efforts to combat terrorism - a plan that would focus on nipping terrorist roots with positive change, such as economic development in third-world nations and ending genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The former North Carolina senator said that during his first day in office he would shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.

"America has to meet its responsibility to humanity first," Edwards said.

Edwards, joined by his wife, kids and parents, also had the support of a special guest: former University of North Carolina head basketball coach Dean Smith, who introduced the former North Carolina senator as "Coach John Edwards."

Smith, who said he once vowed to never to make any speeches after 36 years of coaching the Tar Heels, took to the stage on behalf of Edwards, calling him "the best person to lead."

"What he has to say makes so much sense," Smith said in an interview. "His work on poverty is just one example that he has good ideas - the best ideas."