UPDATED: John Edwards to speak at Foellinger

By Paolo Cisneros

The Illini Union Board has finalized plans to bring former U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards to campus as a guest lecturer on Oct. 14.

Tickets are free, but the student group is paying Edwards $65,000.

Edwards was recently thrust into the national spotlight when, on Aug. 8, he admitted to ABC News that he had an extramarital affair with a campaign employee in 2006.

Despite those recent developments, Illini Union program adviser India Myers said the contract with Edwards was signed before the news of the affair broke and that he is still coming to campus.

University spokesperson Robin Kaler said the group gave Edwards a chance to back out after he acknowledged his affair. Kaler said Edwards’ agent replied that the former North Carolina senator is looking to add more speaking engagements and raise his fee.

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    “The (Illini Union Board) Lecture Committee brought to the table several individuals, and they agreed upon a list of people to consider inviting,” Myers said. “The looked for an individual that could speak on the current political climate on account of this being an election year.”

    Sam Pridgeon, junior in LAS and co-chair of the Illini Union Board’s Lecture Committee said Edwards was considered alongside the likes of Karl Rove, Fred Thompson and Bill Frist.

    “We decided to go with (Edwards) because he was a presidential candidate so the timing worked out,” he said. “He was the perfect fit.”

    The Lecture Committee agreed to give heavy consideration to politicians in the hopes that such lectures would inspire the campus community to get involved in this year’s elections, Pridgeon said.

    “We wanted to get people talking about this election, and (Edwards) is someone who will definitely be able to talk about the current situation,” he said. “We’re trying to engage the campus in a conversation on current events.”

    Republicans on campus are also excited for the lecture.

    “It’s great that we have people of all different ideologies coming to speak on campus,” said Bobby McNeily, sophomore in FAA and president of the College Republicans.

    “When you look at Edwards and the work he’s done for middle class families and labor unions, they’re an important part of America, and he’s got a very impressive record.”

    Edwards will speak at 7 p.m. on Oct. 14 in Foellinger Auditorium.

    Admission is free, but those wishing to attend must pick up a ticket in advance at the Illini Union ticket office.

    Edwards is expected to speak about the viability of obtaining the “American Dream.”