Senator John Edwards is probably best know for two things: not becoming the Vice president of the USA in 2004, and for not going to be President in 2008. Given that this also applies to 5,999,999,998 other people, he must have some other quality that makes people at the University of California want to hear him speak.
Sen. Edwards was at UC Davis to talk about poverty - apparently, he's against it. So strongly against it, it seems, he insisted on getting paid $55,000 as a precautionary measure, to prevent any outbreak of poverty affecting him personally. In case you may have missed that last point, that's $55,000 for talking about poverty, not curing it.
Defending its decision, UC Davis officials pointed out that Edwards was a "speaker of interest that people in the community were clearly interested in" [sic]. Given that he racked up nearly $300k last year from just nine speeches at US colleges, Sen. Edwards is cetainly a speaker of considerable interest: at least $10,000 a year, I'd guess.
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