COMMENTARY | The passing of Elizabeth Edwards has been met with an outpouring of grief and sorrow among those who knew her well and among those that only knew of her. Edwards championed the most vulnerable among us, aimed her guns at the greedy, the bullies, and the power-mongers as she endured a host of unforgettable losses.
Here are a few facts and insigts into Elizabeth Edwards that may be less well-known, and are a testament to her beauty, courage and the gifts she’s left us.
What’s the background info on Elizabeth Edwards?
Elizabeth Edwards married John Edwards on July 30, 1977. They met while in law school at North Carolina University, Chapel Hill. While raising a family of four children, she and John continued with their law practice cases, typically defending the average Joe and/or Josephine against huge foes with deep pockets. In a speech given in 2007, Edwards said, “Fighting for the voiceless, that honestly has become the cause of my life.”
When was she diagnosed with breast cancer?
John and Elizabeth made the announcement regarding her diagnosis of breast cancer six years ago, on Nov. 3, 2004, when the Kerry/Edwards campaign conceded their loss to President Bush. The announcement made the concession even more poignant, and it marked the start of the public’s support of and respect for Elizabeth Edwards.
Why should you care about Elizabeth Edwards?
Aside from being a lifelong public servant, she was an outspoken advocate for the little guy. Elizabeth Edwards genuinely cared about those among us on the margins of society. Her career as an attorney in North Carolina, as a candidate’s wife, and in her own right, were built upon instances when she spoke out in defense of “the voiceless,” taking on big business, Corporate America, and Wall Street on their behalf. She advocated for universal health care coverage, gay rights, and fairness in the media, among other causes.
Watch this video of a speech she gave as the 2007 Consumer Watchdog’s honoree at the Rage for Justice dinner posted by Jaime Court on the Huffington Post, you’ll know why “she had an audience of hundreds sobbing.”
What brought about the recent separation between Elizabeth and John Edwards?
John Edwards cheated on Elizabeth Edwards, while she was undergoing chemotherapy, with a videographer on his staff who later gave birth to his child, now a 3-year-old girl. The consequences of John Edwards’s infidelity ended their 33-year marriage and resulted in a separation.
What are among her most important accomplishments?
Edwards had four children, one of whom, Wade, died in a car accident when he was 16. In true Edwards’s fashion, she dealt with this devastating loss with courage, fortitude, and held her family together.
Edwards wasn’t afraid to speak truth to power or nasty, vitriolic people posing as intellectual heavyweights. In one instance during the 2004 presidential campaign, Edwards took on Republican commentator Ann Coulter.
Coulter had called John Edwards a “faggot,” and she had gone so far as to say she wished “terrorist extremist would assassinate him.” Apparently this is what passes for engaging commentary in today’s vacuous hyperbolic media. For more on this read, see: “Ted Koppel: Olbermann, O’Reilly and the death of real news.”
In a phone call, Elizabeth Edwards confronted Coulter on a segment of Chris Mathews Hardball. Edwards said, “In the South when we — when someone does something that displeases us, we wanna ask them politely to stop doing it. I’d like to ask Ann Coulter — if she wants to debate on issues, on positions — we certainly disagree with nearly everything she said on your show today, but it’s quite another matter for these personal attacks that the things she has said over the years not just about John but about other candidates lowers our political dialogue precisely at the time that we need to raise it. So I want to use the opportunity … to ask her politely stop the personal attacks.”
Coulter’s reaction was to run her hair through her blonde tresses while looking smug in her black Ray Bans.
In 2007, Edwards was awarded the Phillip Burton Public Service Award by Consumer Watchdog, whose three words slogan: Expose, Confront, Change, sum up the guts and the integrity she displayed in every battle she fought.
How can I best remember Elizabeth Edwards?
As she stated in her Rage for Justice speech, “Public service is all about action.” Indeed, Edwards herself would tell us to get off the couch and get involved. Become the change you want to see in the world. Advocate on behalf of someone else.
In what may have been the most poignant quote from that speech, Edwards said, “At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by the highest public office we attained in our lifetime, if that were true the current president (George W. Bush) would hold as much esteem as Franklin Roosevelt in our country, and Nelson Mandela in his. That cannot be the case. Rather, we will each be judged by the mark we’ve left on others.”