Elizabeth Edwards did the final keynote at BlogHer in Chicago tonight. She addresses the BlogHer crowd about John Edward’s stance on women’s issues leading up to the 2008 presidential election. Following a recent battle with cancer, she looks strong, confident and healthy on the Navy Pier stage.
Elizabeth raises examples of where other candidates and leaders have stood and currently stand on critical issues women care deeply about, such as healthcare, children, and war. When there’s a draft, there’s always stronger opposition she reminds us, because then everyone is potentially affected. Today, its very split.
She tells a story about Ross Perot who addressed a group of people at the beginning of the Iraq war. He had asked who in the room had someone serving in the Iraq war – no one did, yet several who were ‘serving’ the tables did.
It’s more likely that we would take war personally if we had someone in our lives who is serving in a war. Lisa Stone asks the room the same question and roughly 10-20% of the room raise their hands. 4-5 had one more than one person in their family who have been involved in the war; a woman at my table who runs the Wisconsin Women’s Magazine had four. She stands up later and asks Elizabeth about elderly care.
She talks about John’s position on chronic and long-term care and her first-hand experience with her 87 year old father who had a stroke in 1990. They have hired a senior management company to take care of her parents, but not everyone has the financial ability to do so. She also talks about the difficulty of navigating an incredibly complex system. For the privileged and most certainly for those without access and money.
Elizabeth asks, "what happens to elderly people who don’t have any children?" I don’t have children today and if I still don’t by the time I turn 80, I wonder the same thing. Where will I end up? Where will so many others I know who are childless end up? And what about the so many friends of my grandparents who did have children who did not proactively get involved in their declining health?
Even with children and grandchildren, they died alone. My own grandfather had three children, three brothers, eight grandchildren and countless nieces and nephews and I was the only one beside his bed when he passed.
Elizabeth talks too about the media and her feelings about the power that people like Robert Murdoch have. Should anyone have that much control to funnel information to us around important issues like healthcare, political issues and education?
Then, support for the power of blogs, social media and tools that surround them are raised. Says Elizabeth, "people want to know that their voices are being heard. I think this is the reason that blogs and tools like YouTube are so popular…..you’ll see people dye their hair purple because they just want to be noticed in a crowded world."
Frankly, I think that its more than just the crowded world issue; its also the starvation for community and connecting with others — connecting with others in a way that used to be easy to do in the small towns and villages of our grandparents and great-grandparents. People are so desperate for that kind of connection that they’re willing to do anything for attention. They’ll throw up anything and everything on flickr, MySpace, FaceBook and their blogs.
A woman who has a blog called Reclaiming the F Word blog – "F standing for faith" stands up and thanks Elizabeth: "thank you for reminding us that our lives are to make a difference in the world." And then, "how does your faith affect your political views — because you appear to be a religious liberal?"
Elizabeth responds by telling us about her childhood. She was raised by a father who was in the Navy. Over the years, she has dabbled in the methodist church, with a christian background. She doesn’t think that God will cure her of cancer, but she adds, "I certainly appreciate people’s prayers."
She also tells us that on Monday, she and John will be renewing their vows on their 30th anniversary. They were originally married in a Baptist church. Recently, she looked back at their original list of vows from 1977 and the first one was that the marriage of their lives should be about serving others and making sure opportunity would be available to everyone. It was a religious choice at the time, but she says, "those guidelines were ones we decided to live by and we still feel that way today."
Elizabeth apparently doesn’t run her blog posts by anyone; same applies to the comments that she makes on other people’s blogs and blog networks. She strongly feels that it should be done by the person communicating with their audience, not a PR person or team, otherwise "how authentic and direct can the conversation be?"