Remembering Elizabeth Edwards

Posted by on Dec 9, 2010 in Culture, News, Politics | No Comments

From her final message to supporters: “The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious.”

The team at Think Progress (where is was a Fellow) outlines her policy legacy: “During the 2008 presidential campaign, Elizabeth—a regular contributor to the Wonk Room throughout the health care reform debate and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress—took to our blog and challenged conservatives for releasing a health care plan that would have excluded millions of Americans who suffered from pre-existing or chronic conditions. “Why are people like me left out of your health care proposal,” Elizabeth asked Republicans, pointing out that market-based proposals would leave millions of Americans “outside the clinic doors” and allow insurance companies free reign to continue excluding sicker beneficiaries.”

Jonathan Cohn recalls her policy acumen: Edwards took her advocacy seriously and, fittingly, she was a serious advocate. A lawyer with a degree from the University of North Carolina, Edwards studied the health care system closely. Having interviewed her a few times, I can tell you that she understood the policy debate better than most politicians and, yes, quite a few journalists. But it was her passion for the issue that really stood out. She thought that making the health care system more decent and humane was a moral imperative. And she didn’t shy away from talking about it in those terms.

James Fallows remembers meeting her during Edwards’ 2004 campaign: “The longer the evening went on, the more people kept deferring to and asking questions of Elizabeth Edwards. By the end, it was like a seminar that she was conducting for the rest. She was talking mainly not about her husband’s campaign but about her assessment of the larger shape of the presidential race. Where Bush and Cheney would be most vulnerable in the general election; what Karl Rove had figured out; how the New Hampshire results would position the Democrats for ‘mini-Tuesday’ the next week and ‘super-Tuesday’ a month later; how Democrats could talk about economic justice without sounding like big-government spendthrifts; what to say and do about Iraq.There was nothing ‘brave’ or tragic about it, just someone who was intelligent, clear-eyed, and tough. I would like to remember that accomplished side of her.”

Jonathan Alter remembers their friendship, and shared struggle with cancer: When I arrived, Elizabeth told me that cancer had essentially freed her to say whatever the hell she wanted. Then she proved it, by questioning the one thing all presidential candidates and their spouses must embrace—religious faith:  “I’m not praying for God to save me from cancer. God will enlighten me when the time comes. And if I’ve done the right thing, I will be enlightened. And if I believe, I’ll be saved. And that’s all he promises me.”

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