Remembering Elizabeth Edwards

December 8, 2010

(ChattahBox Op/Ed) – The 2004 Presidential election was as terse as any election I could ever remember.  With displeasure of the Iraq War at full tilt and hatred and animas toward President George W. Bush at fever levels among Democrats, people were screaming for a candidate that had the strength and experience to best him.  Sen. John Kerry was that guy, but is was his decision to chose Sen. John Edwards as his Vice Presidential candidate that really got the base excited for lots of reasons.  At that time I was enjoying the best ratings and audience levels of my syndicated radio career.  I had worked diligently and crossed the country giving speeches and making every effort I could to persuade the masses to vote and to volunteer.

And then I met a guy named Jay Anania.  Jay was offered as a surrogate guest for my show the day Edwards was announced and his bio provided the fact that he was the brother of Sen. Edward’s wife Elizabeth.  Feeling like I had won third place in a field of two, this was not the guest I felt I deserved.  I couldn’t have been more wrong because it was that interview that led to a series of guest spots on my show with Elizabeth Edwards.

Jay Anania liked me, my show, my passion and my interviewing style.  Two days later I get a call from the Kerry campaign asking if I would be interested in interviewing Elizabeth Edwards on the topic of Health Care.  I jumped at the chance and the rest is my personal story.

The process works this way in campaigns.  You are given a time slot and the guest, in this case Mrs. Edwards, calls you and in the world of radio we hate that.  We like to control the call because timing is always an issue in radio and political guests are notorious for being late or not showing at all.  I worried for nothing.  She was right on time and we proceeded with the interview scheduled for 5 minutes.  I was told she would not take calls and that I had to adhere to the five minutes.  No problem.

The interview started and during the first two minutes she suggested that we should take a call or two, surprising me.  The lines were full, so that wasn’t the problem, the problem was the time.  I expressed that concern and said that if we had time we would take a few calls and she immediately told me that she would take the time.  I was hooked.  She ended up staying with me 30 minutes and through two breaks which you have to take, it’s not an option.  Classy lady and smart as anyone I had ever talked to.

During that campaign I interviewed her eight times with each one being better than the last.  As we become more familiar with each other and more comfortable as well our interviews were more conversational in tone and relaxed.  My callers taunted and teased me about being smitten, which I think I was looking back.

Our topics varied and she was always gracious and friendly, and that best part was I was now getting the number she was at, no matter where she was at.  Her press secretary called one day and offered her cell number is I ever needed to reach them and told me that was a directive from Elizabeth.

Over the course of this time I was able to talk with her off air and we chatted about our kids, school, politics and family.  She spoke passionately about how much she loved the campaign trail and how John Edwards gave so much.  And although we now know their marriage ended up failing, I don’t want to focus on that today because this is about her.

The Elizabeth I got to know, and I am not trying to represent this as anything more than it was, she was not my buddy, and we didn’t have dinner together or exchange Christmas cards.  But we did connect.  She was very kind and honest. She was sweet and smart.  She was caring and considerate.  She was real.

The last time I interviewed her was the day before the election and I now know she knew she had breast cancer.  You would have never known it; in fact the last two interviews she had known but her demeanor and attitude could not have been more positive or exciting.  As I think back on those interviews, and I am looking through my recordings now to see if I can find them so that I can share them with you, I am blown away knowing that as she knew she had this incredible and difficult journey ahead of her she was solid and strong.  Think about that.

Cynics will say that she was just doing her job and anyone can put of a good show for a few minutes especially close to an election of that magnitude, but trust me it wasn’t that way.  She was seriously one of the most impressive and important people I have ever talked to. My audience fell in love with her, even the Republicans that listened.  There was something special about her, something sweet and sensitive, and something that transcended the supportive wife role.

Most obituaries today will mention her role in the Health Care conversation or as an advocate for certain issues, but I will remember her as a passionate American that believed we all had a voice and we all had a chance.  In spite of all her personal success as a lawyer and her invaluable role as an advisor to her husband, she was always a mother first, and that was clear.

Look at any picture of her and look at her eyes.  What I see is wisdom and pain.  I see a woman who worked tirelessly to heal from the loss of her son Wade who was killed in an accident and a woman who had to deal with the loss of her marriage and so much trust.  But I also see a loving, compassionate woman who made a decision to live without fear and as a result of her decision to live openly she has provided hope to so many women.

I’m blessed our paths crossed if only a short time but time that I treasure deeply.  My prayers are with her family today and it is my prayer that the work she did will be continued.  But mostly I know that because of the mother she was that thorough her children she will live forever, and that is her gift to them. Her kindness was a gift to me.  Thank you Elizabeth.

Tony Trupiano is a former national syndicated progressive radio talk show host, author, and a former candidate for Congress. He is also a nationally recognized media trainer.  He can be reached at tony@mediatony.com and can read his Blog at http://www.mediatraining.me


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