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Elizabeth Edwards inspires Clevelanders with grace and courage

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Cleveland Correspondent

 

Cleveland: She is a survivor. Facing her mortality head-on and marching forward with incredible grace, humor, and strength. Elizabeth, wife of former U.S. Senator John Edwards, felt the overwhelming support of family, friends, and strangers when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.

 

Mrs. Edwards greets audience at the City Club of Cleveland

She felt it again after announcing last week that the disease has returned. In one day, she received 65,000 emails and several thousand messages via snail mail. Most of them were letters of support from cancer patients. 1

 

“We think of people dying with cancer, not the ones living with it,” she said at the City Club of Cleveland on March 26, 2007.

 

“The time has come for us to summon the better angles.” She said this of her husband’s presidential campaign but it also echoed her fight with cancer. Mrs. Edward’s incredible stamina and calm in facing her situation is inspirational. “Faced with our own mortality makes us think about what we want to do for other people,” she said.  “I choose to carry on.”

 

She refuses to be the reason her husband gives up his presidential ambition because she is confident in his vision. “He’s trying to use the grassroots to mobilize us as communities to action,” she said. Mrs. Edwards stressed the importance of building communities and fostering lasting relationships. “Our capacity to build community directly correlates with change,” she said.

 

Edwards’ decision to continue campaigning for 2008 presidential elections is under intense scrutiny. Mrs. Edwards said people should look beyond outer appearances and evaluate presidential candidates based on character and vision. She advocated for Senator Edwards’ Healthcare program saying the United States has the best healthcare in the world but it needs to be improved so the millions of U.S.-Americans can meet their medical needs.

 

She said stem cell research needs to be discussed without the inflammatory rhetoric that has left the issue at a stalemate. Mrs. Edwards stressed that research can save lives and that the United States should be its pioneer, setting the ethical boundaries.

 

“There are almost no issues on which I do not have an opinion,” she said in response to how she sees her role as the First Lady. She said she will continue to be an advocate for improving education and providing adequate funding for medical research.

 

Mrs. Edwards is an accomplished attorney like her husband and says their work has taught them two great lessons. “One: there will always be heartache and struggle; two: people of goodwill can make a difference.”

 

Mrs. Edwards was invited to speak at the City Club of Cleveland for the Women in the Game Series, presented in partnership with YWCA Greater Cleveland. In her book Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers she describes her husband’s campaigns, her roles as a mother, and the compassion she received from the community upon her 16-year-old son Wade’s death.

 

The Edwards family established a free computer lab for high school students in Raleigh, North Carolina to honor their son. “It is open six days a week, we finally figured out they really weren’t going to come on Saturday,” she said.

 

Mrs. Edwards said she was surprised that the Democrats lost Ohio in the 2004 presidential elections considering the state had lost jobs and has unmonitored nuclear sites that could easily kill a million people if attacked by terrorists. She sees this as an indication that the grassroots organizations need to be mobilized in the state and the voters needs to be empowered for the 2008 elections.

 

The final speaker in the Women in the Game series is sports legend Billie Jean King, on March 30, 2007, at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University. 

   

Elizabeth Edwards at City Club

Mrs. Edwards with La Prensa

 

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