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This Saturday in Sisterhood: Elizabeth Edwards and TEDWomen

Wonk the Vote here. Hello everyone. Today is the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards, and I wanted to share a youtube I made in her memory (expand to full screen if you can):

The youtube above appears to work in firefox and internet explorer but not in chrome, so here is the original slideshow I put up earlier this week, just in case.

Elizabeth is a personal shero of mine. A smart, populist, liberal woman and tireless advocate for the least of these, with kind eyes and a warm smile that would light up the entire room wherever she went.

Connie Schultz, via slate’s Double X blog, on Wednesday wrote a moving piece paying homage to Elizabeth:

After Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth did the most to champion a new role for political wives. The year John Edwards ran for president in 2004, I was a 46-year-old newspaper columnist who had just married a congressman. I was stunned to find that some expected a political union to suck the brain out of a woman and render her incapable of independent thought.

When I took a leave of absence in 2006, during Sherrod’s successful race for the U.S. Senate, I used the templates set by Hillary and Elizabeth to figure out how I would campaign for him. They were their husbands’ partners, and they didn’t hide it. I’d been writing about policy throughout my career, and I had no interest in going suddenly blank during Q&A’s and saying, “Geez, I dunno, you’ll have to ask my husband about that.” Thanks to Hillary and Elizabeth, I had a road to follow. It wasn’t well-traveled, but it ran much closer to home than any other possible route.

I, like many, knew Elizabeth as: a fighter for human rights and for economic justice… a political wife who would not be relegated to second fiddle status or have her voice or the causes she believed in subsumed… and as a strong, resilient woman who weathered the loss of her firstborn, a terminal illness, and public betrayal. Others have had harsher words and judgments than I have had for the choices Elizabeth made during the course of John’s 2008 campaign. I have only ever had compassion for her. She faced the consequences of her choices, and she carried herself forward with far more dignity, grace, and candidness than I could imagine being capable of in her shoes.

Elizabeth was always too strong, too smart, and too substantive to let anyone or anything write her off and have the last word.

Even in death, she had the final say:

You all know that I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces – my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. 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. And for that I am grateful. It isn’t possible to put into words the love and gratitude I feel to everyone who has and continues to support and inspire me every day. To you I simply say: you know.

With love,
Elizabeth ‬

Elizabeth will continue to be a role model for millions of women like myself. My heart goes out to all who loved and knew her personally and to all she loved, especially her children.

When Elizabeth released her goodbye message on facebook this past Monday, I noticed that under her “Likes” toward the top was a link to the following page: Can this poodle wearing a tinfoil hat get more fans than Glenn Beck?

Seeing that link made me smile as I wiped away the tears. Even until the end, she was fighting the good fight.

Knowing Elizabeth, she would wear the whacko-boro protests of her funeral as a badge of honor.

I am so sorry when anyone’s loved ones have to go through that nightmare in their time of mourning, though. I am reminded of a quote from Hillary:

“When people attack you, you always have to remember that a lot of what others say about you has a lot more to do about them than you.” – Hillary Rodham Clinton

Elizabeth Edwards was a woman who fought for the welfare and humanity of others. That her life’s dedication to doing so is cause for any group to spew their hate really speaks volumes about the absence of any humanity on their parts.

It also underscores the very quality that drew so many of us to her: Elizabeth was so much about the issues and what really mattered.

I will remember this April 2008 op-ed from her most of all, because her sheer brilliance was on display in it and when I read it at the time, I remember thinking to myself, as I often did when thinking of Elizabeth… “Damn, I wish she were president.”

From Elizabeth’s op-ed, lines which I thought were pure genius the very first time I read them:

But I am saying that every analysis that is shortened, every corner that is cut, moves us further away from the truth until what is left is the Cliffs Notes of the news, or what I call strobe-light journalism, in which the outlines are accurate enough but we cannot really see the whole picture.

Elizabeth’s closing words:

If voters want a vibrant, vigorous press, apparently we will have to demand it. Not by screaming out our windows as in the movie “Network” but by talking calmly, repeatedly, constantly in the ears of those in whom we have entrusted this enormous responsibility. Do your job, so we can — as voters — do ours.

We-the-people have been invisible to our leaders for so long, but we have never been invisible to people like Elizabeth Edwards. Thanks to Elizabeth’s public advocacy and writings, her invaluable voice will remain with us as we carry on the work from here. Rest in peace, Elizabeth. You are missed and loved.

Shifting gears, I would like to focus the rest of my roundup on TEDWomen, which was held this December 7th-8th in DC. Somehow I find a bit of solace in the fact that right as we lost Elizabeth, a conference on how women and girls are reshaping the future was taking place. I think she would have loved that. Hillary made a surprise visit to TEDWomen on the 8th and noted as much in her remarks. I can’t get the video to embed, but it is there at the link, and a must-watch for any Hillary fan. I have transcribed the first four minutes or so below:

Before I go too much further in talking about what we are doing in the government and what I would like to challenge you to join us in doing, I want to acknowledge the passing of Elizabeth Edwards, someone whom I have the greatest respect and admiration for. She lived with a fierce intelligence, a passion, a sense of purpose. She was not only devoted to family and friends but also to improving healthcare and finding a cure for cancer for once and for all… and she would have appreciated this event, where we are coming together to look for solutions. And, I want to express what so many people feel about the loss of Elizabeth–and that is we have lost a voice, and we have lost a very active blogger, who was willing to put herself on the line time and time again. I see women like that everywhere I go.

I just came back from Kyrgyzstan, where there is a woman president, who is not only the first female head of state or government in post-Soviet Union Central Asia, but she is presiding over the first parliamentary democracy in the entire region. The courage it takes for her is something that I draw courage from… or when I go to visit projects that women have carved out literally with their own hands in places like South Africa. I see in action that sense of resilience and commitment that can keep any of us–including me–going. I know so well that there are women as we speak in our own country and elsewhere who will never hear of this conference and certainly could not even imagine attending but who are living the kind of life experiences and involvements that bring us here.

So the United States has made empowering women and girls a cornerstone of our foreign policy, because women’s equality is not just a moral issue, it is not just a humanitarian issue, it is not just a fairness issue — it is a security issue, it is a prosperity issue, and it is a peace issue. And, therefore, when I talk about why we need to integrate women’s issues into discussions at the highest levels everywhere in the world, I’m not doing it just because I have a personal commitment or not just because President Obama cares about it, I’m doing it because it’s in the vital interest of the United States of America. Let women work and they drive economic growth across all sectors. Send a girl to school, even just for one year, and her income dramatically increases for life, and her children are more likely to survive, and her family more likely to be healthier for years to come. Give women equal rights and entire nations are more stable and secure. Deny women equal rights and the instability of nations is almost certain. The subjugation of women is therefore a threat to the common security of our world and to the national security of our country.

The entire TED clip of Hillary is 16 minutes long. Well worth the viewing.

Next up, Pereira & O’Dell‘s presentation at TEDWomen:

On December 7, 2010, a multimedia presentation for the International Museum of Women, created by Pereira & O’Dell, was shown at a TED conference in Washington, D.C. The audience was comprised of women philanthropists and visionary leaders. The first-ever TEDWomen, is a two-day conference taking place in December 7-8 that focuses on innovation and ideas by women and girls worldwide.

The video showcases vibrant images from the exhibition “Economica: Women and the Global Economy” and features beautiful design elements and the inspiring words and artwork that have been submitted by community members around the globe.

The International Museum of Women is a global institution that engages women worldwide through its vibrant, award-winning online exhibitions.

I highly recommend finding 10 minutes in your day to watch this next one in its entirety. Halla Tomasdottir: A feminine response to Iceland’s financial crash

Halla Tomasdottir managed to take her company Audur Capital through the eye of the financial storm in Iceland by applying 5 traditionally “feminine” values to financial services. At TEDWomen, she talks about these values and the importance of balance.

Tomasdottir’s bio on TED:

Speakers Halla Tomasdottir: Change agent, financial services

Halla Tomasdottir, co-founder of Audur Capital financial services, has been instrumental in rebuilding Iceland’s economy since its collapse in 2008. Her passion is releasing the incredible economic potential of women’s ways of doing business.

Why you should listen to her:

Halla Tomasdottir believes that women’s values are key to solving Iceland’s economic crisis. In 2007, Halla and her business partner, Kristin Petursdottir, co-founded Audur Capital to bring greater diversity, social responsibility, and “feminine values” to the financial services industry. These values include independence, risk awareness, straight talk, emotional capital, and profit with principles. And Audur’s approach appears to be working. The investment firm’s innovative offerings—such as the national green-tech investment fund they set up with pop icon and homegirl Björk—may just help save banking in Iceland.

Halla began her career in corporate America, working for heavyweights like M&M/Mars and Pepsi-Cola. Back home, she helped create a foundation and the executive education and women entrepreneurship programs at Reykjavik University. Halla later became managing director of the Iceland’s Chamber of Commerce; she left her post to start Audur. The company is named after an early Viking settler, Audur the Wise, whose moniker signifies wealth, happiness, and clear space.

“Halla Tomasdottir, an Icelandic fund manager and founder of Audur Capital, a wealth management firm in Reykjavik, is certain that if women had been at the helm of Iceland’s economy and its major banks, the country would not have been brought to its knees.”

The Daily Mail, March 28, 2009

Huffpo’s “Why TEDWomen?” Q&A with host Pat Mitchell, in advance of the conference, is also an interesting read if you get a chance. A brief teaser of Mitchell’s responses:

It’s important to understand that TED didn’t launch TEDWomen to segregate women attendees or speakers outside the main conference, nor as an alternative to putting forward a balanced speaker program at other events. As my TED colleague June Cohen has pointed out, this was already a priority for TED. The launch of TEDWomen marks an enthusiastic “yes/and,” not an “either/or.”

Okay, those are just a few highlights I chose. Be sure to check out the TEDWomen website for much more — lots of wonderful photos and information. Here is my favorite photo/quote from the entire event:

Sejal Hathi: I made it my mission to build a sisterhood of change-makers.

Sejal Hathi, founder of Girls Helping Girls, is just 19 years old.

“A sisterhood of change-makers.”

A young woman after my own heart.

Reading about TEDWomen, I was reminded of a quote that had a large hand in inspiring me to blog in the first place–

“There are some who question the reason for this conference. Let them listen to the voices of women in their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces.” –Hillary Rodham Clinton, Beijing 1995

What are you reading and ruminating on this Saturday? Let the world listen! Have at it in the comments.

Cross-posted at Let Them Listen, Sky Dancing, and Taylor Marsh.

2 Responses

  1. Bravo! One of the best posts I have read this year.

  2. Wow, thank you Cyn.

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