The news of Elizabeth Edwards' death Monday struck all of us. She was a personal hero, a battler for the rights–especially health care–that so many Americans lack. When Edwards was the main speaker and honoree at Consumer Watchdog's 2007 Rage for Justice dinner, she had an audience of hundreds sobbing. Not just for Edwards, who was at the time successfully fighting off the metastasized cancer that killed her, but for the powerful empathy of her words and her strength of belief in social justice.
Her scornful words for "compromise" as it is practiced in politics only have a stronger punch today. So don't cry for her. Get out there and have the guts to stand up for justice. Get your own rage going.
Click on the videos to hear her whole concise and deeply affecting speech. Here, also, are some excerpts:
Compromise today is too often applauded simply for itself. The cost of compromise to principles and real lives doesn't seem to matter. It matters here. This organization understands that the way to build a fair and just society is not through baby steps or incremental goals, but with big steps and big solutions… and an obvious backbone to match.
We speak out for those people who need someone to stand up for them without compromise.Those who need a champion cannot afford compromise, in the face of forces that are powerful, persistent and pernicious and greedy.
We don't have universal healthcare in this country because powerful corporations who profit from health care beat us. The pharmaceutical companies stole our tax money when they successfully lobbied–maybe the better words are bullied and threatened–their way into protecting their industry from that old free-market practice of bargaining for the best price.
And our tax money was stolen too by Bechtel and Halliburton and a handful of corporations that were awarded no-bid contracts in Iraq from an admix that has taken very good care of its friends and supporters while it has failed to protect the most needy among us.
I don't know how many tomorrows I have. Really, none of us do. I want to fight now, I need to fight now and I am buoyed by the fact that you are fighting now.
We will each by judged by the mark we left on the lives of others. I chose to campaign only because it is about a woman in Cleveland who came up and whispered in my ear, "I am really afraid because I found a lump in my breast, and I can't go to the doctor. I have no insurance." It's about Beverly in Detroit who broke down, unable even to speak, when she said she couldn't sleep, so afraid was she for the life of her son, who is serving in Iraq.
With less armor than I have, they fight, too.