freeSpeech: Elizabeth Edwards

Did you buy groceries today? If so, who was your cashier? Who bagged your soda? They have names, you know – and chances are they were even wearing their names on their shirts. But did you notice?

Sadly, as a country, Americans have gotten used to treating those in service positions as if they were part of the cash register, part of the conveyor belt. They aren't. They are mothers, fathers, daughters and sons working hard to provide for their families. And they are working harder and earning less than most Americans who work behind a desk.

Everyone in America who works hard deserves our respect.

But too often we fail to realize that each of us is connected to the other.
Too often we fail to realize that each of us has a name, a life, a dream.
It is the first step in civility to acknowledge our fellow citizens, to use their names, to look them in the face and thank them for making your life not just easier but possible. The second step – which is also too rare – is to treat each other with respect and even tenderness.

I have had hard times. But my life has been easier not just because of my splendid family or my incredible friends. But because I had support from unexpected places – from Edward, my mailman; from Drew, who works at my children's school; from Sam, who bags groceries at my supermarket.

My life has been easier because the people I have treated tenderly have returned the gift. Decency, it turns out, costs nothing.



Elizabeth Edwards shares her husband's deep commitment to improving the daily lives of all Americans and making sure that everyone in this country has the opportunity to succeed. A passionate advocate for children and families, as well as an accomplished attorney, she has been a tireless advocate for many important causes.

As an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Elizabeth majored in English. She went on to study American literature but then switched to law, graduating from UNC Law School in May 1977. She met John in law school, and they got married the Saturday after they took the bar exam.

Like her husband, Elizabeth has an impressive legal background. Following law school, she clerked with U.S. District Court Judge Calvitt Clarke, Jr. in Norfolk, Virginia. Later, she worked for the North Carolina Attorney General's office and then was a bankruptcy lawyer in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Elizabeth also taught legal writing as an adjunct instructor at UNC Law School for two years, and in 1997–98, she was a member of the first group of Public Fellows at the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC.