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July 28, 2007

BlogHer 07 Live Blogging - Closing Keynote with Elizabeth Edwards

Worlddifference150x150_0thumbnail_3Listed below are live-blogging notes from the closing Keynote of BlogHer 07 conference, which was a one-on-one chat with Elizabeth Edwards. The Silicon Valley Moms Blog had the privilege of meeting with Elizabeth Edwards last October. To prepare for the meeting, many of us went out to buy her book "Saving Graces:  Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers" which we could not put down once we started reading it. We all felt lucky to have met with such an extraordinary woman, and I feel lucky to be able to hear her speak again. This time she will be discussing how blogging and social media has changed her life.

Because the information below is live-blogging, please excuse any errors or omissions (if there are any). For more liveblogging details, please click over to our post "Liveblogging Quotes for Elizabeth Edwards at BlogHer 07".

Elisa Camahort (BlogHer Co-Founder) welcomed fellow BlogHer Co-Founder Lisa Stone(LS) who interviewed Elizabeth Edwards (EE).

The whole group stood up with applause.

LS: Giving all the you have on your plate, why did choose to speak to us?

EE: As I travel around the country, there are probably people in this room that I have met with. The Blogosphere is the new town square were we go to share opinions and have discussions about things that are of interest. If I want to be heard and meet the people, I come to where they are.

If you are in a town where I am visiting, I want to meet with you. It is great to meet with so many of you at the same time.

LS: Can you tell us how you got started?

EE: I am mostly a commenter instead of someone who posts. It used to be that Deja News that had groups and I participated in a number of news groups. The first thing I did was auctioning sport cards with my son. We formed a community and got to know each other. I was trying to get pregnant with Emma Claire and Jack and I participated in an online community for infertility. After the death of my son I got involved with grief email lists, which became my my home to talk to other people who are experiencing what I am experiencing. Now I go to sites about breast cancer.

The things that usually separated us, do not with the blogosphere because now we have a shared interest. That person may not look like someone you have a shared interest but then you find out that person is blogging about something you have a shared interest in. Magic of the medium, we don't separate ourselves from one another. Having done it in a setting that is important to me.... it is almost an addiction to make those connections. As an interest came up I would go and Google it and then go to my online communities.

LS: In the past month you have asked Ann Coulter to stop her attacks.

EE: They don't go away if you ignore them. Same thing with Ann Coulter. Trolls are cowards. It is easy to out them. That is the only way I have seen them go away.

LS: You said you put them on ignore, do you have other blog names?

EE: Having a blog is like having a child that needs to be fed three times a day. I don't have that type of time so I have never had a blog of my own. But I participate in other blogs. I still have some of the old screen names but now I feel it is fair to use my real name.

LS:  Do you have someone write for you?

EE: I write everything I put out. I have a way that is identifiable. I have a style so I write my own. I am a nut about grammar.

LS: Has the campaign put limits on what you say?

EE: No one has told me stop talking. I answered the question about gay marriage a couple of times. The SF chronicle was the first to cover it. It depends on what questions are asked. If they don't ask us then they don't get the opportunity to hear our stand on healthcare. They only get the true information if they ask when an issue comes up.

LS: What are womens issues today?

EE: I have a larger way of understanding womens issues. I do town squares, I give them opportunity to ask questions, the same questions come up over and over again. Senator Clinton is in the right place for most womens issues. I am just faulting where she stands. We need someone to lead in a more aggressive way.

Those key womens issues are healthcare. In the a Town Hall meeting I was asked about healthcare. We need universal healthcare and Senator Clinton is not in the right place about this. We need 100% of the people covered. In my opinion the national will is there, we just need the leadership. We will need to raise taxes for those making over $200,000 to raise money for healthcare. If you say as a women you need to support me as a candidate, then you also need to say I will lead on the issues supporting you. I know my husband does that.

Audience: I think that childcare is an issue that effects mothers and non mothers. We have a horrible record as a country to provide quality childcare for parents. Can you talk about childcare.

EE: I am a mother myself and struggled with childcare. The big problem is that we do not have enough slots and competition to provide the full range of services. Education should be a birth to death experience. We need to start earlier. Some people think only the working moms need childcare. I think it helpful for all moms to have access to childcare. We need to teach both parents and children. If I put my kid in front of PBS shows then that would keep them that occupied. In that one to three year old age range I found out that is not good for them. I did not have the education. That is my position.

Johns' policies are that we need Headstart and Smartstart which covers the children from one to three years old so moms do not need to just "park" kids when they work but they get the proper stimulation. We need to educate a  larger group of people to be child educators. Pay for them to go to school and then in return they could teach. The retention rate is an issue. Part of solving the problem is that we have more educators and more competition. And the facilities to provide a fuller range of childcare services.

Audience: I have been heavily involved in Democratic Politics. In DC there are all these young people involved in politics. In New York, I have to explain more things to my friends. Please explain how to get young people involved.

EE: You want to make certain that young people are involved. John went around the country to college campuses and talked about poverty. In my age group we had a cause that was the Vietnam war. We sometimes deluded ourselves that we were making a difference. Young people may not be involved because they feel powerless. John took 800 college kids last spring break to St. Bernard Perish cleaning out houses and rebuilding. Now some of those are involved with political campaigns and community services. John wants to empower people to make a difference. Global Warming is also an issue young people are interested in.  I have also seen young people interested in stopping genocide in Darfur. It is part of the jobs of campaigns to hand those young people a megaphone. It not only helps the campaign but creates the long run effect that people continue to be involved in politics.

Our oldest daughter Cate is on the board of Generation Engage. This organization is directed at people that are most effected by political decisions but less likely to be involved. Getting those people involved is very important.

LS: Do you see Iraq as women's issue?

EE: 10% of the combat groups in Iraq are women (I think that is correct). In 2004, I did not have a single event I attended where a women did not cry about her child, husband or someone she knew in Iraq. If we had more moms in office, there would be less war. We saw more vocal protests when there was a draft. Ross Perot talked about Iraq during a dinner, he asked how many people have family members serving. Those sitting at the dinner did not raise their hands but those serving the dinner did. They don't see the faces I see, they would take this war more seriously.

Audience: Do you know your husband's stance on reversing media consolidation in consideration of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

EE: John is very clear that Rupert Murdoch is not the gatekeeper of information coming in to the American people. John has a desire to reverse the impact. Our newspapers are not locally owned. Our opinions should not be sent through some washing machine to be devoid of anything. As if the same news is reported as long as the sports page was interchanged. This is bad for democracy. That has made your jobs as bloggers even more important. Net neutrality is important. Single powerful, well financed voices should not be the only voices. Rupert Murdoch or none of us should be the sieve through which all information is delivered to the public. This is not an attack on Rupert Murdoch but an attack of the process.

LS: Laura Scott has blogged about Net Neutrality on BlogHer.org.

LS: Which blogs do you read?

EE: I have so many favorites I just scroll and hit different ones each time. I follow that one until I get interrupted by a 7 year old. Sometimes I start with one that comes up on Google alerts. I am normal women interested in a lot of different things.

LS: Do you use an RSS Reader?

EE: Whatever the campaign has set up.

Audience: I am an independent publisher. I do not have a blog, I am here learning. I am interested in eldercare issues. Speak to us on that.

EE: One feature of John's healthcare is coverage of chronic care and long term care. I face this issue myself. I have an 87 year old father. It is time consuming to deal with his issues. My mom has dementia so we hired senior management companies that have my role. We have the finances to do it. We need to expand the number of people who are capable of navigating elder care. It is not just doing the daily things but navigating a complicated system with Medicare, finding the right facilities. What would happen to my father and mother if they did not have children. We may need social workers to help out in those situations. It may be that we have a whole new industry to provide assistance to the elderly. Both those who are blessed to have children and those who do not. That is an emerging problem we need to address both facility and caregiver issues. Another important issues is Nurse educators. The truth is we are maximum capacity at nursing schools. Nurses are leaving because of mandatory overtime and pay. We need to give them an opportunity to get a master in nursing and have a regulated schedule.

Audience: I want to thank Elizabeth for taking the time to talk to us. It has been fantastic that you have been so involved in the blogoshpere. Microsoft does not have a blog search, Google does not have the Blog Search on the front page. How can we expose more people to the blogosphere instead of Paris Hilton.

EE: What is it with Google that you have to go to a pull down to get to the blog searches? It might be that it starts with demand. They are responsive to what the user community wants. I will sign any email petitions on that. I would like to hear a whole discussion when I turn on my Satellite Radio news instead of 90 seconds.  The only way to do that is put it in personal terms for people and tell a story. I was in Cleveland giving a speech when a women said she found a lump in her breast and she was afraid. She said " I can't go to the doctor because I have no insurance". I tell that story.  If she has Breast Cancer that is untreated, she will die. John met a man that is older but robust, he said he had a Cleft Palette. Even though he could speak, people could not understand him. He finally got it fixed in a free clinic when he was 50. For 50 years he could not be understood because he could not afford the $3000 operation. The genius behind blogs is that it gives people the venue to tell their personal stories. The genius behind You Tube is that it gives people the option to tell their story with videos. We need to give people a chance to speak and be heard. It is also a big obligations because you have to make it interesting enough to compete with Paris Hilton.

Audience: I am 27 years old and have yet to see someone Democratic campaign in Texas. I live in a red state and it seems no one campaigns there.

EE: We need a 50 state strategy. The great state of Texas elected Ann Richards. It is a question of who grabs their imagination. John has been direct that he runs a 50 state campaign. John and I have been to rallies in Texas. We can't win certain states. We can't elect Democrats in some states. We also can't give the other team a 40 point lead. I believe that John is the strongest in those states you are talking about.

Audience: We believe that religious liberals are not oxymoron's. How does your faith effect your opinions?

EE: John did an interview at Beliefnet...My father was in the Navy so I was exposed to many religions but raised Christen. I belong to a Methodist church. I have an odd version of God. I don't believe I can prey to him or her to solve my cancer. We are given a set of guidelines, we should do those things because it is right not because of Eternal Life. John and I are renewing our vows next week. I found our vows from 1977, which included that our marriage and our life should be serving and helping others. Those are the guidelines I live by.

Audience: I want to say this discussion is being dismissive of the conservatives here. I have been fascinated by the thoughts of a women dealing with a presidential campaign blogging. How many people review your blog entries before they are posted?

EE: Easy answer - Zero! Sometimes I do sent it to Tracy if I forgot my password. It is also true with comments. No one clears my comments and most of the time I forget to tell them I did it. I commented on Slate, then the next day I see my blog entry on the TV screen. But they do not give me any trouble. John has never suggested that I do not express what I think. I answer the question asked, even if it is not what you want to hear. I am the only spouses that currently does that. By the time we get to 2012, 2016 I am hopeful it will be common place. It is a mistake not to participate, it is a more intimate way to communicate . Do it the way I do it, person to person instead of having a press person write you post.

LS: Thank you!

Standing ovation for Elizabeth Edwards.


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