A Family Campaign
Elizabeth Edwards tells Scholastic News about family life on the trail
Elizabeth Edwards (center), wife of Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, with Scholastic Kid Reporters Chole Conway (left) and Elizabeth Conway (right) in Hollis, New Hampshire on December 17, 2007. (Photo courtesy Suzanne Freeman).
Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential candidate and former Senator John Edwards, is a very busy woman. She is a lawyer, wife and mother of three children who daily juggles a family's needs and the demands of a national political campaign.
We met with Mrs. Edwards on the campaign trail at a town hall meeting in Hollis, New Hampshire, inside the historic Lawrence Barn Community Center, reconstructed by local Hollis residents. She frequently travels with her two younger children, 9-year-old Emma Claire and 7-year-old Jack. Her older child, Cate, is a student at Harvard Law School, though she is also on the campaign trail occasionally. The younger kids attend many political events with their parents.
We asked what is it like to travel as a family on the campaign trail. Mrs. Edwards responded that it's just like traveling with any family anywhere, except they hear their father give speeches to people. It's like a vacation and education all rolled into one.
"One of the great things about this country is that there are so many incredible things to see and do," she said. "The kids go to real communities, and they get to see a different kind of America that most tourists do not get to see. They go to playgrounds, skating rinks, and museums throughout the country. One time we were campaigning in New Hampshire, and the children went to Boston and did the Freedom Trail."
In the evenings, they eat dinner together as a family. "Things like traveling on the bus, when we do that, are the most fun of all because they are with us more of the day," she said.
Emma Claire and Jack have hobbies and like to do things that any ordinary kids do. Kid Reporter Chloe Conway, who also is 9 years old like Emma Claire, asked about her hobbies.
"Emma Claire really likes the computer and Webkins," Mrs. Edwards said. "She really loves animals—we have three dogs, and she always talks about what other types of animals we can get. We live out in the country, and there are deer, fox, and rabbits."
Emma Claire likes to explore around her house and often photographs animals and animal tracks. She also has a tree house which she has been decorating by painting flower pots and her name on the walls.
Mrs. Edwards then talked about her kids' favorite school subjects. Jack likes math and Emma Claire loves to read.
"She reads constantly," Mrs. Edwards said. "That's not a bad habit. It's really hard for me to even ask her to put the book down sometimes because I am so proud she's doing it."
Mrs. Edwards also loves to read and believes it is an important habit for everyone.
"Think about all the people you'll never meet in your life, but all the ways of which you can find out how they feel and what their life experiences are, and that's what reading is," she said. Before becoming a lawyer, Mrs. Edwards was training to become a teacher. "I wanted to teach literature because I wanted people to love to read," she said. "So I am really proud that Emma Claire likes to read."
We ask for reading suggestions for kids our age. She said kids should look for books that capture their attention.
"Emma Claire just started to learn a lot of history, so I was actually really pleased with the American Girl History books because they actually give a real taste of what it was like for someone her age to have lived in a different time," she said. "They do a really excellent job. I really think the Historical Girls and the accuracy of those books is really something. And the Newbery Medal winners are always a great source to encourage children to read."
The young Edwards family members aren't strangers to demanding national campaigns. In 2004, then-Senator Edwards was the Democratic nominee for Vice President. The family was along for that ride, as well. Mrs. Edwards cites some valuable lessons she hopes her children will learn from these campaigns.
"I think it's very important for children to learn that we have an obligation outside of our zone," she said. "You have an obligation to the greater whole that makes us. If none of us did that, if not a single one of us ever contributed, we would be much worse off. You have to take that responsibility yourself."
Mrs. Edwards hopes her children learn other things besides the importance of public service. They also have to learn how to live with challenges such as her cancer.
"Of course the other thing they have to learn from my having cancer is bad things happen to you, but you just don't give up; you keep fighting for the things you thought were important," she said. "That may be the most important lesson I ever teach them in their whole lives: not to give up just because something bad happens. You just have to be willing to power through it if we can."
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Chloe Conway is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.
Elizabeth Conway is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.