Identifying with John Edwards and Joan Fitz-Gerald
Thinking about Joan and John, had we grown up together in the same working-class neighborhood where making ends meet was a day-to-day struggle, I wonder how well we would have gotten along as kids. At 16, I doubt John and I would have personally gotten along given his penchant to be a jock and my general preference for things nerdy. Joan, on the other hand, could have easily been one of my sister’s cool friends.
What the three of us, like many of you, have in common, though, is that character-building upbringing—understanding that you are not among the privileged elite, but determined to make something of your life by working as many jobs as you need. Dirt under the fingernail is something to be proud of, not to be ashamed of.
At an early age, John experienced firsthand the humiliation associated with being unable to do what others took for granted, in his case, going out for a meal at a nice sit-down place. By taking night classes, his mill-working father modeled for his son that one is never too old to learn. Learning from those experiences, Edwards was the first in his family to put himself through college, something I can identify with.
I tell the story of my mother who, when she had an extra 39 cents for ice cream, would slice the block rather than scooping it out. Fairness and equality were paramount values. With 13 children and having lost our father while carrying the last, Mum taught us by example of what it means to work hard, to value education, despite her having to drop out after the eighth grade, and to hold your head up with dignity.
My mother was as determined as Joan Fitz-Gerald’s, also a single mom. John and Joan are who and where they are because of the values they acquired from their parents. Both have struggled to make the best of their lives, and they remember well their roots and that struggle to achieve that all too often elusive American Dream.
Because they haven’t lost sight of their growing experiences, Fitz-Gerald and Edwards have dedicated their lives to working to change a system that seems to take perverse pleasure in throwing curveballs to and putting roadblocks in front of everyday Americans, struggling oftentimes by working two or three jobs, only to watch their American Dream get repossessed after being blind-sided by the unexpected.
Joan and John may not be the first choices of the wine-and-cheese crowd, those who have no idea what it’s like to eat cornmeal mush for dinner or to darn their socks. But, hopefully, they will be the first choices of those who know what I am writing about, those whose lives are not premised on some kumbaya ideal, but on grit and determination by fighting for a better life for themselves, their kids, and others who are struggling to realize the American Dream.
Joan Fitz-Gerald as our representative in Congress and John Edwards as our president would be a victory for hard-working Americans who dare to dream the dream. A son and a daughter of the under-privileged, both will remain resolute in the fight for a more just and fair society. John and Joan have it in their blood to stand toe to toe against the powerful moneyed elite to the end for those who are now where they were way back then—because they’ve been there and done that.