Flashback to John Edwards, Bonnie Raitt & Jackson Browne

Last week two music legends headlined campaign rallies for John Edwards, but the workload pre-holiday was too heavy to be able to blog about it and the venue too cramped to get the laptop fired up on site  I was able to sit in on the trio’s session at the Des Moines Roosevelt High School auditorium last Tuesday night.  The stop was the last of the "tour" and the Edwards campaign said 1600 people had signed in at the door.  It was standing room only in the auditorium, which had a balcony..

Browne was first on the stage.  "Thank you very much.  It’s good to be here," is all Browne said before launching into chords on his guitar.  "I’ve been waiting for something to happen for a week or a month or a year," Browne began singing.  Fans in the audience who recognized the lyric applauded.  "There’s blood in the ink on the headlines…"

Next, Raitt came on stage accompanied by Hutch Hutchinson who played base.  "Go Bonnie," someone in the crowd yelled.  "So proud to be here on our two-day world tour for John Edwards.  It’s just the beginning," Raitt told the crowd.  "Seventy degrees in Iowa City and now we have this.  For Californians like us, this is major seasonage."

Their first song as a duo began with Browne singing, "Sun goin’ down on the USA…." with both strumming their guitars. 

"We’re getting behind (Edwards) in a big way so thank you for coming out tonight," Raitt said during the interlude before the third song, which was John Prine’s Angel from Montgomery, sung in three-part harmony.

"Are you ready for the thing called love?  It don’t come from me and you it comes from up above," is the main lyric of their next song.

After the "concert," Roxanne Conlin took the stage to give her tesimonial.  Conlin, a Des Moines attorney, was the Iowa Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nominee back in 1982, but she spoke not of that but of Edwards’ reputation as an attorney.   "We were doing the same thing for a living, speaking for people who had no voice.  Standing up for injured people against insurance companies and big corporations," Conlin said, as the crowd interrupted at this point to applaud.  "And John Edwards was a legendary attorney.  He was very well-known by lawyers around the country because he was so strong, so articulate, so smart, so dedicated, so unbelievably sincere — unbelievably sincere is kind of an oxymoron, I realize that — but he was in every way in the deepest part of his soul committed to doing right by his clients."

A few minutes later, Conlin launched into an "electability" argument.  "I’m supporting him because I think he is the person who will be the great leader and who is most likely to be elected and we Democrats must win this election," Conlin said, as the crowd applauded.  "We have to win this election."  The cheering and applause continued.  "We have to win this election for our country and for the world.  We have to take our country back from these ignorant, corrupt fools who have stolen it from us."  The crowd erupted in applause and cheers again.   "My friend John Edwards is the person who can give us our country back."

Conlin then introduced Edwards.  The campaign played the Wallflowers’ version of the song "Heroes" as Edwards came onto the stage.

"What a joy it is for me to be here with all of you," Edwards began, adding his thanks to Conlin, who he called an "extraordinarily strong woman."

Edwards elicited a second round of applause for the performers, then launched right into his speech.

"If you want to know what’s wrong in America, you don’t have to go very far.  News out today was that the United States government is going to men & women who have served this country in the war in Iraq and who were hurt in Iraq and have come back because they were badly injured weren’t able to finish their tour of duty and sent them a bill for the signing amount they got when they signed up for the military.  Men & women serving in Iraq, two days before Thanksgiving, are getting a bill from the United States for their service for America in Iraq.  This is wrong. When is this going to stop?  This is such an example of what’s wrong in this country today and our responsibility to make it right.  We can do better than that," Edwards said, as the crowd began to applaud. 

He continued talking over the applause.  "We all know we’re better than that and the starting place by the way is to end this mess of a war in Iraq.  It has to be brought to an end," Edwards said, as the crowd began applauding again.  "And it’s not just about ending the war in Iraq.  It’s about standing up to Bush and Cheney and the neocons on their march to war in Iran.  We’ve got to show some strength, some backbone," Edwards said, as the crowd started applauding again.  "Our party’s going to have to show some spine to keep these people from continuing on their march to war. It is so important that we stand up to them."

Edwards went on to talk about the Senate Resolution that declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.  As you may know, Senator Clinton has been under fire for voting in favor of that resolution.  Edwards did not mention her vote, but did mention the votes of other senators who are running for president.  "I want to compliment Senators Dodd and Biden who stood up and stood up to Bush and Cheney and voted no," Edwards said, as the crowd began to applaud.  "They did the right thing."

Edwards continued.  "All of our concern started to show fruition last week when Bush, Cheney and the neocons, the Administration declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and, you’ll love this part, a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction," Edwards said, as the crowd reacted with a few laughs.

"We’ve seen this movie.  We know how it ends and we have to stop it before it gets to the point of a military invasion of Iran," Edwards said, to hearty and lengthey applause.

One thing to note in Edwards’ speeches is that in key passages he uses the words "we" and "our" and "us" much more often than he uses the word "I." 

"…Listen, we have to do what generations before us have done.  It is time, it is our time to step up and take charge because we can turn our backs and pretend this is not going on.  The easy way out — I’ll be the first to tell you and I’m as guilty as anybody — the easy way out is to say this is just the way it is.  We can’t do anything about this.  They’re too strong.  They’re too well-financed, they’re too powerful and there’s nothing we can do about it, but if we’re going to say that, you’d better be willing to look your children in the eye and say, ‘We’re going to leave this mess to you‘ because I don’t believe we’ll do that.  I don’t think that’s Americans.  The great thing about the American people is we never take the easy way out.  We have shown over and over and over that when that challenge shows, we stand up," Edwards said, as the crowd applauded.  "We show strength and courage….We can meet this challenge.  We will meet this challenge."

Listen to the passage by clicking here (mp3 runs one & a half minutes).

Edwards threaded that theme into the rest of his speech.  "It is time for all of us, together, to stand up.  There is too much at stake, too much at stake, and our founding fathers knew there would be times like this. They wrote about it.  They talked about it.  They knew the time would come when the few, the powerful, the wea;thy would try to control this democracy.  But here’s what they said about it — they put the sovereign power in you.  They knew that when it happened, the American people would rise up and take action.  Well, this is where we are today.  It is time.  We must lead.  We must take responsibility for our children and our grandchildren."

"…How long are we gonna let these people run our country?  When are we actually going to take this democracy back?  When are we going to speak up?" Edwards asked, as the crowd applauded. 

"….My party, the Democratic Party, I love this party, but when my party does not stand up for the poor, the disenfranchised, the disabled, the voiceless — we lose our soul and we cannot lose our soul as a party," he said, to applause.  "And it says something about the character of America, what we’re willing to do for millions of our own people who are hungry, for millions of our own people who wake up every day living in poverty..We, all of us, we have a moral responsibility to do something about all of this.  We do," Edwards said, as the crowd applauded.  "Their voices, their voices will never be heard, will never be heard by the powerful.  Their voices will never be heard by lobbyists in Washington, D.C.  Their only hope is that we stand up, that we speak out, that we speak for them because without us, they don’t have a chance."

"…We have an epic fight on our hands and we’d better be ready for it and we’d better have what it takes inside for that fight and we’d better have the backbone for it because it is right there in front os us.  They are going to give us nothing.  They are going to give their power away only when we take it away," Edwards said, the "they" in those sentences being corporate interests.

And finally, as Edwards talks about what he would do as president, it sometimes comes out as "what I will do, with you, when I’m president."

The closing statement, at the end of a 20 minute speech:  "All these challenges we face, they’re serious, but every single one of them we can meet and when we meet them, together, when we meet them we’re going to make sure that we leave America better than we found and we’re going to make absolutely sure that our children have a better life than we’ve had.  Thank you all very much for coming."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Sounds like a good time. Thanks for the recap – and the mp3.