Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 9/1/2008 [Archive]

Read My Lips

Read My Lips

By Martha Randolph Carr

Former presidential candidate, John Edwards really knows how to make lemonade out of lemons. Doesn't matter that he created the sour mess he's in, you have to admire the chutzpah. The latest twist is he's hiked his speaking fee from an already large $55,000 that was paid out by the University of California at Davis two years ago for a presentation on poverty to $65,000 and this time, during a downturn in the economy.

Even better, a student group at another public institution, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has agreed to go ahead and pony up the fee for a presentation on October 14th. This time Edwards is expected to speak about the American Dream. We should all bring our kids, particularly the grown ones who won't move out of the basement, so they can see hard evidence that it is possible to make a few bucks doing just about anything. The late circus impresario, P.T. Barnum would have loved this moment. Our entire cultural motto for this country has been reduced to an expensive ironic joke.

It used to be a given for most of the 20th century that one good sex scandal and a political career was not only over, so were all the perks that came with the old job. Didn't really matter what country and the person in question became so radioactive that only his childhood friends would still hang out with him. Former President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress both had a hand in changing that old adage.

Clinton was able to take advantage of a thriving economy and an impressive ability to stare down his enemies and wait out the ruckus till the inevitable happened. Someone else screwed up and our attention strayed. The U.S. Congress also helped lower the bar by demanding accountability for morality without policing its own members.

One by one, elected officials got caught with their hands in other people's pockets or pants and it became increasingly more difficult to drum up outrage. We ran out of moral steam.

Still, Clinton, Gingrich, Condit, Craig and a multitude of others had to let a little time pass and buy a lot of jewelry for the missus before they could get back to charging large speaking fees and talking about how to solve the world's problems. Edwards has managed to shorten the time-line down to just a couple of weeks.

Edwards is apparently the icon we want our college age kids, who we've saved and scrimped to send off for some higher learning, to turn to in order to figure out how to achieve their dreams. It's got to be some kind of wish list that was inspired by MTV Cribs or a few too many action movies.

Plenty of pundits have said that we have been too indulgent of the generation that follows us and that we will pay for the ridiculous way we have said, it's okay to just about anything. Apparently, we've found our price tag.

What about offering up speakers who've overcome the odds to create something better with their lives? There are actually hundreds of them out there on the circuit and for a lot less money. Susie Krabacher, the former Playboy centerfold who turned her life around and now operates one of the most successful charities in Haiti. Or Bill Borchert, who wrote the Lois Wilson Story, and speaks on addiction, using his own experience as an example.

The point is they aren't spinning their past into some airy confection hoping to get us all to play along in their denial. Their American Dream is the tried and true one about making mistakes, learning from them and then building a better life. They aren't trying to profit from their mistakes, but teach from the lessons they learned after it stopped being all about them.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group for a lot less money visit: www.newvoicespeakers.com. Email Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.

© 2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Sales@cagle.com.

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