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Welcome to Viewpoint, a live discussion forum on washingtonpost.com. This forum offers washingtonpost.com sponsors a platform to discuss issues, new products, company information and other topics. Today, the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) takes you behind the scenes to look at life in and around politics.

Insiders' Insights With Hadassah Lieberman
Tuesday, July 10, 2001

ACLI is pleased to introduce Insiders' Insights, an opportunity to learn about politics from the inside. This is the flip side to our election-year series, Talk to the Candidates, in which candidates for federal and statewide office responded to voter questions concerning retirement security.

During this discussion, Hadassah Lieberman answered questions about life on the campaign trail when her husband, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), ran for election as the vice presidential candidate on last year's national Democratic ticket. Mrs. Lieberman, an accomplished businesswoman and community leader, shared her experiences and described what it was like to be on the inside looking out.

Hadassah Freilich Lieberman has dedicated much of her life's work to health issues, assisting nonprofit organizations, improving educational standards and promoting international understanding. Most recently, she developed an Advisory Network for Women's Health whose Sister to Sister Network promotes awareness and prevention of heart disease (1998-2000). She has also worked at HFL & Associates (1997-98); APCO Associates (1993-97); the National Research Council (1990-93); Pfizer Pharmaceuticals (1982-85); Hoffmann-La Roche (1972-81); and Lehman Brothers (1971-72).

Mrs. Lieberman's community involvement includes serving on the Boards of Directors of Best Friends, Meridian House and the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation; and chairing the Multiple Sclerosis Society's Ambassadors Ball. She was a member of the U.S. delegation commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz, and has participated in international forums on environmental and socioeconomic issues in Eastern Europe.

Hadassah Lieberman was born in Prague, Czech Republic, and raised in Gardner, Massachusetts. She holds an undergraduate degree from Boston University and a Masters degree from Northeastern University. Senator and Mrs. Lieberman have four children and two grandchildren.


Moderator: Welcome to Insiders' Insights with our guest, Hadassah Lieberman. Mrs. Lieberman, thank you for joining us, and let's begin.

Beckley, W.Va.: Mrs. Lieberman,
I am curious whether there was anything in particular about campaigning last year that surprised you. Was it what you expected?

Hadassah Lieberman: Thanks. I'm so happy to be here. What an incredible opportunity we have at this time in our lives to talk to one another on the Internet and perhaps that thought ties into the first question from West Virginia about what surprised me last year. Participating in a national campaign was exciting and it truly was national. We had eye contact with America. You can not expect anything since it is so different from anything I have ever done in my entire life!

Arlington, Va.: Good afternoon. What advice can you offer working women, particularly working mothers, who would like to become more civically involved? How do you balance family, work and community service?

Hadassah Lieberman: Oftentimes during the campaign I found myself struggling with the question of how we women do it all. I talked about the juggling that we are all forced to do -- some of us with two balls in the air, some of us with 10. We are all forced to prioritize and most of us realize that one thing or another is left behind, and we try again the next week to make it better. As for advice, we are each individuals and we need to be tolerant of our own weaknesses. I guess the best thing we can do is pat ourselves on the back every once in awhile.

Wichita, Kan.: Thanks, Mrs. Lieberman
What advice would you have for the spouse of someone running for office in terms of how to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground?

Hadassah Lieberman: This is a tough question. It is so important to keep in mind that hopefully you had a life that precedes this campaign and will have one after the campaign is over. Keep in mind that campaigns do not make for quality lifestyles!

Brookline, Mass.: Hello Mrs. Lieberman,
I'm extremely curious to know what it was like for you to become a national figure literally overnight, to have your life changed so drastically so suddenly! I'm an admirer and I thank you for your response.

Hadassah Lieberman: To wake up one morning to an announcement on the television about your husband being the Democratic vice presidential candidate was incredible. Someone warned us while they were considering Joe that if it were to happen the experience would be much like a fire hose exploding in your face, and I can tell you it was exactly like that.

Manchester, N.H.: Mrs. Lieberman,
Having traveled around the country during last year's campaign, what would you say are the common threads among the American people?

Hadassah Lieberman: I know this sounds corny, but my husband and I were overwhelmed by the goodness, honesty and warmth of the American people. Obviously we didn't see everyone everywhere, but everyone we met was wonderful. I was also so proud that our democracy requires potential national leaders to go out and meet the people face to face.

Newport Beach, Calif.: Within the confines of the structure and schedule of a campaign, was it possible for an individual's circumstances to penetrate a candidate's awareness, other than through purposeful outreach? In other words, is it possible to connect with individuals on the camapign trail -- indivdiuals without an agenda?

Hadassah Lieberman: All the time. Although there were many people around us so often there were circumstances, particular events, roundtable discussions, that showcased an individual or specific problems that pertained to individuals. I often acquired a better understanding of specific problems that some people face.

Washington, D.C.: Hi. Was it difficult to work with reporters and the media during the campaign? Was it hard to protect your private time?

Hadassah Lieberman: For the most part the press was fine. Their job was to get information. Obviously, every now and then there were inaccuracies in reporting. Private time? I was happy when I had collapse time!

Kansas City, Mo.: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this. I'm looking forward to the discussion and to the interaction. I'm wondering -- was the toll that an active and closely fought campaign must have taken, emotionally and physically, something you were prepared for?

Hadassah Lieberman: I wasn't prepared to do a national campaign, so obviously I had no idea as to what the impact would be, win or lose. However, as we all know, life prepares us in many different ways for many different circumstances.

Miami, Fla.: Do you think your husband's religion was an asset or a liability in the presidential race? Why or why not?

Hadassah Lieberman: My husband's entry into the race helped make it a close election, and keep in mind that they received the largest popular vote. As for religion, obviously it was initially quite a story since he was the first Jewish-American on a national ticket. Interestingly, it was not even discussed much once the campaign was in full force.

Washington, D.C.: As the campaign progressed, were there any topical issues that you particularly championed? If so, has your work on that (those) issue(s) continued?

Hadassah Lieberman: I've been working for quite some time now on health issues, and in particular, on women's health. Women and heart disease was my focus before the campaign and I continued that focus as I made my way across the country.

Arlington, Va.: Mrs. Lieberman,
Were you surprised by the amount of international exposure you got during the campaign?

Hadassah Lieberman: Yes. I was particularly surprised and elated. As an immigrant, so many times immigrants from all over the world came up to me and thanked me for talking about my background as an immigrant.

Carlisle, Pa.: Looking back on the campaign trail, is there anything you would have done differently?

Hadassah Lieberman: I can not think of anything I could have done differently. I guess I would have liked traveling more with my husband, but we each had a job to do on our own.

Augusta, Maine: Good day Mrs. Lieberman. What is your opinion about the level of partisanship in Congress? Do you think it has gone too far, thereby doing a disservice to the American public?

Hadassah Lieberman: Honestly, I am probably the worst person to ask about partisanship. I may be naive but I often believe we should "work things out." It is important for the public to make sure their leaders understand that they have interests that go beyond partisan ones. I think that we are blessed to have many leaders who understand that and work very hard to please their publics.

Washington, D.C.: What was it like to stand on stage at the Democratic National Convention and look out over a sea of "Hadassah!" signs, and hear the crowd chanting for you?

Hadassah Lieberman: Incredible ... but I must say, even more so when I watched the tape!!!!

Chillicothe, Mo.: Mrs. Lieberman,
After your experience with the presidential campaign, do you have any interest in running for public office yourself?

Hadassah Lieberman: None whatsoever, but thanks for the compliment.

Irvine, Calif.: What have you been working on since the campaign concluded?

Hadassah Lieberman: I am continuing my work in the area of women's health; heart disease in particular. I am also working on trying to get things back to "normal!!"

Bethesda, Md.: Dear Mrs. Lieberman:
I have often thought that you could be uniquely effective reducing discriminaton against Arab-Americans, and perhaps forging alliances between them and Jewish Americans. Such a coalition might even have a positive effect on Middle East peace. Have you ever considered working on these issues?

Hadassah Lieberman: I was in the process of working on women and heart disease with an Arab-Israeli group. I pray that peace will come and that we can once again focus on these kinds of issues.

Atlanta, Ga.: Mrs. Lieberman: I'm curious whether Sen. Lieberman asks for your advice about issues impacting women?

Hadassah Lieberman: Joe Lieberman has always been sensitive to issues impacting women. He understands the issues that impact me on a personal level ... I am a mother, a daughter and a wife.

Hadassah Lieberman: I really enjoyed this opportunity to "chat" with you! I was so fortunate to have experienced a national campaign. We were thrilled to have had so many wonderful experiences that we can now share. Wishing you health and peace of mind and time to enjoy each other.


Moderator: Our thanks to Hadassah Lieberman, ACLI and all who participated.

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