Kennedy Foundation honored NC delegate for standing up to GOP
Posted September 5, 2012
Updated September 6, 2012
Charlotte, N.C. — One of the North Carolina delegates who nominated President Barack Obama on Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention for re-election was in a very different position when Obama was nominated for his first term four years ago.
Elizabeth Redenbaugh was elected to the New Hanover County Board of Education in 2008 as a Republican. The attorney and mother of three had campaigned on a platform of diversity in Wilmington's schools, but once in office, her Republican colleagues pushed for a neighborhood schools system at the expense of diversity.
When Redenbaugh refused to go along with it, she was yelled at, threatened by angry parents and ridiculed by her own party. The local newspaper published an editorial using her own words, and her world exploded.
"I had stood up to racial segregation in our schools, and I made a lot of people angry," she said. "I got to see the underbelly of our local Republican Party."
In the end, she voted with the Democrats on the school board.
"It was awful, really," she said. "I thought, 'Oh my gosh, if you have segregated schools, there is no dignity, no value and no respect whatsoever. That was a big push for me."
After voting with Democrats, Redenbaugh became one. She had been a Republican for 26 years before that.
Then, a Democrat with a famous name gave her a call one afternoon.
"She said, 'Hey, Elizabeth. It's Caroline Kennedy," Redenbaugh said.
Kennedy called to tell Redenbaugh she had won a 2011 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. The Kennedy Foundation had selected her not because of the party switch but for her courage to stand against the tide, absorb the hate and vitriol that came her way and keep turning the other cheek.
"I got off the phone and went to YouTube and pulled up an interview with Caroline Kennedy to make sure the voice I heard was the same voice as on the phone," she said.
It took a call to her best friend before she realized it wasn't a hoax.
"I'm telling her about it, and she said, 'I'd really think you were making this up except for the fact that you're so nervous I can hear your earring hitting the phone," she said with a laugh.
Redenbaugh shared the Boston stage at the awards ceremony with Wael Ghorim, the young Egyptian who, through social media, started what led to the revolution last year that ousted that country's president, Hosni Mubarak.
Caroline Kennedy praised Redenbaugh with a quote from her late father: "One person of courage makes a majority."
"It still hasn't (sunk in)," Redenbaugh said of all the changes she's been through. "It really hasn't."