Election '07 / Interview with Wanda Brown
She'd vowed never to marry a politician
…Then she met Ewart Brown and fell in love. Wanda is by his side and neither insults nor mailed bullets will unglue them
Friday, December 14, 2007 11:48 AM
She's the closest we have to a First Lady and Wanda Brown would like to keep it that way.
The wife of Premier Ewart Brown says the couple has no back up plans in case the PLP loses the general election on Tuesday because they do not believe it is going to happen.
"I don't want to sound like I'm taking the voters for granted, but the PLP has done an incredible job of running the country and I think they will be re-elected," she said. "I don't need to entertain the thought of them losing."
Mrs. Brown, 56, was enveloped in one of her characteristic shawls as she stepped out of her white Chrysler Cruiser for our interview at Camden House in the Botanical Gardens yesterday. She comes across calm and friendly, her usual disposition, but one that was disrupted earlier this week when a bullet and threatening letter addressed to the couple's house was intercepted at the post office.
Dr. Brown told his wife about it on the way to the PLP rally in St. George's on Monday night. But it only seemed real when it hit the headlines the next day.
"I had a whole bunch of emotions," Mrs. Brown told us. "The most prevalent one was it was sad. It knocked me off my feet for a bit, I was thinking, 'how did it come to this?' When someone threatens my husband's life, they threaten the essence of my life. If anything happens to him, it happens to me."
She continued: "I'm the kind of person who looks for a blessing, even in adversity. The blessing for both of us is that I didn't discover it. It would have been a horrible thing to see. I can't even imagine going to the mailbox and finding a bullet. I take it very seriously, but I know my husband has to march forward and I have to march forward with him. He has to do what he does, and I have to continue being his wife and support him. It threw me off balance for a day or two but when that happens I pray a little bit more and get spiritually centered. I'm back in the game now."
Mrs. Brown, the youngest daughter of a nurses' aide and bus operator grew up in Alexandria, Louisiana, a town about the size of Bermuda. "Perfect preparation," she says.
She excelled in school and went on to work in government public finance and as an investment banker on Wall Street. She has also been a licensed attorney for 30 years and has her own consultative marketing and private placement practice, Lloyd Bridge, which she started more than ten years ago. She first met Dr. Brown in 1992 at a mutual friend's party at Martha's Vineyard, where Mrs. Brown owned a house. She'd heard his name mentioned many years before because of his involvement in the civil rights movement and his position as president of the study body at Howard University.
Dr. Brown was married at the time, so their first meeting ended up being nothing more than a social 'hello'. The next sighting was at Martha's Vineyard Airport three years later, in 1995. "He was with his then wife and two beautiful children," she said. "I remember thinking 'what a nice family'."
Fast forward to 2001. Mrs. Brown was coming to Bermuda to meet a client. Dr. Brown was the only person she knew here so she tried to arrange a meeting. Dr. Brown was travelling at the time but arranged to meet at a New York airport, where he had a two-hour lay over.
"He mentioned somewhere in the conversation that he was divorced. At that point I looked up and said to myself 'Oh my God.' I wore the wrong thing. I stayed up all night learning about Bermuda when I should have been washing my hair and trying to make myself look cute.
"I knew immediately, instantly that he was for me. I called two friends of mine on the way back from the airport and told them I'd just met a life-changer and that I'd move to Bermuda tomorrow."
She says he was the "full package" - funny, intelligent, enthusiastic and blessed with a social conscience. "He was a real gentleman," she said. At that point he was the Minister of Transport, and even though she had vowed never to marry a politician, she could not help but find herself falling in love.
"I've been very close to politics and politicians all my life; my father was very politically astute. I've a close friend who was in the state senate. I was very close to the former Mayor of Washington, Sharon Pratt Kelly, and the former Mayor of New York, David Dinkins, and extraordinarily close to Carl McCall, the former Comptroller of New York State. Because I was so close to them I knew how challenging politics could be and I really thought I didn't want that kind of life," she said.
"It was only this summer when I had an epiphany that God was actually preparing me then to be married to a politician."
Everyone agrees this election campaign has been particularly nasty. Asked if she thinks the media coverage has been fair, she laughs. "It's a laughable question. Down south we'd call that a hoot." She says she stays grounded in prayer.
"When I read those horrible things that they say about my husband in the press I can still smile that day, but just because I can smile doesn't mean that it's not hurtful. So many things are so untrue, patently untrue. I just find comfort and strength in God and thank God that I grew up in the church.
"When they criticize him, that's their right in a democratic society. What I don't like is when they lie about him and try to demonize him."
She's been on the receiving end of some of the criticism too, in particular her involvement with the stem cell research company Stemedica and the establishment of the Brown-Darrell clinic. Asked about that today, she says construction is ongoing, an opening date would be announced soon and that it fully intends to comply with regulations.
Overall, she said she and her husband are very grounded and while there may be good days and bad days, when it's just the two of them at the end of the day with their dog Diamond, it's a good place to be. The couple also loves to unwind by playing Scrabble.
She enjoys canvassing with her husband and says she offers as much emotional support as she can.
"Sometimes people ask me if I like being the First Lady. I tell them I am my husband's wife and his calling at this juncture in his life is to lead his country and my calling is to be his wife. Its not an independent choice, it's the reality that comes with being in a wonderful marriage. I enjoy being with my husband. Period." Outside of politics, she says Dr. Brown is an incredibly loving father and grandfather. His two youngest sons, Donovan and Trey, who both attend Howard University, are coming home for the election. "He's so proud of them," she says.
With just four days until the election, we ask Mrs. Brown whether she feels she's had to make any sacrifices being the Premier's wife. She told us: "I love and respect my husband so much and what he is doing so much, I just can't view it as a sacrifice.
"I stand behind my husband and to the left and right of him. If someone tried to hurt him I'd stand in front of him and I think he would do the same for me. We are blessed to have each other."