Maria Shriver, Madeleine Albright, Christiane Amanpour, Jennifer Lopez, Condoleezza Rice, Gloria Steinem, Billie Jean King, Rachel Ray, Bonnie Raitt, Louise Hay, Indra Nooyi and many more renowned and inspiring women revealed their personal stories and life challenges on a wake-up call day in Long Beach, CA on Wednesday.
I took a traffic-filled drive on Wednesday morning from Santa Monica down to Long Beach to attend the annual Women's Conference at the Long Beach Convention Center. Although I try to drive as little as possible for eco-reasons and the fact that I can't stand being stuck in highway traffic, the pull of this conference was too much to stop me.
I arrived (a little late) at the conference to a conversation not between three women -- but between three men! They were talking about how incredible women are -- like giant computers -- with an incomprehensible ability to multi-task and to think about things from the deepest and broadest perspectives. These three men were California Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger, political pundit and tv host Chris Mathews and investment guru Warren Buffet. Warren Buffet, having grown up with two sisters, acknowledged how terrible it was that they were given the message that they did not have the same destiny as their brother. I thought Chris Mathews put it best when he said, "It's not new, the capability (of women). It's new, the recognition." It was so refreshing to hear men talk with respect and admiration for women's capabilities.
It was Maria Shriver who expanded this annual California-based conference (founded in 1985) five years ago with her husband Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to inspire, educate and empower women to be their best and become architects of positive change for the world! Since that time, it has become a life-changing event for thousands and thousands of women. In fact, the conference has become so popular that this year the 14,000 tickets sold out in two hours. Maria, quick to think about how to include and inspire more women, added an additional event the evening before where those who couldn't attend on the big day could at least have a hit of inspiration and connect to the life force of the main gig.
Although there were thousands of women (and some men) at the event, I felt like I was having multiple café conversations with international journalists, CEOs, Secretaries of State, national sports champions, rock stars, renowned social activists, financial gurus, health gurus, celeb entertainers, First Ladies, and more! Where else can something like that happen? As U2's Bono (who was also at the conference) put it -- "California is the frontier of what is possible."
One of the most exciting women for me to hear speak was legendary international journalist Christiane Amanpour. Since college, I wanted to be a journalist -- to tell the stories of people from around the world so that we would in the end discover and come to understand our connection to one another. Christiane, having grown up in Iran with a privileged background said her mom showed her there was nothing a woman couldn't do. But then the Islamic Revolution came and her world turned upside down. Her family and many she knew fled the country. She told us that her main inspiration to become a journalist was to tell the stories of the people whose stories might otherwise not be told, and in particular, the stories of women and children. "My loss became my driving force," said Christiana. "I wanted to use my voice in service of the truth."
Christiane's story was one of many moving stories from a rich lineup of women from all arenas of life. Whether a cooking show host, a secretary of state, or a medical intuitive, throughout the day women imparted their wisdom from their life experiences and empowered one another through their stories of achievement, generosity, passion and courage. They showed us that it doesn't matter what direction you are coming from, but by taking responsibility for being awake and expressing oneself with passion and truth -- we can make positive change in the world. Coming together as we did at the conference felt like a call to action. As Christiane put it, "Change will come when people decide it's more important to be a citizen than just inhabiting our planet." She said with a smile, "Sitting on the sidelines is so yesterday."
Are you sitting on the sidelines? And if so, what is keeping you from living your passions? Fear probably, right? Did you ever consider that stepping into your fears will help them fall away? How about naming them and then stepping into them one by one? I'm going to try!