By Joy A. Kennelly
Before I begin the wrap-up of yesterday's wonderful Women's Conference, I just want to extend my deepest sympathy to those whose lives and homes have been devastated by the wildfires. I experienced a fire evacuation living in Malibu many years back and I'll never forget the outpouring of kindness from strangers during my time of need.
If you'd like to help, a fellow Brunching Lady posted this announcement as a resource:
The Red Cross of Santa Monica is looking for volunteers to support Canteen Services at the Malibu Fire staging area thru the next 48 hours and possibly longer. They are also recruiting for Greater L.A. area Evacuation/Shelters. If you are interested in volunteering please contact Beverly Holms via email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or Mark Solnick at email@example.com
My best friend's cabin in Lake Arrowhead is under attack and her boyfriend's brother has already lost his Fallbrook home. Now his mother's home is under attack. Please pray for them and also all the others who are under siege. What's so sad to me is that an arsonist was involved in at least one of the fires. I hope they catch that person and put them away for a long time. What devastation.
I know going to a women's conference rather than volunteering immediately could be seen as callous or selfish, but I believe this event raised the consciousness of 14,000 women who attended on ways they could help via the American Red Cross which will perhaps have a greater impact in the long run. I don't know, I hope so though.
There were so many high-level female CEO's, Senior management etc who participated you never know what they will do once they return to their companies. I was very impressed that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger chose to skip dialoging with former Prime Minister Tony Blair to participate fully in the relief efforts instead. I don't care what your politics are, you have to admire the way he's taken control of this situation and helped us receive federal aid so quickly.
I loved watching the interview this morning with I believe it was Good Morning America and the reporter kept trying to find something wrong with the way things had been handled. Arnold at one point, just took her by the hand and told her straight to her face you can try to find something wrong all you want, but this has been very positive and has been handled beautifully. That will remain to be seen, but for now, I want to believe that's the case so allow me this for now. I love it when men take charge! Go Ahnold!
You do have to admit this was handled drastically differently than Katrina and I'm so glad to see the government seemingly has learned from their mistakes. However, I'm sure good 'ole Rev. Jesse Jackson and his crony, Al Sharpton will soon be saying it was a race thing that this was handled so quickly. GIVE ME A BREAK!
I'm so sick of their racist talk. When are they ever going to realize that as long as you claim to be a victim you will be a victim? Maybe I'm misinformed and maybe I don't know enough about what they do, but that's my personal opinion of them based on what I've seen and heard.
Yes, Katrina was shameful and there was no excuse for how it was handled, but please don't turn this wildfire disaster into a race issue. The families who are so devastated don't need to hear that on top of everything else they're going through. Plus, don't you think Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, maybe we as the American public could be a little sick of you always taking advantage of certain situations for your own personal platform? ENOUGH ALREADY!
I was invited to attend the inaugural breakfast for the National Academy of Media Arts & Sciences which I would have gone to, but the idea of getting up super early to drive up to Hollywood to hear Rev. Jesse Jackson as the guest speaker was revolting.
I can't stand him on TV and I will definitely not waste time hearing him in person. Sorry organizers. Yes, there are people in Hollywood who have different opinions than the majority. My son is half Nigerian and I don't want him to ever think his race plays a part in whether or not he is successful in life.
I would love to see an African American man or woman who is making positive contributions to society begin to be the mouthpiece for this community rather than Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. If you're out there, please speak now or forever hold your peace.
Actually, yesterday Sweet Alice Harris of Watts was honored with a Minerva Award for her work rebuilding Watts after the horrific riots and ever since. Here's a little blurb on her from another web site:
Alice, Executive Director of Parents of Watts in Los Angeles, presides
over more than 15 programs that operate on a shoestring, combining
contracts and support from community businesses. POW provides emergency
food and shelter for the homeless; conducts health seminars; provides
legal and drug counseling; promotes harmony among Hispanics, Koreans,
and blacks; operates a program for unwed mothers; and prepares young
people for the job market and for college.
Now she's someone I will listen to and come hear speak over and over and over again. This woman has dedicated her life to rebuilding her community and realizes that it's not race that is the issue, but self dignity and self respect regardless of race, color or creed. The men in charge of selecting speakers for NAMAS could learn something from this humble woman.
That's why it was so important for this women's conference to continue as originally planned and for Maria Shriver to lead it the way she did. In this male-dominated society where so often it's only a male perspective that is heard and followed, we as women leaders and nurturers need a day where our talents, our abilities, our leadership and our womanhood is celebrated.
We need to see that there are amazing women making contributions to society who are the unsung heroes of America. We need to know that it is possible to run major corporations and do it with grace, humor, style and determination. We need to be inspired to grow and develop into the leaders we were meant to be and you can only do that by seeing and hearing people who encourage, exhort and develop you as women.
First Lady Maria Shriver may receive some flak from the media for not being by her husband's side as the devastation was raging around our state, but I think she was right where she was supposed to be - with all 14,000 of us leading, inspiring and encouraging us to be all we were meant to be. You really must hear the speech she gave once it's uploaded on the web site. It was the most moving, vulnerable, honest, heartfelt speech I have ever heard from someone in her position.
Despite all her wealth, fame, family connections, and political connections, she revealed her humanity and allowed us to see her flaws and all. I know it profoundly affected those in attendance. Later on at lunch I was privileged to sit at a table with Actress Rita Wilson and Screenwriter Nora Ephron. What a gracious, warm, giving person Rita Wilson is (oh and she produces, directs and writes too!) It was very interesting to hear her recount Maria's speech to Nora and explain the impact it had on her life. That's what I'm talking about people.
It doesn't matter what level of success and acclaim you've received. We are women first and foremost. We cry, we feel, we laugh, we help, we hurt, we encourage, we love and we are so much more than our titles, our positions, our jobs, our families, our responsibilities. We are so amazing and it's time we embrace that we are unique simply by virtue of our gender. I'm not sure that's what Maria expected me to take away from her speech, but that's my take-away - take it or leave it!
When all is stripped away and we are left alone with simply ourselves - who are we really? To hear someone like her with all her accomplishments and everything else she has experienced in her life get back to such basics it was really wonderful to share that moment with her.
What I loved also during Eunice Kennedy Shriver's acceptance of her Minerva Lifetime Achievement Award was that she gave us three wishes (which I'm horribly paraphrasing - please excuse me) for us which are as follows:
1. She wished us the love of a family. She said if we didn't have a family to find the love of people who will treat you like family.
2. She wished for us to channel our feelings of injustice and anger into something positive. Her older sister was intellectually challenged and that is what has motivated Eunice to create over 165 Special Olympics all over the world. What an awe-inspiring woman she is.
3. Follow Maria. That was so sweet to hear because coming from Eunice that was the highest compliment she could have paid her daughter. I have to tell you after attending this conference I will follow Maria anywhere!
What an amazing woman she is too. I don't personally know her and for those of you who do and have other feelings about her - keep them to yourself. I like what I saw and heard and I want to remain impressed because I desperately need female role-models who are making a difference.
There are many male leaders with flaws and yet it seems like society likes to tear down women faster for some reason. It's time we accept and embrace women as leaders flaws and all too. They're only human and doing the best they can. Let's come alongside and help them become better rather than tear them down ok? What a novel concept!
What I found interesting yesterday during my time escorting Campbell Soup President Denise Sullivan Morrison, was the fact she said that after her and her three other sister's appearance on the Today Show
she received numerous emails which she said she put into three piles. One pile from people sharing how happy they were to hear about Father/Daughter stories since that's rarely been told. A 2nd pile which I forget (sorry - Denise if you read this, please put a comment at the bottom to explain.) and the 3rd pile from people telling her it was so nice to hear about a CEO who hadn't been indited! What does that say about our society?
What I thought was great about all four "Sullivan Sisters" (who I had the privilege of getting to know by virtue me and my other associates needed to escort them around as a team for their speaking engagement), is that although all four had achieved tremendous success in their lives, they were all still extremely humble and had a sense of humor about them. How rare!
I'll have to share about their talk in another blog because I want to give an overview to the conference and don't have a lot of time. Just know, these women and so many other speakers were so inspirational I was on such a high after that day. Exhausted, but on a high!
There were so many great speakers it will be hard to highlight all, but I believe Lifetime will be showcasing this event on their web site or channel if you get a chance to watch. It's highly worth it.
Thomas Friedman, Author & Pultizer Prize-winning New York Times Columnist, had some great comments to make about leadership. He quoted someone who had said, "Pessimists are usually right. Optimists are usually wrong, but optimists are the ones who change the world." I love that! Yes, I'm an optimist and proud of it.
I also loved it when he introduced Arnold Schwarzeneger as "Maria Shriver's husband." Thomas definitely knew what he was doing at this women's conference. Arnold communicated to us from the fires via satellite. There were constant well wishes for the firefighters and those devastated by the fires which brought this issue to the forefront of our minds despite being in the conference which I thought was very cool.
Especially when the American Red Cross was given the opportunity to encourage people to donate blood and other resources because I know they weren't originally on the schedule, but this emergency took precedence. So, if anyone has anything to say against Maria Shriver for not being with her husband during this day, please realize that her efforts to influence 14,000 compassionate, driven, motivated women will do more to help this emergency effort than for her to be merely an appendage of her husband on site. There, I've said it. Enough already.
I was thrilled to actually hear former Prime Minister Tony Blair speak because I loved watching The Queen and was very impressed with his portrayal in that film. I was curious to see him live and in person. I was not disappointed.
He's charming, personable, diplomatic, intelligent, funny, and down-to-earth (just like in the film - hee hee!) and I was very impressed with him. I'm not into politics and never watched his speeches on Iraq or anything else so don't know his political stance, but I admire him as a man and human being.
I thought Thomas Friedman was an excellent interviewer (as did the Pulitzer Prize people!:) and when he asked Tony (yes, we're on a first name basis now) what he thought about learning, Tony replied, "Ask who are your favorite teachers of all your friends and then take whatever they're teaching."
I found that statement very interesting in light of the fact Back to College for a Day has done just that and is offering that type learning experience for adults! Way to go Audrey! I wish you much success this weekend and hope lots of people sign up - it's not too late!
Tony also said, "Leadership is better after listening." Thomas agreed and said, "Be a good listener - it's a sign of respect. It's amazing what people will say when they know you respect them." When Thomas asked Tony what he thought of the Queen, Tony laughed and then said, "She's very shrewd. Pretty much universally loved by British people and I admire her very much." Spoken like a true politician, and I believe he meant every word.
Then they discussed the technological advances our world has made and how that is impacting our lives today. Thomas shared how he had traveled to India to visit the equivalent to Microsoft over there and was invited to speak to American interns who had chosen to learn in that environment to help set them apart from their colleagues back home. That was very interesting to hear. These students realized that to stand out in today's environment they needed to show the ability to collaborate and get along with people.
Tony said, in light of everything technological, "don't forget the importance of inter-personal skills." He said when he wanted to raise his children to have these qualities: "happy, optimistic, get along with others, politeness, good manners (because) it was about as good as an education."
Now if only Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize-winning organizer, activist, teacher and writer's people had gotten this into their thick skulls when asked to accommodate the speakers at the speakers only table. I've never seen such rude, entitled, selfish, haughty women for no reason at all! GET A CLUE WOMEN! You are nothing and you need to realize that just because you're with a Nobel Peace Prize speaker it doesn't give you the right to be disrespectful to others you come across. Maybe if they read this they'll see themselves and change, but I doubt it. Once a bitch, generally always a bitch (unless they find God! LOL)
Enough on those women though, there were so many other amazing women it's not worth focusing on them, but I did want them to know their actions and behavior was appalling. Speaking of human behavior, the aspect of Tony Blair I especially admired was that he realized he gave up his right to privacy by taking such a public role.
When asked by Thomas about the current interaction of modern media and public life under 24 hours scrutiny, he said, "it was a privilege to do these jobs." However, he added, "The public has to be willing to accept the human side of the public leader....The relationship between public and politicians need understanding all the way around."
That was a perfect way to view the conversation Maria Shriver held with the Presidential Spouses interview. Elizabeth Edwards, Cindy Hensley McCain, Michelle Obama, Ann Romney, and Jeri Thompson were all part of this discussion and it was great to hear them live and in person.
Due to my escorting the VIP's all day I was able to sit on the floor of the auditorium and had great seats the entire day. I must say, of all the wives, Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama were my favorites. What grace, class, intelligence, wisdom, and down-to-earth women. I admire all of the women who spoke. I haven't begun to explore who I intend to vote for come election time, but after hearing all of these women speak I know a little better who I won't be casting my vote for!
I think Fred Thompson's wife, Jeri, is very sweet, but too focused on being a mother (as she should be, but not if she wants to have any influence on our country for the greater good.) She admitted herself that she has a lot to learn which I thought was very cool. However, knowing Fred Thompson's age, her inexperience in this realm, their small children and her lack of opinions on public policy, I don't see "them" as strong candidates at all!
I thought it would have been funny to have Bill Clinton there as the "First Man" but I liked the fact it was all women. Michelle Obama is fantastic! She has such a grip on reality and is so real and intelligent I would vote for Obama by virtue of knowing she's on his team any day. Elizabeth Edwards the same thing.
What a warm, compassionate, wise woman she is.
Not to say the others weren't, but I thought Ann Romney talked too much and I think at a certain point you need to know when to speak and when not to. Cindy McCain came out on crutches and I liked her as a person, but she seemed a little distant. Could just be her personality or her bleached hair, but it was a little off putting. Now after reading more about her, I'm very impressed. She needs media training to learn how to express herself and all she is because she's great! I love that she wants to make a difference in foster care!
When I vote however, I won't be voting for the wives, but the husbands so these women are a moot (see Mike I learn...) point.
Anyway, there are so many other amazing speakers, but I need to get to work so I must end. More later I promise. There were just too many good ones not to share more!
Have a great day!