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The Midnight Buffet

  • Architects of Change

10/29/10 | Astrid Sheil | 0 Comments

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Astrid Sheil, Ph.D.

Astrid Sheil blogged for us live from The Women's Conference 2010.

Whether you attended in person or watched the The Women’s Conference 2010 streaming live on your computer, there was a smorgasbord of wisdom, a veritable supermarket of information and motivation from which to choose. 

Everywhere you turned, there was something brilliant being discussed on one of several jumbotrons in the convention center, and in the breakout sessions, and on the radio, and standing in line at one of the many book signings. At times, it was simply overwhelming. After the big morning and lunch sessions in the Arena, I had to take a break. I just could not process all I had just seen, heard, and felt. I was in total and complete sensory overload.

The whole thing was like being on a cruise ship on your first night at sea. If you’ve ever taken a cruise, you know they lay out a buffet at midnight that is as long as a football field. Ice sculptures, mountains of fruit, skyscrapers of cheese…you can gorge yourself before you get halfway through the food line. For me, this Women’s Conference was like the midnight buffet on a cruise ship. I stuffed myself on information, insights, inspiration, laughter, motivation, new friendships, ah-has, and poignant moments. I can’t remember another conference where I have participated in so many standing ovations. My intellectual and emotional waistline definitely expanded this week.

There was a satiated euphoria at the end of the Minerva Awards as the lights came up in the arena and people started to disembark from this amazing two day experience.  A quick exit poll with attendees produced this top ten “Things I will take away from this conference” list:

  1. Follow your small still voice inside—it will speak truth to you.
  2. We all have a treasure chest—we have to learn to open it and own it.
  3. We attract what we’re meant to experience.
  4. Giving is the secret to happiness.
  5. When you follow your heart you can achieve anything.
  6. It’s okay to not know what to do next.
  7. Enlightenment always tastes of freedom.
  8. Don’t put us (the speakers) on a pedestal—we’re just like you.
  9. When you focus on something you give it meaning.
  10. Change is automatic; progress is not.


So many gems, so many pearls of wisdom! This year’s Women’s Conference was definitely the midnight buffet on a cruise ship—a feast for the mind, the heart, and the soul. Now that you have enjoyed this Bacchanal of love, encouragement, and possibility, how will you share what you have learned with others?

Astrid Sheil, Ph.D. is the Associate Chair of the Communication Studies Dept. at Cal State University San Bernardino. Originally from Washington, DC, she graduated from Georgetown University.

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Empowerment Takes Flight

  • Architects of Change

10/28/10 | Kristy Campbell | 2 Comments

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Kristy Campbell, Writer

Kristy Campbell blogged for us live from The Women's Conference 2010.

My trip back to my life in Northern California started off without much fanfare. The hotel lobby was quiet as I checked out and caught a cab to the airport. As I took my seat on the plane, the women next to me recognized my shiny silver bag and asked if I had been to The Women’s Conference. When I told her that I had attended, she said she had been there as well and remarked what an amazing experience it had been.

The flight attendant came on to make the general announcements and asked how many on board had been to The Women’s Conference. The plane immediately filled with raised hands and cheers. Much like at the breakout sessions where we were encourage to talk with the women around us, the plane had became of buzz of chatter and laughter. But the best surprise of all was that Minerva Award recipient, Oral Lee Brown, was also on the flight. My section was calling the trip home the “Flight of Empowerment.”

On the short flight back, I rehashed the Conference with the woman next to me. Turns out, Marjorie Auyong Gonzalez is a Minerva contender in her own right. She told me about a program she started with her company to give temporary employment to veterans. She has even come out of retirement to help with the program. As she explained, her company gives veterans salaried positions, housing, and medical benefits in order to give them current work experience and training. They can then update their resumes with current work experience in order to get jobs in the civilian market.

I asked her how the Conference influenced her and she said, “It’s such a great experience to be with so many women who inspire and empower each other. I loved all the speakers but I also really enjoyed all the women I met.”

When we all met up at baggage claim, we chatted with Oral Lee. She told us a cute story about how she didn’t have time to go back to her hotel and change for the awards so she had just worn what she had been in all day. As we laughed together, I introduced myself to a woman next to me who turned out to be Lorrie Sullenberger, the wife of airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who landed his plane in the Hudson River saving all of the passengers on board. She said she has been coming to The Women’s Conference for years and said how important it is to come home and keep  “the message moving forward.”  She also told me that she really felt the “Maria Magic” this year and is looking forward to seeing what Maria does next.

I agree. The “Maria Magic” that I experienced at the Conference has empowered me to step out of my comfort zone and to take action. Her message has inspired me to continue to believe in my voice and to keep doing the work that I do. If she can effect this much positive action in women over the course of one weekend, it is incredible to think what she could continue to do. Her own series of Women’s Conferences? Her own empowerment show on Oprah’s new network? President in 2014? Whatever she does, though, I guarantee she will have quite a following of empowered, inspired women.

 

 

Conference attendees, including Oral Lee Brown & Lorrie Sullenberger
Conference attendees, including Oral Lee Brown & Lorrie Sullenberger

 

Kristy Campbell is a writer and actress. Her column, “Saving The World One Teen At A Time,” is at Mommytracked.com, and her thoughts on modern mid-life are offered in her blog, “My Cape Is At The Cleaners: Secrets of an ExSupermom.” You can find her work at www.kristycampbellcreative.com.

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LIVE FROM THE CONFERENCE: Blogger, Astrid Sheil

  • Architects of Change

10/26/10 | Astrid Sheil | 2 Comments

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Astrid Sheil, Ph.D.

 

 

 

THANK YOU, MARIA

This is the last Women’s Conference that Maria Shriver will organize as First Lady of California, and she saved the best for last. While the morning line-up was extraordinary and included First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, Nike CEO Phil Knight, Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz, NBC Anchor Brian Williams, and New York Times journalist and Pulitzer prize author, Nicholas Kristof, the moment truly belonged to Maria Shriver, the architect and driving force of the largest women’s conference in the world.

In her farewell address, Maria shared her journey from reluctant candidate spouse to empowered organizer. She recognized the family and friends who helped her along the way, and paid tribute to her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a larger than life woman who inspired her and her siblings to take up the good fight and do good in the world. Maria recounted how one of her proudest moments in her life was when she had the privilege of presenting her mother with the Minerva Award in 2008; and one of her most poignant moments was sitting in the garden by her mother’s grave and waiting, waiting, and waiting for her mother to speak to her.

When her mother did speak to her, it was not from above, but from deep inside her. Maria shared her fear of the unknown—what comes next?  And what she heard and felt inside came in a moment of divine clarity. Her inner voice said, “It’s okay to not know what to do next.” For the thousands of people watching and listening, Maria gave all of us an unexpected gift of emancipation. For those of us who can feel overwhelmed and overscheduled on a daily basis—she gave us permission to, “Let go” and just be okay with ambiguity and a messy life.

Out in the Village after the presentations, several women commented on how inspirational and moving Maria’s speech was, and how special the First Lady of California has made this event for all of the viewers and participants.

Sandy Hoffman, an HR specialist with Cisco said, “Maria brings such a human dimension to her insights—she touched everyone with her speech. I’m not sure how anyone can follow up on this next year.”

Tricia Baker, an engineer with Cisco, agreed. “This is my first time to come to this conference and I have found it amazing. Maria is inspiring on so many levels—this speech alone was worth the trip down from San Francisco.”

Nikki Corbett, who works for Intel in Sacramento, echoed a sentiment that many women share: “I really liked her message that it’s okay to not have a plan…and it’s okay to be scared. So often, we feel like we have to have it all figured out. It’s nice to know that a woman as accomplished as Maria Shriver doesn’t have it figured it all the time.”

Amanda Balint, a public affairs officer for BP in Alberta, Canada said she was blown away by Maria’s speech. “It was inspirational, sad, funny, empowering, and quite memorable.”
 
First time attendee Alyssa DeSantis summed it up for all of us when she said, “Maria needs to start her own conference. This is the best thing I’ve ever attended.”

From all of us who have had the distinct privilege to attend, volunteer, or present, thank you, Maria, for seven years of expansive thinking and empowerment. Thank you for the great speakers and the wonderful opportunities.

Most of all, thank you for your humanity, humor, and honesty.

 

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Heck of Day…Wish You Were Here

There is something about The Women’s Conference that is different from any other conference I have ever experienced. First of all, there’s energy throughout the convention center that is simply electrifying.  You can see it in the participants’ faces—joy, anticipation, hope, and openness. You pass a woman and exchange a look that asks, “Do I know you?” Everybody feels so familiar here…like we are already friends; we just haven’t been formally introduced yet.

This is the only place I have ever been where strangers want to make eye contact with you—and engage you in conversation!   I got on the elevator after lunch and in the short ride from the exhibit hall floor to the balcony floor, five of us discussed 1) how inspiring the opening session with Deepak Chopra and her Holiness Shinso Ito was; 2) how the boxed lunches were really good, but would have been better if they had included chocolate for dessert, and 3) and how excited we all were to hear Dr. Martha Beck speak.  In a 45 second ride-up, the group went from being total strangers to sorority sisters. The elevator doors opened, we smiled at each other and scattered like marbles on a tile floor to find seats in the large auditorium.

Once seated I turned to the woman next to me and asked her to complete the phrase, “It’s time...” (since that is the theme of this conference.)  She thought for a moment and replied, “It’s time for me to take what I’ve learned and experienced and put it to use helping women.”

I followed up quickly, “So what does that look like?” Surprised that I was interested in knowing her thoughts, she said, “Well, when I was in Africa last February…”

“Wait a minute,” I said, “you were in Africa last February?”

“Yes, I was there to help the women of Mali…and then I spent 8 days in Haiti in April.”

Now, I was really impressed. “What did you do in Africa and Haiti?” I asked.

She said, “I listened. I empathized. I offered my knowledge and experience to the women in Mali, and I offered my labor and my heart to the people of Haiti.”

I was speechless. She continued, “I’ve been a therapist for years. I help teen girls with self-esteem and I’ve worked with kids for a long time.” I nodded, spellbound.
“I feel like I’m living out my name—Phyllis—which means the bough of a tree or tenderhearted.”

 

Phyllis from Chino Hills, California
Phyllis from Chino Hills, California

 

 

Still amazed at the responsibility that Phyllis from Chino Hills, California had assumed for the women of Africa and the families of Haiti, I headed to the last session of the afternoon, featuring the amazing Tony Robbins, life coach extraordinaire. It would be impossible to describe this man’s personal wattage and charisma, but he had 3,500 women jumping, hugging, dancing, and hooting.

I think I have the best job at this conference. I get to walk around with notepad and pen and ask people basic questions, like, “Why are you here?” and “What do you do?” This year’s theme: “It’s Time” is resonating with everyone. What is it time for you to do?

Astrid Sheil, Ph.D. is the Associate Chair of the Communication Studies Dept. at Cal State University San Bernardino. Originally from Washington, DC, she graduated from Georgetown University.

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LIVE FROM THE WOMEN'S CONFERENCE: Blogger, Kristy Campbell

  • Architects of Change

10/26/10 | Kristy Campbell | 2 Comments

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Kristy Campbell, Writer


 

Coming to you live from The Women's Conference 2010, where an unprecedented 30,000 are gathering for three days of inspiration and transformation.

The Governor, Meg Whitman & Jerry Brown

The Main Event - The Working Lunch

I was very excited to settle in and get ready for what I thought would be one of the highlights of my Conference experience: the interviews with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor, Laura Bush’s speech, and the “discussion” with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meg Whitman, and Jerry Brown.

Diane Sawyer took the stage with The Honorable Supreme Court Justices. Seeing these women on the same stage and realizing the barriers they had broken was one of powerful moments of the Conference. Sandra Day O’Connor said it took 190 years for a woman to be named to the Supreme Court, and that was just far too long. Ruth Bader Ginsburg added that she thought 9 female Justices would be the perfect number on the Bench. The audience broke into applause. As they talked about their lives, they both became less of the Honorable Supreme Court Justices that they are and more and more like us every-day women sitting in the audience…dealing with kids and marriage and careers and illness and the death of their husbands.

Laura Bush then took the stage. She was honest and real as well. She told us how George isn’t doing such a great job of picking up his wet towels. She also pulled out a Laura Bush bobble-head doll and told us a friend found it on the clearance shelf. She admitted that she isn’t sure what returning to normal means. She and George are still working it out.

And then the moment for which so many of us had been waiting, Matt Lauer introduced Arnold Schwarzenegger and the real party started. Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown came on stage and started with some polite conversation. Fairly quickly the polite conversation turned political. As Heather from Riverside, California, said, “they’re running for office. What did you expect?” Matt Lauer bumped up the tone when he asked the candidates to consider pulling their negative ads to which the audience stood up and cheered and clapped and yelled. It soon became a bit of a rally with both candidates being put in the spotlight asked to change their campaigns. As the crowd fervor intensified with booing and cheering, the woman next to me got up and left. “I hate this kind of stuff. We asked for no negativity, yet we’re booing. I’m outta here.”

Matt kept announcing that they only had one minute left and finally, The Governor got things back in control. He said, “Matt, it’s Maria and my conference, quit schwitzing about the 1 minute. I’ll give you 3!” With that, the audience broke into laughter and the tone of the Conference was restored.

Conversations continued on the way to the next session ranging from support of Meg to support of Jerry to disinterest in the whole political game. Susan P. from Riverside summed up the attitude, “we managed to spend the past day and a half having discussions united as women and I’m disappointed the conversation divided us by our political views. I’m excited for the next session.”

 

Friends from Florida
Friends from Florida

 

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"You don't have to fill anyone's shoes but your own."

The Main Event

The real fun started this morning when Brian Williams, who was hilarious by the way, came on stage to lead the panel of “Men Who Get It.” It was entertaining and interesting to hear a few male perspectives. Carol from New York was standing next to me. “I’m kind of impressed that these men would go out there and be so…honest,” she whispered. We both laughed since she was right. Very seldom do you see a group of 4 men admit that women have enormous power! (Panel was Phil Knight of Nike, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, and Nick Kristof of the New York Times.)

Brigadier General Charlotte L. Miller introduced Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, who spoke in support of military families.

Finally, it was time. Maria Shriver took the stage, and a standing ovation and grateful clapping came from the 14,000 attendees. Maria spoke from her heart. She told a story of her journey of being First Lady. She was honest, vulnerable, and real. As she spoke of her mother’s death and the pain and grief she still feels every day, most of the audience was in tears. Maria, however, spoke with unwavering emotion. Her strength is remarkable…and you can feel it, even in a room full of 14,000. She told us she wants a life that is authentic and meaningful, and she finally realized that she doesn’t have to fill anyone else’s shoes, filling her own is enough. She also encouraged us to realize that being outside of your comfort zone doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it just means you are uncomfortable.  After she left the stage, a lot of us commented on how sad we are to see her go, but that we will all follow her wherever she goes.

The First Lady, Michelle Obama, made a great speech about her support of military families and her commitment to making sure these families have a voice. She talked about how women know how to make things work. “We show up,” she said, and we know what to do to offer support to each other. We bring food, chocolate, or even wine... which was met with a big laugh.

After her speech, we prepared for the breakout sessions. “I can’t believe I just saw Michelle Obama,” said Carol who had been standing next to me. “I can’t believe I’m even here,” said a woman walking by who had overheard. I walked down the stairs with a group of friends from Sacramento. The number one comment from all of them was how remarkable it is that Maria Shriver is such an inspirational leader and yet she still seems so humble and real. “She has taught me so much, just hearing her talk this morning,” said one woman. “If I take one thing away from today…it’s her saying that I don’t have to fill anyone else’s shoes, mine are enough.”

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"The Woman's Conference is a manual on how to be a woman today"

The Main Event - Early Morning

Watching the sunrise as I walked to the Arena, I saw long lines of women already lined up for today’s event. The mood was festive and the buzz was all about Michelle Obama.

In the coffee line, I talked to a few women. When I asked Sarah from Santa Monica what brought her today, she said without pause, “Maria Shriver!!” Stephanie from Madera Ranch, California, said it is “the combination of speakers, lots of leaders from all around the country" that brought her to the Conference. Eileen from Pasadena said this is her 1st time at the Conference and she is just taking it all in, but she really is hoping that she can take one thing away from today that she can put to use in her life.

The Conference is scheduled to start in an hour and already the Arena is close to full. The pre-show is fantastic with lots of entertainment from bands to singers to a choir, and everyone is in a great mood. Evelyn from Los Angeles sat with a big silver bag on her lap. She had just been to the Village and had done some shopping. “I haven’t had this much fun before 7:30am in my life! I really am having a great time,” she said as she showed me her books and Women’s Conference sweatshirt.

Alexis Jones and Emily Greener of I Am That Girl.com are here to cover the event for their website. Alexis is in her late 20s and really wants to bring the message of The Women’s Conference to women her age. “I feel like women my age are having an ‘Oh *~#&’ moment with what we are supposed to be doing. We can have a career? We can be moms? We can take time for ourselves? We are struggling to figure it out. The Women’s Conference is really a manual on how to be a woman today, and I want to take that manual to my peers.” She continued to say “we need to bridge the gap between women my age and women her age in order to have more discussions about how to be a strong leader and woman today.” As I have a daughter who is a freshman in college, I couldn’t agree more.

 


Attendees at the Main Event
Attendees at the Main Event

 

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The Village

Monday ended with what felt like a party -- Night At The Village. The Village is an entire exhibition hall set up with rows and rows of vendors featuring everything from handbags to yoga mats to vitamins to videos on how to have a strong marriage. A Sanctuary section offers a little peace of mind with yoga and meditation classes. There is also a main stage and 2 smaller areas for presentations and entertainment. At the Village, It's Time... to Experience the Best.

The night I walked in, I stood surveying the vast hall trying to take it in. Two costumed girls on stilts interrupted my gaze. What a party! I headed to the main stage to see Maria with Paula Deen, Giada de Laurentiis, and Ali Wentworth. The buzz in the crowd….PAULA DEEN, PAULA DEEN, PAULA DEEN.

I wandered over to what seemed like one of the popular stops on the circuit: the iVillage booth. iVillage is an online community of women filled with blogs and boards and information by women. Most recently, iVillage launched iVoices that features correspondents from around the country weighing in what their communities are discussing. “Very cool idea,” said Angie from San Bernadino. Kelly Wallace, Executive Producer of iVillage, told me that one of the most popular boards on iVillage is the military board. She said it has connected lots of military families from across the country. The iVillage booth featured tons of comments and thoughts picked up from the boards, and Kelly showed me this one:
Without iVillage, I would never have met my best friend. We have been each other’s support system through our pregnancies, and our husbands deploying.

Needing a little pick-me-up after my long day, I headed to the Eco Island, a section of vendors all providing natural beauty products. I wanted to find the Juice Beauty booth since I had heard their Green Apples scrub was put in Michelle Obama’s green room. On the way, I talked to Karen W. from San Francisco. She said, “This entire Conference astounds me. The idea that women can stand together and celebrate being a woman is so powerful.”

 

 

Kristy, Geena Davis & Karen Behnke, Founder, Juice Beauty
Kristy, Geena Davis & Karen Behnke, Founder, Juice Beauty



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A Day of Health, Wellness & Transformation

October 25, 2010

I made my way to the main entrance early this morning where I was greeted by a friendly welcome from Jamba Juice with a 5 Fruit Smoothie.  “What a fun surprise,” said the woman next to me.  Jamba Juice was also handing cards that benefit the California PTA. “Just swipe the card when you buy a Jamba Juice and a portion of your purchase goes to the California PTA,” said the friendly Jamba Juice guy. My line buddy, Lori from Seattle, whispered to me, “I never knew there was a state PTA.” Neither did I.

Inside, groups of women were gathering and the buzz was starting. Countdown to Transformation! A bookstore was set up next to the table selling some Women’s Conference items. I listened as two women debated about the orange or black Maria Shriver watches that say “It’s Time” (the theme of this year’s Conference). The women ended up buying both and told me that it’s for a good cause, so it makes shopping even more fun.

I talked to a group of women who told me they were a moms group from Los Angeles and they were looking forward to a day “without kids” in order to recharge and “try to find some inspiration.”  We high-fived over the “no kids” part.

It was fun to go from huddle to huddle of women and ask what brought them to the Conference:

  • Maria. (Natalie from Long Beach)
  • Wanted to connect with other women. (Patty from New York City)
  • Curiosity. (Sara from Pasadena)
  • The chance to do something for me. (Karen from San Diego)
  • I’m not sure. Just wanted to come and see what it is all about. (Susie from Los Angeles)
  • I don’t have the chance in my real life to talk about these kinds of things…spirituality, empowerment. (Ariana, Palm Springs)


Spiritual/inspirational music was playing in the auditorium.  Walking in, I saw quite a few women with hands extended or heads bowed in prayer. I seated myself next to Jenny from Sonoma. She told me this was her first time coming to the Conference and was just here “to check it out” and didn’t really have any expectations. She said she is looking forward to hearing from the Supreme Court Justices and Michelle Obama tomorrow. She mirrored what a lot of women had said to me…they came to check it out. Tracy R. from Los Angeles told me that this was her 3rd year and said I was in for an amazing experience. “The energy and inspiration is quite a high and I guarantee you, it’ll be hard to sleep tonight,” she laughed. Oh perfect. I’ve already spent a few restless nights anticipating the Conference.

Dr. Harumitsu Inouye, the CEO of the Shinnyo-en Foundation, introduced Maria Shriver and said the reason we all love Maria is because she is not a superhero or wonderwoman…”she is real.” (The group of women around me applauded at the comment.) He said she is a force of nature who has found her passion, and she combines kindness and courage in one heart.  A standing ovation greeted her as she came on stage, but she immediately told us all to sit down. Her message was simple: we women have something unique inside of all of us and it’s time to find our unique voice and change the world. “It’s Time” is the theme of this year’s Conference and she challenged us to figure out what it is time for us to do. Don’t wait for something to happen; go out and make it happen.

Deepak Chopra followed her and his presentation made us laugh, made us think, and gave us inspiration. Tracy R. told me she had never read a single word of Deepak before but was going to head to the bookstore “to buy all his books..

Her Holiness Shinso Ito was next to take the stage. A video rolled to talk about her life and her mission. The audience was still. As the video finished, you could hear a pin drop and when she walked out on stage, my eyes started to tear up and I noticed a couple of women in my row wiping tears as well. This woman was power, pure spiritual power. She spoke humbly and in Japanese to a quiet audience. She gave perhaps one of the strongest messages of the day: constructive solutions never come from hatred or resentment.

 

Attendees starting the day
Attendees starting the day

 


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A Day of Health, Wellness & Transformation

Break

I walked out of the morning session with Karen from Manhattan Beach. She said she was thrilled to have started the day with “such a powerful presentation..." She said she was looking forward to the rest of the day.

During the break, I talked to a lot of women in the line for coffee. Everyone was processing the morning. When I asked a few about the “It’s Time” theme and what it meant to them, no one could answer it.  Lori from Phoenix told me she was really inspired by Deepak Chopra and Shinso Ito. “It was unbelievable to be in a room with two of the most influential spiritual leaders of our time,” and she said she needed time to take in that experience before she could think of the “It’s Time” theme.

Suzanne Hogan from Washington, DC, told me she is visiting the Conference for the first time. Her mother has Alzheimer’s and requires 24-hour care. Suzanne came last year but as soon as she landed she received a message about her mother and had to return to DC on the next flight, so she missed last year’s Conference. This year is very important to her. She also told me that she thinks the one message that we can retool to empower the generation of younger girls is that “we can have it all, but not alone." We need to teach each other to reach out and collaborate and not be afraid to ask for help. We all need to work harder at creating our villages.

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THE MARCH ON ALZHEIMERS

October 24, 2010

I walked to the Pavilion early to make sure I could take in any pre-March madness. There really wasn’t any. Booths were being set up. Lines for registration and t-shirts were without issue. As I picked up my t-shirt, I noticed two younger girls in line. I asked them what brought them to the March. Allie C. and Susan R. both from Long Beach told me that they would do anything to help raise awareness for Alzheimer’s, and the March seemed like a fun and easy thing to do. Both girls told me their grandmothers suffer from the disease.

As the Pavilion began to fill with the purple-clad marchers sampling Jamba Juice, Pinkberry yogurt, and Luna bars, the mood continued to stay calm. I asked Autumn, a lyricist from Long Beach, why she was here. She told me that she believes every person makes a difference, and she wanted to be part of the event in order to help. One of the booths had a giant art canvas set up to paint tributes and thoughts about Alzheimer’s. It was moving to see adults and children painting side-by-side. Maria signed the canvas as did her children.

I walked around asking people why they were marching, and it became a resounding theme for me:
a mother/father/grandmother/grandfather/aunt/uncle/friend has been affected.

Over 20 people told me the same story. I saw families with young children, families with teens, groups of young adults, corporate teams, groups of girlfriends, and even an elderly couple arm-in-arm. I was moved by how all these people were united for a single cause: to find a cure for this disease.

I was milling about when the most amazing thing happen…Maria Shriver came walking across the grass. I had to do a double take since there was no big fanfare, no entourage, or no helicopter with tinted windows. Just Maria with a big smile and her running shoes saying hi to everyone.

As I watched her being interviewed, snap pictures with fans, and skillfully move through the crowd, it hit me. The March on Alzheimer’s had just turned into a family event, kind of like a big family picnic. Maria managed to make everyone feel welcome and she thanked as many people as she could for being there in support. The Governor seemed to stride in as well, without great fanfare, and joined his wife in welcoming people. It was amazing to catch the buzz from those around me as I followed The Governor and First Lady to the stage. Everyone was impressed with the approachability of the couple.

Grace from Fresno told me that she felt like the celebrity. “Maria shook my hand and thanked ME for being here. It was strange since I really wanted to thank her!”
I could really sense that those people who were part of The March on Alzheimer’s today were united regardless of background, education, wealth, or political stance. Jackie T. from Santa Barbara summed it up best, “Alzheimer’s robs us all, and we all should stand together.”

Leeza Gibbons, whose mother suffered from Alzheimer’s, hosted the Main Stage event and announced that the March has raised $250K for the Alzheimer’s Association. She also announced that Team Dano won a trip to New York as they raised $12,000! She surprised us all with a warm-up led by no other than the iconic Jane Fonda and Glee gym teacher, Jane Lynch. After warming up, it was off to the starting line with Long Beach’s Jordan High School marching band leading the way. As people crossed the starting line, we heard many stories over the loud speaker:

  • Team Kodak marched because many of them have had family members suffer from Alzheimer’s.
  • Target had a team that marched to support the cause.
  • Lindy marched on her birthday since she wanted to have a meaningful birthday and do something for her mom.
  • Shannon from Silverado came as a caregiver and thanked all those people that offer care to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.
  • Safety Sue from Vons carried a flag that said, “We are the hope to beat this mind-blowing disease”.


The March itself was fun and upbeat, but there were many tears and hugs as people crossed the finish line. A fine misty rain had started to fall but no one seemed to care. Brett Eldridge performed “Raymond,” his tribute song to his grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. As we prepared to light candles for a vigil, I stood next to a remarkable woman. Lorraine from Long Beach is a Physician’s Assistant and a teacher. We talked about how she had just finished a unit on geriatrics with her students and how so many of them were sad about elderly care. Lorraine told me that she loves her job as a caregiver to the elderly and that she is filled with hope with events like the March and that is why she came to participate.

As Amber Riley from Glee sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” we turned on our battery-powered candles in the rain. It was a bittersweet moment: joy for what we collectively had just accomplished, sadness for those loved ones who continue to suffer without a cure.

 


Christine, marching with her family for her mother-in-law
Christine, marching with her family for her mother-in-law

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

I woke up this morning a little bit nervous about today. The kickoff for the Conference was hours away and I wasn’t sure what to expect. At breakfast, a table of women sat next to me. As I eavesdropped on their conversation (rude, I know), I heard them talking about the Alzheimer’s March later today. I introduced myself and asked if they were all here for the Conference. They all said yes and started giving me tips on how to get through it all and not be overwhelmed.  One of the women, Linda B. from Los Angeles, told me to focus on what is important to me and do not worry if I can’t absorb all the rest. She said this is her 4th year and she likened it to Disney World. Go and see what you can and enjoy it and don’t stress about what you didn’t see.  I thanked her for the advice.

After breakfast, I walked around the vast Long Beach Conference Center. It was busy with construction teams and event planners. Definitely a pre-wedding kind of buzz. I saw the giant welcome sign being adjusted by the crane. To see the words “WELCOME California Governor and First Lady’s Conference on Women” gave me pause. What other State in this Nation has its Governor and First Lady so incredibly vocal and supportive of women’s issues?

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Arriving in Long Beach

As I sat at the airport ready to board my flight to Long Beach, I received an email alerting me that outlined the heightened security procedures for Tuesday’s Main Event. Michelle Obama is speaking and it’s added a level of intensity to the Event. As I reread my email, it hit me that what I was about to experience these next few days at the Women’s Conference is nothing that I’ve ever experienced before. I knew I’d come back to my family changed, but I wasn’t exactly sure how.

Maria Shriver has always been an inspiration to me. She intrigues me as she has made it clear that her priorities are to be a daughter, a mother, a wife, and a contributor to the world…and in that order. I have found it remarkable that someone who comes from such political lineage would consider being a good daughter and mother as her highest goals. I would have thought she mostly aspired to be Governor.

What Maria has modeled for me is that being a strong daughter and mother is a noble goal. And, within achieving this goal, there is also room to make a difference in the world. The Women’s Conference reflects her vision in asking women to find their highest selves and to find a way to become an Architect of Change. I’ve read the biographies of women speaking at the Conference. Many of them are women who have had to juggle kids, career, marriage, and self like I have had to do and yet have found their voice for change. I look forward to meeting these women and listening to them speak.  I can’t wait to talk to women like me and ask them what they think. This Conference is so much more than being a working mom or a stay at home mom or a work from home mom. It is about being a woman. And I believe that if we can all bond at that level, we can achieve great things. I can’t wait to connect with so many wonderful women.

Kristy Campbell is a writer and actress. Her column, “Saving The World One Teen At A Time,” is at Mommytracked.com, and her thoughts on modern mid-life are offered in her blog, “My Cape Is At The Cleaners: Secrets of an ExSupermom.” You can find her work at www.kristycampbellcreative.com.

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A Doctor's Perspective: Maria Shriver's Modern House Call

  • Health and Fitness
  • Architects of Change

10/24/10 | Dr. Catherine Begovic | 0 Comments

Dr. Cat Huang Begovic MD 200x300
Dr. Catherine Begovic

I had the privilege of volunteering at Maria Shriver’s The Modern House Call for Women on Saturday and Sunday.  It was truly a pleasure working with all the other volunteers who shared my passion for helping women withtheir health care needs.  The majority of the women I saw in the health care clinic hadn’t seen a doctor for years and were completely removed from any health care system.  Most of them had no insurance and told me that they didn’t know where to go to see a physician.

I took care of a woman who was in her early 50s who had a very strong family history of breast cancer.  Her maternal aunt and sister both had breast cancer.  She had not had a mammogram in over ten years! Being a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and taking care of many breast cancer patients, I am especially passionate about early breast cancer detection.  To have participated in the emotional and physical struggle of women undergoing surgery and treatment for this disease, I continually stress to women the importance of getting an annual mammogram and physical exam, as well as performing self breast exams. The fact that there was an on-site mammography station at The Modern House Call was truly a blessing for these patients.  The women who attended The Modern House Call were able to get screening mammography immediately.

Similarly, women were able to get cervical cancer screening with the on-site Ob-Gyn physicians and nurses who performed pap-smears.  In developing nations, cervical cancer is the leading cause of death in women – it is early detection that has improved the survival of women in the United States.  Most of the women I saw at The Modern House Call had not had a pap smear for several years.  I spent time educating them on the importance of an annual physical exam and annual pap-smear – something that no one had talked to many of them about before.  The women were also able to get their blood sugar and blood pressure checked.  However, one of the most valuable resources at The Modern House Call was the clinic referral program.  Women were able to find local free clinics and make primary care appointments through the resources at The Modern House call so that they would be able to receive long term health care follow-up.

I truly believe that myself and the other volunteers were able to make a difference in the lives of many women who had no access to even the most basic health care.  I was glad to be able to assist in providing basic health care screening that most of us take for granted.  I feel blessed to have participated in this event and thank all the people who donated resources and time to help women who are truly in need.

Watch our video of Dr. Catherine Begovic & The Modern House Call

Dr. Catherine Huang Begovic is a Plastic & Reconstructive surgeon in Beverly Hills CA and CEO of her cosmetic and plastic surgery practice Make You Perfect, Inc.  She is also a board certified Head & Neck cancer and reconstructive surgeon.  She is on the board of BeautyTV.

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How to Network More Effectively

  • Work and Money

10/20/10 | Larry Benet | 4 Comments

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Larry Benet, The Connector

 

 

 

 

I want to share a few networking tips with you for The Women’s Conference 2010. (These strategies will actually help you at any event.)

These are the six things you can do before, during and after the Conference to create more powerful connections with the people you meet -- and to get a higher return on the time and money you invest in attending.

What to Do Before the Event

1. Research. Whom do you want to meet with? What will you say to them that will get their attention and stand out from the crowd?

Here are some of the tools that can help you do with that research. A good place to start is always Google or Bing.

Other great resources to tap into include
http://www.Wikipedia.org
http://www.Linkedin.com
http://www.Hoovers.com

Make sure you read up on someone's previous blog posts and read their bio; perhaps you have something in common with them. If you know someone they know, grew up in the same town, went to college at the same place, share the same passion, or support the same charity, you will likely connect more easily.

A few years back, I was able to connect quickly with Sir Richard Branson at a charity function. When I had been reading articles about him, I uncovered something that pointed to one of his priorities at the time, and when I met him I invited him and executives from his team to an event at which they would find value. He gave me his private email in less then 30 seconds.

Reviewing someone's Twitter feed or Facebook posts is another great way to find insights that can be helpful in starting a conversation.

2. Know what to say when someone asks you what you do. This could be the biggest opportunity most people miss. We all know that, at some point in a conversation, most people will ask what you do. You have 10-15 seconds to grabs someone's attention, and if you do a good job, perhaps another two minutes to whet their appetite about your product and services.

For example here is mine: Have you ever met someone who is mega connected in their industry and very influential at what they do, and as a result they are able to get more business in less time, and get more referrals then their peers? Well I teach entrepreneurs, authors, speakers, and sales professionals to become highly influential, and then go to people in their industry.

What to Do During the Event

1. Have a giver’s mindset. If you want to easily differentiate yourself from most everyone else at the event, show up with a giver’s mindset. Most people tends to have a taker's mindset (looking for what can they get from other people when they first meet them). If you, on the other hand, focus on being a giver and seeing how you can serve other people, you will find it much easier to connect with others.

2. Know the right questions to ask. Here are some questions I have found to work most effectively when connecting with people at an event.

  • What do you do for fun when you aren't doing ______ ?
  • How did you get started in the business?
  • What brings you to the conference?
  • Who are you looking to meet while you are here at the event?

If and when you have rapport, a great question to ask is this: What is the most important project you are currently working on in case I or my network can help you in some way?

I can't tell you how many doors this last question has opened up! With good follow-up and leveraging one's network, you can add instant value to many people you meet.

What to Do After the Event

1. Prioritize your follow-up. One thing you should do when you first meet people is to make notes of important information on the back of their card.

I like to write down personal things they may have shared about their family or what they like to do in their spare time. I also like to record where I met them and what we discussed. If there is a way I can add value, I note that on the card, as well as any next steps.

It also makes sense to prioritize the contacts you met in an A/B/C fashion:

A - Must follow up. There was a good connection and there is a strong possibility of doing business in the near future.
B - Great people to stay in touch with. While there may not be a possibility of doing business in the short term. there could be strong possibilities in the future.
C – Keep in contact. This could be someone who you may just want to put into your online newsletter and stay in touch with in case something develops down the road.

2. Follow up fast and add value. If at all possible, follow up within 24 to 48 hours while the event is still fresh on someone's mind. The key to turning this into a connection is to add value to your newfound friend. Can you make a referral for them? Can you share a book or an article that can help them? If they were a speaker at the event, perhaps you can give them a testimonial they can use on their website. Can you invite them to an upcoming event that can help them generate more business or help their favorite charity?

The faster you can add value to someone else, the easier it will be for you to turn your newfound contacts into long-lasting, profitable connections.

Good connecting to you.

Larry Benet is known as The Connector. He is CEO and Co-Founder of the Speaker and Authors Networking Group (SANG). He is known for helping entrepreneurs, speakers, authors, and sales professionals to effortlessly turn contacts into connections. He has shared the stage with Tony Robbins, Jay Leno, Paul Abdul, Keith Ferrazzi, Peter Guber, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (from Chicken Soup For the Soul fame). To get more connection tips please visit http://www.larrybenet.com

Watch Larry Benet
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For more on networking,
Read Sandra Yancey’s Business Tips: How to Network, Sell & Glow

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Bringing Hope to Interned Girls: The Minerva Arts Project

  • Architects of Change

10/19/10 | Claudia V. | 1 Comments

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Claudia V. is a seventeen-year-old interned with the County of Los Angeles juvenile justice system; she participated in the Minerva Arts Project while at Camp Scott, an all-girls "camp" run by the LA County Probation Department.

The Minerva Arts Project began as a collaboration between the The Women's Conference, the California Arts Council and the Alameda County Arts Commission to support the development and education of all young people, particularly those at risk. The Minerva Project Quilts -- one of its ongoing projects -- gives girls in the juvenile system the chance to connect with their own inner creativity, courage, strength and wisdom -- through creating quilts that depict the Roman Goddess Minerva.

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Claudia V. talks about how this project changed her outlook on life:

When I was first told I’d make a quilt while here at Camp Scott, I didn’t think much of it. My mom had taught us kids how to sew our clothes together, so I thought it would be like that. But it was a lot more than sewing.

I worked on the quilt every Saturday for 6 weeks. I wanted to discipline myself. I’ve been trying to work on my patience – so I worked to get the stitches the right size and the right order.

The quilt has a blue background with roses; it has a red border with red letters that spell “Warrior” over a picture of Minerva. Each element symbolizes something. Blue is the color of water; water is life. Red represents royalty. I see Minerva as a warrior more than as someone of peace, and I see the warrior in myself. I’m a Gemini – I have a bad side and a good side. Minerva, to me, was a fighter and a lover. Within the fighter was love; someone has to take passion and time to do what they want to do – if fighting is something they like to do – it takes passion. To me, Minerva was a good fighter and a good lover – she had a lot to give.

It was important to express myself within the quilt – to take my time with this piece of art. Even so, I thought it wasn’t going to be noticed. I thought my life wasn’t important. But after doing it, I could tell my life in this piece. And the colors – the way I used the letters – it started to mean a lot to me.

Like all the people there helping us, teaching us how to sew and put things together – I realized I could be someone successful who can take their time and do something important. The project really motivated me to keep going with my education. I plan on going on to college and then getting a Masters in Architecture.

I could see beyond the art. Making the quilt – working like that - is like a meditation.

 

Claudia V. is not alone in thinking this project has been a success -- or that art has the power to heal.

In the words of Anita Vigil, Probation Director, County of Los Angeles Probation Department:

I've never seen such transformation in the girls - in all my years working in the LA Probation Department -- as I did through the Minerva Arts Project. The girls who started the project were aimless; after the program, they had new direction, new confidence. I will never forget these girls or their transformation. How can you forget when a young woman tells you “I found belief in myself”?  Behind each quilt is a touching story of personal achievement. 

And as Donald H. Blevins, Chief Probation Officer, County of Los Angeles Probation Department, puts it,

The process of creating a piece of art creates an environment for self-reflection and expression.  By definition this experience strengthens critical thinking skills and enhances a young person’s ability to problem solve.  Simply said when you feel good about yourself you are more likely to make good choices.  Arts and sports programs balance out the Departments evidence-based treatment services.

To learn more about the Minerva Arts Project, and specifically the quilts, visit The California Museum website.

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My First Triathlon: What Motivated Me

  • Health and Fitness
  • Architects of Change

10/18/10 | Juju Chang | 0 Comments

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Juju Chang, Good Morning America News Anchor

More than a third of my body was FAT. No joke. That’s what did it. That was the straw that broke this out-of-shape camel’s back.
 
I’ve been pregnant or nursing for six of the past ten years. I hit my forties. I got a new job last December.
 
As the new news anchor at Good Morning America, I went to Haiti after the devastating earthquakes. I interviewed a 14-year-old girl named Frangina who’d been trapped in the rubble for 5 days. She’d had a nail puncture her thigh, but it was healing nicely. I met her a week after she’d been pulled from the rubble, and she had yet to receive any medical attention. She complained of a headache. I gave her my ibuprophen.
 
Hers and the hundreds of other faces of the people I encountered in Haiti stayed with me for months. Mothers nursing in the open air camps; children dragging cars fashioned out of milk bottles….
 
As news of the earthquake was crowded out by the Gulf oil spill, I was assigned a story about normal weight obesity. The doctor measured my body fat and told me that despite my relatively “NORMAL” weight… my body fat percentage  put me at risk for obesity related diseases.
 
So I embarked on a mission: train for a triathlon, raise money for Haiti and do it by the end of summer. I enlisted the help of Tom Holland, author of the The 12-Week Tri-athlete and Lucy Danziger, editor-in-chief of Self Magazine. I needed deadline pressure. September 11th in Danbury CT…  ¼ mile swim.  12 miles bike.  3 mile run.  Not crazy, I could do that. Right?
 
I signed up dozens of my friends and colleagues. UNICEF signed on to give team members their own homepage to get donations. It was the perfect recipe for success 1. a goal. 2. peer pressure and good company 3. the kids of Haiti.
 
I started out running 1 mile, huffing and puffing.  Then 2 miles. Then THREEE.  Biking was more fun.  I had my “mommy bike” with my 2-year-old on the back. We looped around NYC’s central park. 6.2 miles.  The Harlem hill is HARD with 25 pounds of baby on the back… I biked more and more comfortably. Despite weeks of my protesting, Lucy finally talked me into buying a “road bike”…  she was right. I felt as though I’d sprouted wings and learned to fly on my new bike.
 
The swimming was the hardest to fit into my schedule, but I managed to use the YMCA pool near work.

And finally there it was.. RACE DAY. I tried to hold back my fear. We all did well, but it was my friend Caroline who inspired us all. She overcame her fear of swimming, got LOST on the bike leg…  and when she got back to transition, Sean, the race director, who didn’t know that she’s of Haitian decent, but saw the steely determination in her eyes…  ran the final leg with her.  She raised 5 thousand dollars for Haiti!!!!

All told, we raised approximately 60k for Haiti and we got fit.

Juju Chang is the news anchor for ABC’s “Good Morning America” and an Emmy Award-winning correspondent for “20/20” and “Nightline.” She also hosts “Moms Get Real,” a digital show for ABC News NOW aimed at cracking the façade of perfect mommyhood.

Juju Chang will be speaking at The Women's Conference 2010. Watch the webcast of the Conference on October 25th and 26th here on www.womensconference.org

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Announcing The Great September Giveaway

  • Architects of Change

10/15/10 | The Women's Conference | 0 Comments

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Our September Great Giveaway, launched with Conference Presenting Sponsor Kodak, invited members of The Women’s Conference community to share a photo and a brief paragraph of their favorite summer moment.

The entries reflect the moments that touch us all – unfettered childhood bliss, adulthood epiphanies -- illnesses weathered, help offered and received. We’ve chosen our winner – Sabeen, the author of “a face of perfection… one moment in time.” Her photo illustrates the joy that can come even in the face of disaster, in this case – the Pakistan floods. It also illustrates our community's commitment to giving back – she will return to Pakistan in December to continue to help rebuild the country. Her photo, and those of our runners up, illustrate our power as women – to help others, and to help ourselves.

Sabeen

a face of perfection...a moment in time


 

My summer moment came in knee high waters. Labeled a disaster of recent times. It came with hunger, destruction & disease. It came in the face of a little girl. She wore no shoes, but walked on happiness. Had no music but danced to life. She did not care about what life had not given her- she was just happy with what she had, a sash, hope and two little bags of food. Her moment came not wrapped with bows of perfection, as a hand out or even from circumstance-her moment came from choice-and sharing her moment changed my life. My summer moment came with the realization that with the gift of having a voice, and the freedom of writing and speaking my mind, comes the responsibility to stand up, to speak up and to share the stories of those who live a life unheard. So I share with you this moment. And while I know that no lens, no portrait or prose can ever capture it’s essence again- I hope that you too will find a moment of perfection in the face of this little girl.


Runners Up

Ruth

Fully Fearless

 

 

 

Ruth, the World Changer I wish I could say that it was courage that made me finally step out of a loveless, dead-end relationship with a man that would never quite commit to marrying me—but it wasn’t that. It was something else entirely…loss of fight. I was fighting for someone that wasn’t fighting for me. In fact, the thing I feared most was to actually let go...to stop being the tenacious one. All my life I’ve fearlessly skydived, marathoned and more. Being alone was the only adventure that I ever ran from. So one day this summer, I set my heart free. Days later, I stepped into a boat with six other strangers to tackle a level 5 rapids on the Chattooga River. Amidst the titillating thrill of the river run, the heavens opened and the rain came pouring down. As we anchored the boats, I jumped into the river and threw up my hands with an internal Hallelujah. I did it! What a ride! Like life, it had been a bit rough at times, but this moment was all mine. A fearless adventurer



Wendy

Freshman Year

 

 

 

I drove my niece to start her freshman year in college - 9 hours from home - and her boyfriend came along. Walking into the dorm room for the first time made both of them reflect on what it was going to be like to be so far apart. It was a bittersweet moment to observe. She was so hopeful. He was encouraging, but cried when we drove off and left her to her new life as an honors science major. He's back home trying to get a job at the steel mill. It was a moment packed with a lot of emotion.

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The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Takes on Alzheimer's

  • Family and Friend
  • Health and Fitness
  • Architects of Change
  • Maria's Post

10/14/10 | Maria Shriver | 5 Comments

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Maria Shriver

 

 

 

 

I am a child of Alzheimer’s.

My father, Sargent Shriver, was the smartest person I ever knew. He was sharp and witty, a walking encyclopedia—his mind a beautifully tuned instrument that left people in awe and inspired. That was then. Today he doesn’t know I’m his daughter, and he doesn’t even know my name.

Every minute or so—in fact, before you get to the end of this page—someone in this country will develop Alzheimer’s. It’s an epidemic and a mind-blowing disease—not just for the people who get it, but for everyone around them. No matter who you are, how old you are, what you’ve accomplished, what your financial situation is—when you’re dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, you feel powerless.

A year ago, The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything explored the transformational moment in our nation’s history when women become the majority of the workforce—and the primary or co-breadwinners in almost two-thirds of American families.

Now, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, the second landmark study -- The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s -- finds that women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s epidemic. We make up 65 percent of the people with Alzheimer’s— and up to three-fifths of all Alzheimer caregivers. That’s 3.3 million American women with Alzheimer’s and another 6.7 million women providing care for a friend or loved one. Consider that by mid-century as many as 8 million women will have the disease. We are in the midst of a national emergency, and we’re woefully unprepared.

What we need is a new kind of national conversation about Alzheimer’s and growing old in America—just like the conversations heard around kitchen tables all over the country. My hope is that this Shriver Report triggers that conversation -- focused on this disease and its ramifications. It’s time. We must face up to some big questions: With Americans living longer and with the incidence of Alzheimer’s growing, what’s going to happen to our women, our families, our workplaces, our attitudes, our society, as the Alzheimer wave hits over the next few decades? We’re talking crisis.

My hope is also that as the veil is lifted, as information and funds and support programs are made available, families will see that they’re not alone. As more people, like the ones you’ll meet in The Shriver Report, speak out and share their personal journeys with Alzheimer’s, more families will see that there’s nothing to be ashamed of—that there’s hope out there because, together, we are finally making Alzheimer’s a national issue.

The truth is that we simply must put Alzheimer’s on the front burner because if we don’t, Alzheimer’s will not just devour our memories, it will also break our women, cripple our families, devastate our healthcare system and decimate the legacy of our generation. But if we do, I’m convinced that this Woman’s Nation will be able to say that, believe it or not, there once was a time when there was no cure for Alzheimer’s.

If you want to help defeat this mind-blowing disease, I invite you to join me and thousands of people on Sunday, October 24 for my March on Alzheimer’s to kick off The Women’s Conference 2010 in Long Beach.  If you can’t attend, please consider making a donation.  The march will benefit the Alzheimer's Association, the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research.  You can learn more about the event and sign up or donate here.

Please join us. We are the hope.
 
You can read the full report at The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s at http://www.shriverreport.com/.



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