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.”
"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.”
"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.
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.”
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:
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.
A Day of Health, Wellness & Transformation
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.