An Arianna Huffington Post: Wise Words from One of the Most Influential Women in the Media

by Belinda Munoz on June 23, 2010

Arianna Huffington at 2010 Webby Awards

Last night, I had dinner with Dana Carvey.  Remember him on Saturday Night Live or in the movies with Mike Myers called Wayne’s World?  We locked eyes for one brief second.  He, incognito in his baseball cap with a massive bill.  Me, picking up a wayward piece of chicken that flew off my son’s fork at a family friendly joint.  It’s possible that he heard me ask my husband, Is that Dana Carvey? while I stared and pointed at him.  Discreet is not my middle name.  His table was next to mine but, though we didn’t officially dine together, I’m not technically lying.  (Buckets of rationalization, anyone?)

But seeing Dana Carvey last night reminded me of hearing Arianna Huffington speak last week.  You may know her blog called The Huffington Post.  I don’t know how the wiring works for this but it must’ve been as simple as one celebrity reminding me of another.

Arianna was the keynote speaker for EmergeAmerica’s annual event.  EmergeAmerica is a national training program for progressive women who wish to run for public office.  My friend was being honored as their Woman of the Year that night and so I had to be there.

Arianna was witty, funny and eloquent, just as I expected.  She earned a standing ovation which was not a surprise given all the feel-good sound bytes she had to say.  She even used Seth Godin’s term lizard brain which went over particularly well with many of Seth’s followers in the crowd.

Here are some paraphrased excerpts from Arianna’s keynote speech that stood out:

Empathy is a survival trait.

Hearing another person say this gave me a warm glow.  On the occasional days when the words unlovable, impossible and undeserving are synonymous to my name (Oh, now, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s this hard on myself!), empathy from someone, anyone feels a lot like a lifeline.  In less melodramatic terms by the Dalai Lama, if you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.  I buy this.  If you do, too, please help spread the word.

Lack of wisdom is what’s missing in leadership.

Arianna said this not in the context of attacking President Obama (she was very careful and tactical about this).  It was more of a plea to remind us that when followers blame the leader for not fixing what is broken, it is no different from abdicating their potential to become leaders in their own way.  It definitely had a tough love tone to it that she pulled off elegantly.

The only antidote to depression is action.

I don’t know about you but it does seem that when all I do is sit around feeling blue, I sink deeper into depression.  Have you experienced this?  While I fully grasp the benefits of silence and introspection, it is only in doing something that makes the hues of blue slowly turn into tints of pink.  Is  this why we’re fanatical about getting things done?  Another post, perhaps.

Humans will do the right thing when they have exhausted all other possibilities.

I’m not so cynical that I believe this, but it does appear that we are capable of finding solutions to our problems.  Have raw meat?  Make fire.  Leftovers too good to let sit?  Refrigeration to the rescue.  Hallways too dark?  Hello, light bulb.  And yet it’s also true that humans create their own problems but we will get into this in another post.

I don’t at all doubt Arianna’s role as a force in the media.  She’s quick, witty and confident in person.  It’s very possible that she’s faking it the whole time, but don’t we all fake it at different times in life?

As wonderful as Arianna’s speech was, the standout of the night for me was a line from another speaker.  She’s a retired military veteran LGBT who spoke eloquently about why she wants to run for office.

If you don’t have a seat at the table, you are probably part of the menu.

This speaks to me as someone who fails to understand those who complain loudly but refuse to vote.  Sorry.  I just don’t get it.  And neither does Arianna.

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+++Factoid: Did you know that the U.S. ranks 84th in the world for female representation in elected office?  Yup.  Behind Mexico, China and Pakistan.  Women make up just 17% of the U.S. Congress.  Who’s #1? Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills, where 56% of their parliamentary seats are held by women.  (Keep in mind that many men in Rwanda were killed in the 1994 genocide.)

  1. What do you think about this factoid above?
  2. Do you think men are ready to see more women in power?
  3. What are your thoughts on the saying that goes women work twice as hard for half as much?
  4. Do you think there is a fundamental difference between men and women when it comes to leadership skills?
  5. Is the only way for women to rise to power after a genocide?
  6. Do you read or write for The Huffington Post?

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June 23, 2010 at 9:57 am

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lauren June 23, 2010 at 10:48 am

Dear Belinda,

Great topic again! It’s funny, just yesterday I said necessity is the mother of all invention. I was saying it relative to the fact that we seem decades behind in our willingness to adopt alternative energy sources.

Perhaps after being hit over the head for the millionth time we’ll truly consider going there. No worries, though, we do get there. I don’t subscribe to the doomsday prophecies.

I feel we make a mistake when we place our well being in the hands of government and like helpless children expect them to take care of us. And I’m not talking welfare programs, but rather what happened in New Orleans.

Hello. We need to create our lives in the best way possible and care for ourselves. Government can – or will – only do so much and especially in the event of major catastrophies.

So, politics…hmm…not my favorite, but I love the quote “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you are probably part of the menu”. It, too, is my favorite part of the article.

I do vote and I also will admit I’m discouraged by what I see in politics. An election in our own country, the presidency at that, was hijacked and stolen and no one did anything about it.

More recently, congress appears to have completely gone off course – wasn’t the intention to be for the betterment of our people and our country? I don’t see that intention being played out in any way, shape, or form.

Oh, I’m afraid I’ve gone on a tangent. Relative to women in politics, whether we “rule” differently depends upon the individual. If we remain connected to heart and not just worshipping the “rational” as if it’s a god, then perhaps.

The fact that sometimes women can tune into their emotions more can go both ways. If combined with the ability to appropriately manage those emotions – emotional sobriety if you will – then, yes, it can be very beneficial. Balancing both sides of the brain if you will.

Personally, I vote by who I think the best person is in any case (hmm…why have I NEVER voted Republican?).

Well, I’ve gone on long enough. I think we are totally ready for more women. Hillary could have easily become president. Yet, it is remarkable how many men can’t stand her.

Why, I ask myself? Maybe the same reason why Obama is so hated by bigots and hate mongers. Prejudice. Hillary is a strong woman and there are many whom that doesn’t sit well with. Well, they can be left behind!

Thanks for raising these important questions and issues.

Lauren

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2 Tony Single June 23, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Belinda, thanks again for a thought provoking post. I’m not going to add anything more than that because I would like to sit back and be educated by any comments that your female readers may care to leave. I’m Facebooking this one. 🙂

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3 BigLittleWolf June 24, 2010 at 11:18 am

I do believe that women work twice as hard for half as much – or less. We do it for many reasons, and I don’t just mean in the workplace. Would more women in leadership roles help? I’d like to think so. But our cultural and political infrastructures are elephants; they will not be moved quickly.

As for wisdom being what is lacking in leadership, I’m not sure that’s the case. I believe we are still an adolescent country, and like adolescents – some have innate wisdom; others are entirely “now” oriented. Individual leaders can’t do it all – wise or not – individual people must be willing to do more, particularly in that “practice compassion” department.

I was on the receiving end of a little of that compassion last night. A small thing, but not so small. A helping hand fixing something during the night. The kind of thing some do so easily, and others, not at all.

If we each did what we could, when we could, in small ways – practicing compassion – then those leaders with the wisdom and fairness to keep working to nudge the elephant might have a slightly easier time.

A wonderful post, Belinda. Beautifully crafted, and thoughtful.

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4 Eva @ EvaEvolving June 24, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Yes, that statistic is shocking. As far as we think we’ve come in this country, there is still clear inequality. At times, I’m afraid I take things for granted: all the work feminists did a generation before me, so that now I have an education and career, that husbands and wives are more equal partners, that I can wear pants and use birth control. I guess I feel fortunate to live in this era… but then stats like this remind me we have a long way to go.

I’m not sure how I feel about women’s leadership vs. men’s leadership. You could say women are more compassionate, intuitive, perceptive of other’s signals. You could say women are too emotional. And these arguments have been made. But ultimately I don’t know that female leaders would be that much different than male leaders. I would just love elections where we all vote for the best candidate with no thought given to their gender.

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5 Rudri June 24, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I love this line by the Dalai Lama “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

It is important to keep this perspective front and center at all times. It is sometimes hard to express compassion in the face of negativity and a less than ideal situation, but the practice of it at all times, good or bad, I believe, will lead to a happier life and one with deeper meaning.

I do think that there are fundamental differences between woman and men’s managerial skills. Of the people I’ve worked for and worked with, when I have made a mistake, the men have generally stated, “You messed up. Do you know what you did wrong?” My response is yes and I’ve had meaningful dialogue with my male superior. I wish I could say the same thing about my female supervisors. Women with power (disclaimer: the ones I have worked for), have tended to infuse emotion into the dialogue. It makes things personal and bitter because usually when they are yelling it has nothing to do with the situation at hand; it is something else entirely different. I am certain there are positive experiences with women in roles of power and ultimately, I vote and root for the person who exhibits the strongest characteristics for the position, man or woman.

Intelligent and articulate post Belinda. Thanks.

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6 Wilma Ham June 24, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Good on you for having dinner with Dana. I agree that you can totally claim that, I hope he was twittering like crazy about his dinner with YOU.
I do not know about power in this current world. who wants it? The issues cannot be solved at the level they are created, we need to come from a totally different perspective AND everybody has to as well.
But who sets the first step, nobody in office can, they would never get in in the first place and when they are in hey are on a rollercoaster they cannot get off. That leaves me at grass roots level. Do Ho’Oponopono regarding the oil spill, take your own responsibility for the mess that is being made by all the huge corporates, teach your children and let it ripple from there. Walk you talk, change your own immediate world on a different level and keep paying attention to change close to home, your own backyard.
it is not a men/women issue, it is indeed becoming a leader in your own life.
xox Wilma

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7 Jana @ Attitude Adjustment June 27, 2010 at 5:51 am

I love The Huffington Post and am really impressed with Arianna Huffington’s success. (There was a great piece about her in The New Yorker a couple of years ago. Did you read it? You might be able to access it online.)

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8 Tess The Bold Life June 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Wow how exciting and thanks for sharing. I do believe that if more women were in power we wouldn’t have as much conflict and war. Women come from their hearts more vs their head. I could never send anyone to fight a war anywhere. I’m the Gandhi type. When we all use our individual power to its fullest we won’t be bitching about others in or with the power. We don’t have to be in office to use our power.
Just recently I requested to be a regular writer for The Huffington Post. They thanked me and said at this time they are overwhelmed with requests. They did visit my blog and I wish it had been my post that day instead of a guests. I didn’t have my ducks in a row or that wouldn’t have happened. Oh and I’m always star struck as well.

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