The sublime and the ridiculous

On Tuesday I attended the California Women’s Conference promoted to inspire us (women) to be “The Architects of Change.” I saw speeches or interviews or panels with First Lady Michelle Obama, Jill Biden, Laura Bush, Maria Shriver, the governor, the candidates for governor, Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg and O’Connor, Judy Woodruff (a personal hero), Brian Williams (another favorite), the head of Starbucks, the head of Nike, Nick Kristof, Erin Brokovich, Billie Jean King, Eve Ensler, Chef Paula Deen, and many many more “luminaries.”

With good luck, I had a wonderful seat to view all of these presentations. But I can’t say that the speeches and the interviews were for me the most important part. What will stay with me is the content and artistry of a video by the Girl Effect Foundation. I won’t try to describe it. By watching you will understand ( The other powerful piece for me was the story of Colombian journalist, Claudia Julieta Duque, and her courageous fight for human rights.

In addition to the speeches and break out sessions there was an enormous hall filled with hundreds of booths. There were booths by every imaginable product and service, and all were giving away some little trinket or food treat. My friend and I had great fun roaming through the aisles and collecting goodies in a big bag we were given at the entrance of the hall. It was like trick-or-treating for grown up ladies.

I loved the range of exhibitors: from Barbie to vegan nutrition bars, from face-lift methods to meditation tapes, from aromatherapy to lip gloss from an oil company (how appropriate). On reflection, that’s one of the things I most liked about the whole event  -- the space and acceptance for the range of appearance and endeavors that was represented. Ladies in fancy outfits with too much collagen in their lips and others in sensible shoes and no makeup. It was like the theme of a lot of my writing -- the quest to find the balance between our vanities and our deepest values.

Was I inspired to be an architect of change? – Yes, I guess so. Based on the samples I have changed my brand of hand lotion, hair conditioner and energy bar. And based on the heartfelt and personal story of a young Colombian journalist I have continued the gradual change that is part of my own growth – to constantly be grateful for the safety and comfort of my own life and to do more to insure greater safety and comfort in the lives of other human beings – women and men.