CNN honored me with an invitation to participate as a featured guest panelist at their Inspire Summit: Women’s Empowerment Conference held at the Turner – Time Warner building in Manhattan last week. The program was moderated by Kyra Phillips, anchor of “CNN Newsroom”, and opened with special guest Whoopi Goldberg.
Eight women (including me) followed Whoopi’s down-to-earth, humorous and entertaining opening to share our stories and humanitarian projects that evening. Our panelist interviews concluded with the L’Oreal Paris Women Of Worth Awards.
Meeting all of these amazing women was such a thrill! Everyone’s dedication towards their special projects and causes was incredibly inspirational. The experience served as a reminder that when we follow our passion, anything is possible.
Here are abbreviated introductions of the women Kyra Phillips (CNN anchor) interviewed in front of a live audience:
Whoopi Goldberg, multiple award-winning actress, comedienne, producer and television host, is also well-known for her humanitarian efforts on behalf of children, the homeless, human rights, education, substance abuse and the battle against AIDS. Whoopi is a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations.
Incidentally, wearing jeans, a baggy shirt and bright yellow rubber shoes, Whoopi shared why she dresses for comfort rather than high style. In a nutshell, feeling comfortable makes her happy, and when she’s happy, the people around her, in turn, feel more comfortable and happy. Makes perfect sense to me! What else makes Whoopi happy? Toto toilets. I guess you had to be there…
Molly and Carly Houlahan, Hives for Lives
Molly and Carly Houlahan, ages 16 and 14, launched Hives for Lives four years ago when their beloved grandfather died of cancer. These sisters wanted to honor his memory by raising money to find a cure. They raise bees, harvest the honey, then spin, filter and bottle it by hand. Their honey is now being distributed by nine Whole Foods regions and they’ve raised $150,000 towards a cure so far. Way to go, girls!
Patricia Hall, H2O for Life
Patricia Hall, after participating in a variety of volunteer service projects in Africa and witnessing the plight of women and girls caused by lack of water and sanitation, was compelled to bring water projects to schools in third world countries. Patricia is a teacher in Minnesota. H2O for Life was formed in 2007 after overwhelming student response to the first service learning project she initiated in her school. H2O for Life has now grown to over 80 school projects during the current 2008-2009 school year.
Majora Carter, The Majora Carter Group
Majora Carter, a South Bronx native, pursues resources and ideas to improve the quality of life in environmentally challenged communities. She founded Sustainable South Bronx and implemented the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training program — a green-collar job training and placement system – seeding communities with a skilled workforce that has both a personal and economic stake in their urban environment.
Jessica Flannery, Kiva.org
Jessica Flannery is co-founder of Kiva.org, the world’s first peer-to-peer online microlending website. Kiva makes it possible for internet users to lend money to specific entrepreneurs in developing countries, empowering these individuals to lift themselves out of poverty. Since I pledge my blogging profits as loans to the women I find on Kiva’s website, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet one of the masterminds behind this brilliant online organization!
Jen Smith, Millionaire Mommy Next Door
Jen Smith learned to make, save and spend money in ways that she and her family find rewarding. Now financially-free, she’s on a mission to inspire and empower other families through financial education so they too can enjoy the life they want to live. She freely shares her recipe for success, happiness and wealth on her blog. As part of her commitment to our world-wide community, Jen pledges her blogging revenue as 0% microloans, through Kiva.org, to small businesses operated by working, impoverished women in developing countries.
Eve Ensler, Vagina Monologues
Eve Ensler, playwright, performer, feminist and activist, is best known for her play The Vagina Monologues. In 1998, Ensler launched V-Day, a global non profit that has raised over $60 million for women’s anti-violence groups.
Doris “Granny D” Haddock, Political Activist
“Granny D”, at the age of 90, walked across America to rally against the influence of big money in elections. At 94, she ran for U.S. Senate. Since then, she’s given speeches around the country to promote campaign finance reform; specifically, public funding of elections. May I live as long and as strong!
After the Summit event, my family and I stayed in New York City for three additional days to sight-see. I was in NYC during the same week last year when I appeared as a guest on The Montel Williams Show, but this was the first visit for my husband and daughter. Coming from a small western city, Manhattan is an eyeful –- especially for a three-year-old during the holiday season. We rode the (free) ferry past the Statue of Liberty, navigated the subways, ate dim sum in Chinatown, strolled around the historic Seaport Village and enjoyed views of the Brooklyn Bridge, weaved between the tall buildings and narrow streets around Wall St and the NY Stock Exchange, visited the Museum Of The City Of New York, checked email from the magnificent NY public library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street (marble, stately columns, European-like painted ceilings, amazing two-story carved wood bookcases), gawked at the ostentatious Christmas display windows and mega-caret diamonds along 5th Ave, stomped on the Big Piano at FAO Schwartz toy store, watched kids get their American Girl dolls dolled up at the store’s “Doll Hair Salon”, dropped in on a Santa convention, rode the carousel at Bryant Park, and saw disturbing pictures of dead people at the International Center of Photography.
What a marvelous trip!