On Wednesday evening, March 6, media mogul Arianna Huffington addressed the Drew forum covering topics from the American Dream to two-sided politics and leadership.
In opening her speech, Huffington light-heartedly informed the Drew community that her accent is in fact “for real.” With a modest smile, Huffington went on to explain that, while giving a recent speech, she “joked that she gives [herself] an accent in order to give herself a certain air.” She further explained, “This joke went over very well everywhere except Arizona,” drawing a warm laugh from the crowd.
“I was married. I am now divorced,” she stated. “During the last few months of our marriage my husband decided to hire me a dialogue coach. She followed me around for two weeks, and took notes on everything I said. By the end of two weeks I was completely paralyzed and ready to divorce my husband,” Huffington smiled.
She proceeded to outline the body of her speech, which was divided into three sections, the first being, “what has happened to the American Dream?”
In beginning this portion, Huffington, who is a native of Athens, Greece, explained, “I remember going to high school in Athens and seeing the statue of President Truman that was erected by thankful Grecians who appreciated what the Americans had done. Everyone in Athens had dreams of traveling to America in search of a better life.”
“What I have come to realize, now, is that this dream isn’t really happening for everyone,” Huffington stated. She went on to explain that, in a world where student debt is now higher than credit card debt, the idea of “having and achieving anything you want if you just work hard enough is now non-existent.”
In line with this idea, Huffington expressed her feelings that the United States, as a nation, puts so much focus on what we do not have, as opposed to what we do have, and because of this negative perspective, we now lack the caring and ingenuity to overcome challenges.
“What will this do to the country?” Huffington asked.
Similar to her idea that the concept of the American Dream is growing more and more unrealistic for the average middle-class American to achieve, she expressed her distaste for the stark division between left/right politics.
“Think about it. So many of the issues that we are currently dealing with are not left/right issues. The job crisis is not a left/right issue, for example,” she stated.
With that said, Huffington went on to explain how she sees the role of the media as accountable for the responsibility of “not seeing issues in a two-sided way.”
“We do this thing now where everything is a two-sided issue, and each side is treated with equal equivalence. That just doesn’t make sense to me,” she said.
“It’s like listening to one guy say the earth is round, and another guy say the earth is flat, and treating them both with equal validity. That’s just silly,” she continued.
Running parallel to Huffington’s ideas about controversies being strictly two-sided, she touched upon problems such as the drug war, the prison system and the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war. “These are issues that neither political party is addressing. It is the media’s job to call people accountable”
Because Huffington feels that not every issue surfacing in government and elsewhere is a two-sided story, she said the Huffington Post will be doing a large series in which they hold people accountable.
In the third section of her speech, Huffington addressed leadership in an interesting way. “Coming out of Washington, we hear a lot of complaints about the fiscal cliff, student debt and the sequester. It makes me think, where were the leaders, where were the CEOs when all of this was happening?”
“You hear about Lehman Brothers failing. It makes me think, if they were Lehman Brothers and Sisters, they would still be around,” Huffington said with a smile.
“Good leadership is about seeing the ice block before it hits the Titanic,” Huffington went on. And in using this analogy, Huffington explained the importance of leaders, and everyone else, taking the time to rest and recharge.
“Think about anyone who was a successful leader,” she stated. “Rest made them good.”
While speaking about the essential nature of unplugging, resting and recharging, Huffington explained a new HuffPost-created app, called “GPS for the Soul.”
“I know this may sound very paradoxical considering I am advocating for unplugging when resting, but the point of the app is to prove that it does not take long to get to a place where you can de-stress,” she said.
“Stress is directly related to exhaustion, which has a major impact on decision-making. In order to make a good leader or citizen, we need to have the ability to make coherent decisions.”
In addition to rest, Huffington highlighted the importance of being yourself. “How can you redefine leadership and success without being ‘on?’” she asked.
In elaborating her feelings that in order to be a good leader, one must rest and recharge, Huffington insisted that “instead of evaluating a leader
based on money, position and power, we must now add wellness into that spectrum.”
As she began to wrap up her speech, Huffington tied all three of her ideas together, stating, “Success will not always come from the top. Success will come from individuals.”
“It is time to start putting the spotlight on what is working, rather than what is not,” she said.
With this, Huffington added, “It is not time for engaged citizens to sit on the sidelines. It is time to look in the mirror and find the leader within yourself and do something outside of what you’re comfortable with.”
“How we need to live our lives is to tap into our judgment on both a political and personal level,” she said.
While Huffington’s speech to the forum advocated for citizens to become the leader that lies within them, in a more intimate conversation with a Drew student who asked about how Huffington hopes to inspire other “power women” — those like herself who are already defined, and those
“You must let go of the fear of failure, you may fail, but as my mother always said, ‘failure is not the opposite of success, it is a mere stepping stone along the journey,’” she said with a smile.who are not quite there yet — Huffington said, “It’s time to redefine success. It’s not about burning out, but it includes being able to unplug and relax.”
“I am an optimist. I am a Greek American. I come from two very optimistic nations. I believe that despite challenges, we can overcome and rebuild, as a tribute to all of those who came to the shores many years ago with hope and anticipation of achieving the American Dream,” Huffington concluded.