The sounds coming from the Connally Ballroom at the Alumni Center last Thursday sounded like a packed movie theater during a screening of a romantic comedy. The crowd was laughing one moment, nostalgically awww-ing the next, and even a couple enthusiastic cries of “Yes!” and “Thank you!” could be heard from fervent listeners.
Huffington spoke about the need for more wisdom in politics, the importance of spotlighting good news, and re-evaluating our taxing lifestyles.
“It’s clear that all political life has become unmanageable, as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous,” the chair, president, and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group quipped. “If you look around at the leaders who are making our lives unmanageable, it’s not that they’re not smart, it’s that they’re not wise.”
Huffington even managed to find some humor in heavy topics like our country’s declining middle class and increasing poverty rates.
“Do you know America is now number 10 in upward mobility behind Spain and behind France?,” she said. “Being behind France in upward mobility is a little bit like France being behind America in croissants and afternoon sex.”
But she was serious about the power of positive stories in the media.
“Those of us in the media have a big responsibility to put a spotlight on what is working, not just on what is not working,” she said. “If we can put a spotlight on these creations, we can help them.”
She also stressed the need for ree-valuating our lifestyles. Murmurs of agreement rippled through the crowd as she explained that when we are our best, most rested, less stressed selves, we increase the bottom line. But it all starts with redefining success. Huffington recalled a defining moment that changed the way she thought about success and work in her own life. In 2007, she collapsed from exhaustion in her office and hit her face on the edge of her desk, requiring four stitches in her cheek. The incident served as a wake-up call, she said.
“Eulogies never mention, ‘And George, he really increased market share. And he always came within budget. And he always ate lunch at his desk,’” she said. “Eulogies are always about the person’s generosity, sense of humor, or ability to bring people together. So I thought to myself, do I want to live my résumé or my eulogy?”
After her collapse, Huffington said she started placing more importance on sleep and stress relief, a lesson that seemed to resonate with an audience that included young, aspiring media mavens. “When you care so much about your job, you operate from survival,” she said. “And you’re going to make terrible decisions. If that’s the most important thing in [your] life, you’re gone. You’re lost.”
Photo courtesy Julia Bunch.