Dec 22, 2014

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Arianna Huffington & The Infectious Empowerment of Story Telling

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Arianna Huffington and Angelica Perez-Litwin, at the NCLR Conference

Today, Arianna Huffington, the president and editor-in-chief of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group, delivered the keynote address at the Latinas Brunch of the 2011 NCLR (National Council of La Raza) Conference.  Amidst a room filled with over 1,800 Latinos of all ages, nationalities and professional background, this influential social icon stood in front of us and immediately felt like one of us.

No, Arianna Huffington is not Latina (she’s Greek American), but she shares with us a common denominator — personal life stories marked by perseverance, strength and sacrifice — the immigrant experience.  She’s undeniably a connoisseur of the American dream, a triumphant woman that encapsulates and symbolizes the immigrant spirit.

She spoke about her mother, who sold her last pair of earrings to pay for her school.  Who doesn’t have a Latina mother who hasn’t sacrificed herself to bestow her children with opportunities she did not have?  And then there is the accent.  Her opening remark during the keynote speech produced a collective laughter when she joked about how wonderful it was to be surrounded by other people with accents.

Arianna spoke candidly about failures, rejections and hurdles, but with one very clear message:  don’t give up on yourself.

As I listened to this very familiar voice, it became clear to me that, as we move forward as a Latino force in this country, we ought to share and give voice to our personal stories — that perhaps ethnic/racial/political/social labels matter less than the common threads between our collective personal narratives.  And it made me wonder:  Could this simple act of sharing serve as the fertile grounds for creating compassionate diversity in this country?  Perhaps.

Half-way through her speech, Arianna shared a mother-daughter moment in her life — one that resonated deeply with me.  She told us about the day, as a young teen, when she came to her mother and announced that she wanted to go to college in Cambridge.  Her mother’s answer:  “Why not?,” and with her mother’s enthusiastic blessings, Arianna went on to pursue her studies in London.

About 2 years ago, my now 17-year teen daughter came to me and excitedly told me that she wanted to study abroad, in London.  My answer to her was:  “Why?,” with undeniable confusion and anxiety.  My over-protective maternal instincts managed to muffle my usual unconditional support for her personal growth.  Since then, those conversations have always been uncomfortable, especially as her college application days get closer.

But Arianna’s story sparked an immediate reaction in me.  At 11:43AM this morning, I sent my daughter the following text message:

I totally want you to apply to Cambridge.  Let’s talk!”

My daughter’s immediate text reply: “WOOOOH!”

And that’s the infectious empowerment of story telling.

 

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this with us. Your daughter is very lucky to have you as her mother.

  2. Wao! So inspiring. The power of story telling is awesome. I hope I can remember this post 10 to 12 years from now when I start the conversations with my daughter about college.

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin angelica says:

      Yes, Vanessa, story telling can have quite an impact. How old is your daughter now?

  3. Really great post amiga! I can really relate. Growing up, my mother worried about encouraging my dreams, because she didn’t want to see me fail. I’ve lived in fear of success for the longest time and I’m just beginning to fight against that feeling and believe in myself. I don’t blame my mother, but I do know that her support would have made a huge difference in my ambition…there’s no better supporter than a driven mom. <3

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin angelica says:

      Chantilly, you have certainly overcome your fear of success — you’ve been doing some really amazing things lately, especially with Multicultural Familia! :)

  4. Angelica, what a powerful story you shared about your own daughter. I needed to hear Arianna’s don’t give up on yourself message. Thank you again for blessing us all with a great post filled with insights and wisdom. Keep shining!

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin angelica says:

      Ananda, you have such a beautiful soul…always love your comments here. I’m so glad Arianna’s words resonated for you, as they surely did for me. Thanks so much for dropping by.

  5. I’m going through the exact same thing. Thank you for your timely post! Abrazos Angelica!

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin angelica says:

      Hey Eva, I didn’t know you had a teen applying soon to college…! Where does he/she want to go to college?

  6. Jacquie Marroquin says:

    Gracias Angelica for once again proving that the shortest distance between two people is a story.

  7. I was lucky enough to be in attendance at NCLR’s Latina Brunch. Arianna’s speech was very inspiring, and I’m glad it prompted you to change the conversation with your daughter. When I was in college, I told my mother I wanted to study abroad for a year. Her response? Start packing! It changed my life for the better in ways I’m still discovering. I wish the same for your daughter.

  8. Angelica, I began reading your story and was enjoying it and didn’t expect to be moved to tears by the end. What a beautiful thing to share with us. Thank you. Good luck to your daughter! I’m sure she’ll do amazing things in her life with you as her example.

  9. Thanks for sharing this story. My mamá was the one who encouraged me to study abroad for a year. I know it was very difficult for her to be apart of one of her children, but thanks to her support, I ended up with a great career and a life full of wonderful experiences. I am sad she and I live in different countries, and keep admiring her for all what she has done for me.

    • Angélica Pérez-Litwin angelica says:

      This is a beautiful comment. Thank you so much for sharing. You are absolutely right, you’re mom is admirable for what she had done for you. That’s true love. My regards to her.

  10. EILEEN CARTER-CAMPOS says:

    What a wonderful article. Sometimes we have to hear the stories of others to be able to understand obstacles that approach us. What a great mom you are to take into consideration the feelings of your daughter and have a conversation with her about it. She is extremely lucky to have a mom like you! Suerte! ;0)

  11. I’m currently writing about the event and watching the live stream since I didn’t get to attend. Your story is so touching.

    We need more people to encourage others to live their dreams. We need to ask more questions like “Why not?” instead of “Why?”. Don’t explain, just find a way and do it.

    Very inspiring! I wish you and your daughter the best of luck. She’s got a bright future ahead, surely.

  12. Re-telling stories can create ripples. One person can motivate or inspire another, even without specifically meaning to. It is wonderful to be on either end of this exchange, being inspired or being inspirational. Thanks for sharing and best of luck to your daughter!

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