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Home Page > Articles in English > Arianna Huffington

 

This article appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of the New York Women in Communication's newsletter "CONNECT".

A Conversation with Arianna Huffington
“You Can't Both Hold Onto an Anchor and Fly”

By Tekla Szymanski

Arianna HuffingtonAuthor, journalist and blogger Arianna Huffington (left), the 2007 New York Women in Communication's MATRIX Award winner, embodies the very notion behind the word "connect": She connects old media with new media in her blog The Huffington Post and stresses their hybrid future. She connects Old World values with New World values as a Greek immigrant in the United States. She connects generations and genders as well as mothers with their daughters — her own mother being one of her foremost role models. She connects fear with fearlessness in her new, very personal book On Becoming Fearless … In Love, Work, and Life (Little Brown and Company, 2006). And she tirelessly reinvents herself, connecting her past experiences with new ones.

This interview was conducted by e-mail, due to her vigorous schedule. Another connection upheld.

Q: What cultural differences did you perceive coming from Greece via Britain to the United States?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: In Greece, I always had the sense of being in an extended family, and I tried to recreate this once I moved to America. In fact, my ex-husband used to say that when he came into our kitchen (and it was very much a Greek kitchen), on a good day, he knew half the people there.

What would you advise someone, who wants to leave the old behind to start something new but wants to connect both experiences?

You can't both hold onto an anchor and fly. So sometimes you need to let go of the security the anchor provides if you are going to fully be present in the next stage of your life. I was actually very lucky in that I brought a lot of my past with me. The most important part of my life before I came to America had been my mother, and she moved to New York with me when I left London in 1980.

What motivated you to write your latest, your 11th, book?

I was motivated to write the book when, looking at my two teenage daughters, I was stunned to see all the same classic fears I had been burdened with when I was their age: How attractive am I? Do people like me? Should I speak up? I had thought that with all the gains feminism has brought, my daughters would not have to suffer through the fears I did. Yet, here is our younger generation, as uncertain, doubting and desperate as we were, trying to fulfill the expectations of others. I set out to provide a guide and some shortcuts to fearlessness.

If there's one connection in your book that you would like your readers to take to heart, what would it be?

I would want them to take to heart the notion that to live in fear is the worst insult to our true selves. We all have fears. Fear is universal. It touches everyone — but it doesn't stop everyone. So, I want them to remember that fearlessness isn't the absence of fear; it's the mastery of fear. That being fearless means getting up one more time than you fall down. And also that fearlessness is a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it becomes — and the easier it becomes to take risks and pursue our dreams.

Speaking of risks and the pursuit of dreams: How do the 2008 primary and presidential elections differ from the past in terms of media coverage and the ever increasing competition between old v. new media?

The 2008 campaign will be the first truly 21st Century presidential race. We have entered the era where candidates routinely announce their candidacy, try out and place campaign ads and raise tens of millions of dollars online. And they are connecting to voters via increasingly interactive Web site

The new terrain bodes well for the democratic process as it allows and compels campaigns to engage a whole new generation of young voters who spend so much of their time — and get so much of their information — online. It's where they get their news; it's where they share their views (and their pictures, videos, favorite songs, diaries, etc). It is how they stay connected to their friends and how they can become connected to the candidates.

What new roles must the candidates play to stay in the game, to stay connected to the voters?

It's still all about leadership. Candidates still need to have compelling ideas and be able to communicate those ideas. The modes of communication have changed since the days of the Lincoln-Douglas debates — or even since FDR's fireside chats — but political candidates still need to be able to connect to people, to touch their hearts as well as their minds, to be able to inspire them. That's what our greatest leaders have done. It's not just about telling voters what they want to hear; it's often about showing voters where they should be going, and figuring out a way to get them to want to go there.

Are the country — and the media — ready to truly connect with a woman presidential candidate and maybe future president?

Yes. Voters in this country are longing for leaders — male or female — who are authentic, who don't stick their finger in the wind to see which way it's blowing before choosing a position. We've had enough of spineless, fear-driven, walking-on-eggshells would-be leaders. And they've mostly been men!

So, why are there only relatively few women op-ed writers and political commentators, even in new media, to connect the dots?

Let's face it: our culture still isn't comfortable with powerful, visible, outspoken, opinionated women. We equate power and strong stances with maleness, dominance — even ruthlessness — all of which are traits that women fear being identified with, because we know, we will be labeled "pushy," "shrill," and "strident." These notions strike right at the heart of our femininity — as if womanliness and expressing strong positions are mutually exclusive! At the same time, I think women are every bit as interested in hard news as men.

The caricature that women just want to sit around reading People magazine and watching soap operas is very moldy. And as we move forward, I believe more and more women will challenge our cultural labeling and speak out more.

 

Home Page > Articles in English > Arianna Huffington