Just because you’re one of the richest people on the planet doesn’t mean you’re living the exact life you want. And maybe by doing so much good for others, you’re not doing enough for yourself.
Which may be why, amid the sea of women who descended on Seattle Center last weekend for Oprah Winfrey’s “The Life You Want Weekend,” there was Melinda French Gates.
She was gracious, as always, when I saw her walking into KeyArena with an escort. I asked if she was speaking. You should be, I said.
“Nooooooo,” Gates said. “I’m here anonymously.”
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Not for long. The Key was packed to the rafters with 10,000 women — and maybe 100 very evolved men — looking for inspiration and answers.
Winfrey spoke for almost two straight hours on Friday night, holding court in a fuchsia gown, telling her life story while video clips from her 25 years of shows and two movies (“The Color Purple” and “The Butler”) played on a giant screen behind her.
The next morning, she carried a casual Saturday, “let’s get some work done,” vibe and turned things over to her stable of “trailblazers.”
“The Book of Awakening” author Mark Nepo started the day with a meditation. “Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert spoke about “The Quest” she went on for truth and meaning.
Rob Bell, founding pastor of the Mars Hill Bible Church — in Michigan — and the author of “Love Wins,” told attendees, “The life you want begins by embracing the life that you already have.”
Iyanla Vanzant, star of “Fix My Life” on OWN, joked about the lessons life gives us in between sips of something bubbly in a fluted glass.
The room went from being a dance party (I saw Arianna Huffington losing it over Cheryl Lynn’s “Got To Be Real.” Can’t blame her) to a church of sorts, with people listening intently to the speakers, then quietly writing in Oprah-supplied orange workbooks while Winfrey walked the aisles like an insanely well-paid schoolteacher.
There was a mist in the air that smelled vaguely of chocolate (or estrogen), and everyone wore a wristband that lit up at certain moments, blanketing the Key with what looked like white, yellow, red and blue stars.
The hot item was a yellow gift bag that went to premium ticket holders ($599 a pop) that contained an Oprah phone charger and some cosmetics — and warranted a security guard to stand by. (“They were knocking people over in Miami.”)
The area outside the Key was turned into “O Town,” where women stood in line for free samples, makeovers and head massages, as well as face-time with Oprah’s BFF Gayle King, who posed for pictures and took notes on the more interesting exchanges, including one with Dana Frank, who gave her two PeaceTags, which are dog tags embossed with quotes from people like Winfrey’s mentor, the late Maya Angelou. The tags, the profits of which benefit veterans, were created by Frank’s friend Fredda Goldfarb.
“You hear the best things,” King told me, flipping the pages. A woman came from Japan. Another from London. One freshly divorced woman came “to become the person she was before she got married.” (Oprah can do that?)
“I hate to use the word ‘proud,’ because I’m not, like, her mother,” King said of her friend. “But I am proud. There’s nobody like her.”
Winfrey sent the audience home with homework: Write down the elements of your perfect life, from your home to your partner to how you spend time and money.
“The life you want is waiting to rise up to meet you,” she said, tearing up. “Let this be the vision prayer.”
It’s not often that a politician inspires one to think of a corny ’70s song, but there I was Thursday night at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall, listening to former Sen. Olympia Snowe and remembering that old Randy VanWarmer dentist-office staple: “You left me just when I needed you most.”
Two days before, in the midterm elections, Congress made it clear that the aisle we hope they cross on our behalf will have plenty of legs sticking out in it, trying to trip each other up. The last Congress enacted 283 laws, Snowe said. This one? 165.
“Americans deserve better,” said Snowe, who wore a Husky-purple jacket. “A great nation should be governed as a great nation.”
Among her suggestions: Change the congressional session to a five-day workweek, with three weeks on and one back in lawmakers’ home states. Have the House and Senate both in session at the same time, and restore the committee process. Have the president hold regular, bipartisan leadership meetings.
“Familiarity with each other breaks down the barriers and builds up trust,” she said.
Best of all? “No budget, no pay,” Snowe said, to applause. “We have a deadline to meet on April 15. Why shouldn’t they?”
Before her speech, Snowe was feted in the Walker Ames Room, where Graduate School Dean David Eaton and Alumni Association head Paul Rucker introduced her to Dr. Richard Layton, who will be recognized Tuesday at the UW’s Medal of Honor memorial for his service in the U.S. Navy.
Also in the room: legal consultant and Crosscut board member Maryel Duzan, University Advancement head Connie Kravas, along with Harold “Buzz” Coe and Penny Danz-Coe, whose family endowed the lecture series that brought Snowe to Seattle.
Rucker’s mother, Evelyn, brought two of her friends, Linda Messent and Mary Paananen, who described themselves as “ladies who like to play and make the world a better place.” As for the results of the midterms, well, Rucker spoke for them all:
“There are 100 women in Congress now,” she said. “Maybe now they’ll get something done.”
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or email@example.com.