Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
Cloudy
82°
Cloudy
Hi 88° | Lo 65°

Arianna Huffington at Smith calls for ‘third women’s revolution’

  • June Yin Lee, left, Cody Penotte, Victoria Katharine Henry and Nitya Kadambi, all of Smith College, react to Arianna Huffington's commencement address Sunday during the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    June Yin Lee, left, Cody Penotte, Victoria Katharine Henry and Nitya Kadambi, all of Smith College, react to Arianna Huffington's commencement address Sunday during the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-In-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, stands to give the commencement address Sunday during the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-In-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, stands to give the commencement address Sunday during the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Albright House Smith alumni Alison Hogeboom, left, Michaela Gonzales, Kristina Fedorenko, Malka Coburn, Laura Clampitt and Meng Chen celebrate Sunday during the closing remarks of the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Albright House Smith alumni Alison Hogeboom, left, Michaela Gonzales, Kristina Fedorenko, Malka Coburn, Laura Clampitt and Meng Chen celebrate Sunday during the closing remarks of the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith College recent alumnae Shuyao Kong hugs a friend Sunday after the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College. Kong graduated with an A.B. in Psychology and Economics.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Smith College recent alumnae Shuyao Kong hugs a friend Sunday after the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College. Kong graduated with an A.B. in Psychology and Economics.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Smith College President Carol Christ, left, presents Emily Broderick Scarpa with a diploma Sunday at the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College. Scarpa lived at 54 Green Street and graduated with an A.B. in Psychology.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Smith College President Carol Christ, left, presents Emily Broderick Scarpa with a diploma Sunday at the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College. Scarpa lived at 54 Green Street and graduated with an A.B. in Psychology.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cody Penotte of Smith College reacts to Arianna Huffington's commencement address Sunday during the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College. Penotte graduated with an A.B. in Education & Child Study and Liberal Studies. June Yin Lee, left, and Victoria Katharine Henry, both also of Smith College, look on, at back.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

    Cody Penotte of Smith College reacts to Arianna Huffington's commencement address Sunday during the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College. Penotte graduated with an A.B. in Education & Child Study and Liberal Studies. June Yin Lee, left, and Victoria Katharine Henry, both also of Smith College, look on, at back.

    SARAH CROSBY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Purchase photo reprints »

  • June Yin Lee, left, Cody Penotte, Victoria Katharine Henry and Nitya Kadambi, all of Smith College, react to Arianna Huffington's commencement address Sunday during the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-In-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, stands to give the commencement address Sunday during the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Albright House Smith alumni Alison Hogeboom, left, Michaela Gonzales, Kristina Fedorenko, Malka Coburn, Laura Clampitt and Meng Chen celebrate Sunday during the closing remarks of the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Smith College recent alumnae Shuyao Kong hugs a friend Sunday after the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College. Kong graduated with an A.B. in Psychology and Economics.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Smith College President Carol Christ, left, presents Emily Broderick Scarpa with a diploma Sunday at the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College. Scarpa lived at 54 Green Street and graduated with an A.B. in Psychology.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY
  • Cody Penotte of Smith College reacts to Arianna Huffington's commencement address Sunday during the 135th Commencement Ceremony at Smith College. Penotte graduated with an A.B. in Education & Child Study and Liberal Studies. June Yin Lee, left, and Victoria Katharine Henry, both also of Smith College, look on, at back.<br/><br/>SARAH CROSBY

NORTHAMPTON — Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the news website that bears her name, challenged Smith College graduates Sunday to redefine the meaning of success and lead what she called “the third women’s revolution.”

In her commencement address before a crowd of graduates, families and friends gathered in the quadrangle, Huffington said society’s model of success — in which success, money and power have practically become synonymous — is badly broken.

The old model, she told the college’s 698 graduates, must be replaced by a new metric, “one founded on well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder, and to give back.

“What I urge you to do is not just take your place at the top of the world, but to change the world,” Huffington said.

Tradition and change

Huffington’s call for revolution was the main event in a ceremony that combined tradition and change. As in years past, the graduates were preceded into the quadrangle by the bagpipes and drums of the Holyoke Caledonian Pipe Band. Among the sea of black mortarboards were some white hard hats, worn by Smith students who studied engineering science, a newer major at the college. And, walking through the crowd of families and friends, it was easy to hear many languages and accents, reflecting the fact that the class of 2013 was drawn from 34 countries and 44 states.

Looking out at the rows of black-robed graduates, Huffington said she knew she’d brought her message to the right place. “I can’t imagine a place where I would be more likely to find the leaders of that revolution than right here at Smith.”

Huffington, who launched The Huffington Post in 2005, has built it into a site that serves up an around-the-clock collection of news, blogs, opinion, videos, top-10 lists, celebrity gossip and pop culture. It has helped define news in the digital age, and has also won respect from traditional journalism — in 2012, the site won a Pulitzer Prize for a 10-part series, “Beyond the Battlefield,” about the lives of wounded veterans.

A native of Greece, Huffington poked fun at her distinctively accented English, telling her audience that she was certain none of them would have imagined four years ago that their journey would end with a speech by “a lady talking to you from behind a podium in a funny accent.” Her accent, she told them, had long been “the bane of my existence” — until, that is, a gentleman by the name of Henry Kissinger had told her not to worry. In American public life, the German-born secretary of state told her, “you can never underestimate the advantages of complete and total incomprehensibility.”

In keeping with her position as a key player on the Web, Huffington joked that she’d spent the last several weeks “stalking you — on your various Smith websites, on your Twitter feeds, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Tumblr — so I could get to know you better.”

As a mother of two daughters, Huffington said she could not help but feel a bit protective of her audience. “But I know you don’t need protecting,” she said. “You are absolutely prepared and ready to take on the world ...” even if the work world many of them will enter has its values askew.

“Money and power by themselves are a two-legged stool,” Huffington said. “You can balance on them for a while, but eventually you’re going to topple over. And more and more people, very successful people, are toppling over.”

That’s because relentless pursuit of success, she said, has resulted in far too many people living with far too much stress. Too many people in too many workplaces, she said, are chronically exhausted, sleep-deprived and at risk for heart disease and other ailments.

“I know of what I speak,” she said “In 2007, sleep-deprived and exhausted, I fainted, hit my head on my desk, broke my cheekbone and got four stitches on my right eye.”

And the danger isn’t just medical because, she said, “Sleep deprivation will also profoundly affect your creativity, your productivity and your decision making.”

To change that, Huffington said she has become “a sleep evangelist,” noting that the website’s office in New York now has two nap rooms. Though staffers were initially hesitant to use them — for fear of being seen as not working hard enough — many have come around.

“I’m happy to say our rooms are now always booked. Although the other day I was walking by and I saw two people walking out of one of the nap rooms,” she said, as laughter spread through the crowd. “But, hey, whatever it takes to recharge yourself. Just please don’t tell HR, OK?”

Huffington pointed out that in the first wave of the women’s revolution, suffragists had fought for the right to vote. Then she paid tribute to two earlier Smith graduates — Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem — who led feminism’s second wave.

What’s needed now, she said, is a stronger emphasis on nurturing “our human capital.” Success, she said, should not be about climbing the ladder to the top, only to burn out. Rather, it should include holding on to a sense of wonder and delight, and staying connected to one’s own inner wisdom.

Staying connected, Huffington said, means unplugging from all those screens and gadgets, at least every now and then.

“Don’t worry,” she hastened to add. “You don’t have the head of a digital news operation telling you to disconnect from technology altogether. What I’m saying is, learn to regularly disconnect from technology in order to connect with yourself.”

Final farewells

In her remarks at the ceremony, senior class president Sarah Hussain spoke of the bonds she and her classmates had formed at Smith. Despite their varying backgrounds, she said, they forged a connection with each other and with generations of Smith students past that’s almost impossible for the outside world to understand.

“We were finding our niches,” she said. “We were gaining a sense of self.”

Sunday’s graduation was the last for Smith President Carol Christ, who is leaving after 11 years. In her closing, as she spoke to the graduating seniors for the last time, Christ asked the students to show their appreciation to their teachers, and to their families and friends. They responded with standing ovations, cheers, hoops and hollers. From somewhere in the crowd, a voice shouted, “I love you, Carol!”

Christ, in a voice full of emotion, said she hoped they would leave with “an open mind and a warm heart” and that they would find happiness ahead. “The time has come for you to leave this place,” she said. “May you thrive.”

Suzanne Wilson can be reached at swilson@gazettenet.com.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.