With Barbara Walters as Bay Path’s 19th annual WLC keynote speaker, you know there were some good stories to be told that day. Here’s a brief recap of “Own Your Story”
“Maybe I’ll try meditation,” Barbara Walters said, as the keynote speaker of Bay Path College’s 19th annual Women’s Leadership Conference (WLC). Looking at her upcoming retirement after an epic 50 years in broadcast journalism, the legend of TV news interviews said that, rest and relaxation “hasn’t happened yet.”
In her conversation before a sold-out crowd at the MassMutual Center this past Friday, April 25, Walters ranged across decades of conversations that put her stamp on the celebrity interview. In fact, it has been said that you haven’t “made it” until you’ve been interviewed by Barbara Walters.
Political figures as far afield as Fidel Castro to Richard Nixon to Bashar al-Assad have come under fire from the woman who has never faltered under pressure. Her interviews are the stories of people who have made history.
The WLC’s theme this year was “Own Your Story,” and who better to represent that statement than Walters. She said that one of the most moving stories she has ever told was that of the actor, Christopher Reeve. Speaking to her after the tragic accident which left him paralyzed from the neck down, he told Walters, “If I could laugh, I could live.”
“The mind and the spirit must stay open,” he added.
The Dalai Lama is another interview that will always stay with her, she told the audience. “What is the purpose of life?” she asked the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. His response, simply, “To be happy.”
Also adding to the theme of “Own Your Story” was the television and internet reporter, Lara Setrakian, founder of News Deeply and Syria Deeply—websites with a cutting edge perspective on world events. “I will ace with grace at my own pace,” she told the crowd. “Don’t worry—it wastes precious brain cells,” she said, and perhaps most importantly for the conference theme, “No one can execute your idea like you can.”
Sharing family stories in a wide-ranging speech, Bruce Feiler, New York Times columnist and best-selling author, was the other keynote speaker. He told the audience that he has been free of cancer for five years, and spoke about how that has given him a renewed outlook. “Fling open the closets and let the skeletons out,” he encouraged, as that is the only way to truly overcome the trials in our life.
The WLC hosted five additional break-out speaker sessions, each with a unique perspective on the storytelling theme. Featured were: author Dr. Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women; humorist and O: The Oprah Magazine writer, Lisa Kogan; Jim Kelleher, founder of Griffin’s Friends; “counterinsurgent” crime-fighters, Springfield (Mass.) Police Department Deputy Chief John Barbieri and Mass. State Trooper Michael Cutone; and Laurie Rosner, owner of the marketing firm, A Story Making Company.
The WLC is one of the region’s premier annual events. For almost two decades, the Conference has been a must-attend meeting of networking, ideas, and information. For more details on the WLC, including stories of past speakers, please visit baypathconference.com.