morning everyone. What a pleasure to be here with you today
to share in your national conference in one of my favorite cities
of the world.
I am particularly thrilled to see so many Latinas in whose
capable hands the Social Security of this country is so well
I must tell you, I look out among you and feel such pride in all
that we represent on the threshold of a new millennium.
I am not only proud of our rich and thriving heritage, I am
particularly proud to be Latina on the brink of a new era that
holds so much promise for us all if we understand and take full
advantage of the powerful and prosperous times and diverse roles
we are stepping into.
I love the theme of this year's conference. Hispanics ready for
the millennium. Cuz ready or not, here we come.
But how wonderful to be ready and to use wisely the power we
When I was asked to address you today -- the organizers made
clear I should come to inspire you with the experiences of my
journey and the promise I believe lays before us from my vantage
point as a business woman, producer and television broadcaster.
I was thrilled to come... It is thee easiest of assignments
because it's a message I believe in whole-heartedly ... one born
of a great passion and fierce knowing within me.
What I know is that our time to seize life and fulfill our vision
is right now -- we have a chance to really fulfill our dreams ...
and the dreams we envision for how this country and our lives
should be shaped in the century ahead.
We have that much power like never before ... if we seize it.
Well for one, we will be the largest ethnic minority in the
country by the year 2005. Our numbers alone reflect the sheer
force of our emerging presence -- economically, politically,
Latinas in particular are finishing school ahead of Latin males
and more than five million of us already make up the U.S. work
force ... many of us shattering old stereotypes by reaching into
For the first time, we're ready to meet opportunity head on. And
the opportunity abounds as the millennium opens up to Latins as
All we need to do is look to pop culture to see the trends before
Ricky Martin is a sign post ahead for what it will be like for
Hispanics living the Vida Loca in the new millennium. But Gloria
Estephan is even more telling. Her long lasting 170-million
dollar empire is ever expanding as she reigns as both super star
as well as promoter of up and coming new Latin latent like the
super singer Shakira.
From pop culture to politics -- there are already more Latinas
and women in general holding more high offices at all levels of
government than ever before. Nationally ... we've got women to
1. Maria Echaveste ... White House Director of Public Liason --
has incredible access to the President influencing his view on
standardized college entrance exams and the elimination of sweat
2. Aida Alvarez ... heads the Small Business Administration --
she is one of Clinton's few second term Hispanic Cabinet
appointments. She has direct say in issues of importance to the
And of course ...
3. Linda Chavez Thompson ... the Executive Vice President of the
AFL CIO -- she is the first Hispanic to be on the executive board
and is intent on challenging racial and economic discrimination.
How terrific that these Latina women are rising in ranks of
National prominence. We have so many concerns to be addressed in
our communities, for our families ... and socially ... the
immigrant backlash is bringing English Only legislation all over
the place ... denial of Federal benefits to legal immigrants is a
major issue and the elimination of affirmative action admission
programs in Texas and California are top of mind. We have women
to watch in high places now to look out for our best interests.
It's the same impressive movement in business -- corporate and
private -- already there are more Latinas and women in general
securing higher positions in corporate America and in private
business than ever before making the same kinds of huge
Have you heard of:
Ann Marie Wheelock is one of the highest ranking Latinas in the
field of philanthropy. She was recently named Exec. VP and Chief
Operation Officer of the Fannie Mae Foundation which has six
Latina directors and provides an emergency elder care voucher
program to its employees under her leadership.
Astrid Autolitano is the President of Mattel International and
also is one of the highest ranking Latinas in corporate America.
On site child care facility and flexible work at home
opportunities make Mattel a Latina influenced business under
Ryder System Inc. is one of the few Fortune 1000 Companies with a
Latina President of a division. Ofelia San Pedro is the
President of Redo Ryders Energy Division as well as the Vice
President of Global Procurement. To their Latina employees Ryder
offers on site child care and flextime compressed work weeks all
under her leadership.
Chirsty Haubegger ... in 1996 at the age of 27 launched Latina
Magazine -- she was right on when she said there needs to be a
woman's bilingual magazine that appeals to women who juggle two
cultures and two languages.
These women are making a huge difference ... they are beacons of
hope and inspiration to all we have to offer as well.
The millennial in-roads politically, economically are profound
and promising and exciting.
While TV and film still do not reflect the best of our talent or
our buying power. Yet ... we do have Salma and Jennifer building
empires in Hollywood and providing new role models for our young
And our young girls need to see themselves in prosperous
inspiring roles in the arts ... they need those images. Those
mentors. That dream.
Role models are there and thriving. Let's concentrate on our
successes ... Gloria Estephan, Thalia Albita, Rita Moreno and
Carmen Esperanza and Liz Torrez are the queens. They still are
cutting a wide new path for the amazing millennial talent about
to take center stage in the countdown to two-thousand.
From salsa to marengue to rock in Espanol to the Cuban sound of
the Caribbean to mariachi music .. our cultural vibrancy is about
to explode in this country like never before, introducing all to
the very best of our culture and heritage.
And who better than we Latinas know how to move to the beat of
all the Latin heat?
It's our music. It's our time.
There are so many opportunities. So many sign posts ... there are
more Latina magazines on news stands than ever before. Joining
Latina, Latin Style and Hispanic Business ... now we add
Latin Bride making its debut.
We are the fastest growing economic buying force in the country
and that alone spells power.
Latinas pay a huge attention to style and fashion. We love to
shop and are very keen on the trends of the day.
We are stylish in dress, in our homes ... we are passionate about
our families, our children, our lives.
As a result, we are great consumers -- from make up to diapers to
groceries to clothes to movie tickets to CD's .. we represent the
millennial buyer, not to mention the millennial mom with a tight
grip on our kids -- we have a devotion to family to no others ...
and believe me ... the nations's top advertisers, manufacturers
and visionaries from the Internet to the TV set to type set pages
in magazines want your dollars and your sense of things. That is
Don't get me wrong, we still don't have the kind of
representation in all fields we will have. But I am focusing
today on the great strides, inroads and power base we are
Because by concentrating on that ... we can expand on that
power -- build on it and then with grit and grace ... wield it
Women and minority representation in board rooms to the halls of
Congress ... to classrooms to the movie studios to offices of
Social Security all over the country.
All are critical if we are to be the kind of mothers, daughters,
sisters and matriarchs, creators and business mavericks of a
powerful and diverse Nation that we are called on to be.
Today I celebrate the big names among us in lights or high
office. They hold our future in their hands. We should know who
they are, celebrate them and don't forget to hold them
accountable. That is our responsibility.
They bare a great burden to find ways to keep our kids in
schools, cut down our drop out rate ... put computers in our
classrooms so we can compete ... improve the quality of health
care in our communities and eradicate the kinds of discrimination
we still face because we're brown.
We have a serious problem with getting Latinas to see
gynecologists for Pap Smears and specialists for mamograms. When
they do we often have problems with receiving quality screenings.
For what ever the reasons, our young girls are being diagnosed
with cervical cancer and dying of this highly curable and
detectable disease more than any other ethnic group.
Where is the research to find out why? Where is the education to
turn things around and save lives?
This is just one of the major kinds of issues we are heavily
relying on our Latin leaders to tackle for us in the new century.
Their representation is crucial.
But this morning ... my focus is not on their work. My focus is
on yours. Today ... it's all about you.
This morning I want to concentrate on the power each of us has in
this room to make a difference in a major way to better our lives
and the lives of an entire Nation in the millennium ahead.
I believe in dreaming big and doing big things ... fulfilling our
calling, your mission, each of us has one ... infused by God in
this lifetime ...
No matter how small we believe we are -- I believe big things are
expected of each and every one of us.
I come from nothing -- no money, no big family empire, no ivy
league education. I was born in Mexico to a flamenco dancer
father and an American mother who fell in love with his
I grew up in East Hollywood California and watched my dad dance
and make no money ... I traveled throughout the bowels of Mexico
with my mom and watched her collect fairy tales from the common
people living in the most humble pueblos. It's from her that I
was first inspired to be a reporter. It's from her that I first
was inspired to dream big about wanting to tell the diverse
stories of the world's people -- I wanted so to make a difference
by somehow bringing my sense of humanity and respect for all
cultures and ways of life into my interviews. That was my dream.
Through sheer force of will and desire I worked my way up the
ladder of network news and traveled around the world from Somalia
in East Africa to Bosnia to Cuba to Panama to the Gulf War in
Israel covering national and international news for CBS and NBC.
It was an adventure that changed my life and enriched me so.
Who would have thought a simple kid from a simple family could
have such a journey of adventure and windows to worlds opened to
Well, I'll tell you. I did.
I succeeded because I never thought I could not.
No I was never that confident. I battled insecurities.
What I did have was an inherent belief that all was possible
because I had a great faith that that was the Law of God and
So I have always believed that our desire ... our dream to be who
we want to be no matter how grand our vision ... no matter what
our circumstances. I have always believed achieving our highest
goals were possible ... by simply believing it could be.
In this spirit ... I address you now.
Each of us has a special gift ... a mission ... a calling. It's
in you. You may choose not to recognize it ... even to ignore or
oppress it. But I know without a shadow of a doubt that each and
every one of us was put on this earth to do something wonderful
-- and unique to us.
I'm big on transformation my friends. On being transformational
men and women.
I'm big on standing up with a warrior spirit to our silent demons
that tell us we can't or we're not good enough or that the odds
are too great or that we are too old to change, to learn to grow
... to make it now.
I'm big on conquering those demon voices in our heads ...
fighting our insecurities and doubts ... and risking all to be
bold to be who we are meant to be.
It's scary. I know first hand.
I'm now trying to launch a business after working for networks my
whole career. But fear of failure can't be allowed to stop me or
you. I have a dream of building my own production company and
telling more in-depth stories about the brilliant people making
such a difference in our world that never make the airwaves. I
have such a need to be a conduit for these unseen heroes that
quietly make such a difference.
But it's scary to try something new. It's scary to shed old
beliefs about yourself and what you think you are capable of ...
it's hard to risk and be bold to test what you've got.
But there is no other way.
To me the only real failure in life is not ... in trying and
failing. Or making mistakes. It's in never attempting to
fulfill your grandest potential.
Elizabeth Kubbler-Ross and a new maverick in the death and dying
movement named Kathleen Singh ... both tell how thousands of
their dying patients have one thing in common. All voice regrets
in their final hours of not taking more risks ... not living life
to the fullest ... of not being all they knew they could be.
I'm so inspired by what I call transformational women who become
the most unlikely dynamos ... and mavericks ...
They make a difference in their small lives in big ways..
First off ... it's in your cellular history. Remember who you
are and where you came from. It's there you will find courage.
We women of the Americas come from great warrior brave stock.
Take the Mexican Revolution for example ... Yes there was Pancho
Villa and Emiliano Zapata ... but there were also some daring
dames who fought the good fight against the ruling classes when
The fighting soldaderas ... of 1910, the female freedom fighters
... Dolores Jimenz Yemuro -- outspoken, fearless and willing to
risk everything for the sake of her country. Zapata named her a
brigadier general and she was one of the key contributors to the
framing of the Constitution.
Juana Belen Gutierrez de Mendoza -- a Colonel in the Revolution
who not only fought on the front lines but started a newspaper
called Vesper which became a central voice for the rebels and
powerful voice for social order.
The bravest caretaker and one of the most famous soldaderas was
Beatriz Gonzalez Ortega ... she was better known for her healing
than fighting. She was a tireless nurse on the battlefield and
often helped the wounded from both sides. She even defied the
great Pancho Villa after one battle refusing to tell him which of
her patients were from the other side since she knew that they
would be executed. Even when she was whipped for doing so ...
she never revealed the identity of the unlucky men.
These great warriors were graced with intense passion for their
mother country ... showed immense integrity, grit, grace and
sense of justice and fight for right in their pursuit of a better
way ... these women are in our blood -- our spirit. If we as
Latin women are stereotyped as fiery, yes we are ... not just
sexually ... we have fuerza. It comes from our great warrior
women in our history. If we are described as intense and loyal
and creative and passionate, yes we are. Look at the women who
paved the way and fought for freedom.
I am proud to be Latina and defy anyone to reduce or diminish us
to sexual stereotypes because they are afraid of our immense
force of our nature and the power we possess ...
You don't have to just look back to 1910 in Mexico's history to
You'll appreciate this story of a young Totzil Mayan woman named
Ramona from Chiapas ... in southern Mexico. Today she is the
modern day maverick carrying on the torch -- a Mexican Joan of
Arc if you will.
Perhaps you have heard of her.
In her mid-thirties ... she emerged from the jungles of Chiapas
in southern Mexico in search of food and a better life after
years of increasing neglect and unjust treatment from the Mexican
government. After the implementation of NAFTA and lost subsidies
for local farmers -- life and struggle got so tough ... she like
so many were forced to the flatlands in search of work.
In that journey, she experienced an incredible awakening. A
young woman who didn't even speak Spanish not only learned a new
language ... but awakened to the politics of her people and
became thee most unlikely revolutionary leader for indigenous
She is known as a Sweet Rebel Ramona and happens to be battling
kidney cancer. Before she dies she has made clear in every
speech ... in every writing ... that her dying wish is to secure
better rights for Indian women in Mexico. Reproductive rights,
better health care, land rights, the right to end the dowry
system and hold those who abuse women accountable for their
She is four foot three inches tall ... and yet a giant of a woman
who dons a mask and walks along side the infamous Zapatista
leader Marcos in her call for justice and equality.
Who would have thought such a simple woman could make such a
difference ... I'm told eight year old girls when asked what they
want to be when they grow up answer ... "a rebel like Ramona."
No matter what your politics ... you have to be moved by the
passion of a simple peasant woman who transformed herself and
took up a heavy banner not only for herself but her people.
Hers is a small voice with a big message.
If she can make a difference from her simple, impoverished yet
spirited corner of the world ... certainly each of us can awaken
to our passion, calling -- become revolutionary in our capacity
to change and make a difference.
Ramona sweet Ramona -- we can all learn from this maverick
There are others to be inspired by -- box breakers I call them.
Who are not fighting on the front-lines ... but instead battle
different kinds of challenges in their offices, shattering glass
ceilings and archaic stereotypes that prevail on a daily basis by
succeeding and thriving in their small corner of the world
1. Rebecca Lobo, for example -- Olympic basketball player and
author of a book she wrote with her mother on battling breast
cancer. She is a warrior.
2. Sandra Cisneros, who wrote The House on Mango Street ... all
about growing up Latina in an Anglo world ... she won the 1996
MacArthur Genius Award ...(the Oscar for the cultural elite).
What a powerhouse this maverick of literature is.
There are so many others ... and those yet to emerge.
Being maverick doesn't mean having to get your name in lights.
Fulfilling your calling is maverick enough.
Maybe you have always wanted to open a business, a restaurant,
design a line of clothing. Maybe you've always wanted to go back
to school, get a degree, learn an instrument. Maybe you want to
get a divorce but are afraid. Maybe your child wants to go away
to school but you're afraid. Maybe you've always wanted to learn
French or Japanese -- run for office. Open an artists studio.
Maybe you have always wanted to help others, start a charity.
Maybe you have a movie or book you have always wanted to write.
Launch an Internet Web site ... invest in a stock, buy a bigger
These are maverick magic desires that are waiting within you to
be born and nurtured and taken seriously.
I can't stress it enough.
Now is the time. The time to what?
To take advantage of your rich culture and heritage and marry
them with the opportunity of the times.
First -- be bold baby!
That should be your motto in the face of any fear. Remember what
fear stands for ... false evidence appearing real.
Learn the Internet -- understand the exciting new technology
before you opening up all kinds of new windows to the world.
It is easy once you learn it. Use it. The world is so much
smaller and easier as a result of cyberspace. Don't be afraid of
this new technology -- it is the key to opportunity for you.
Tap into the many grants and corporate sponsorships available
like never before to help launch Hispanic product and talent.
Being Brown is the toast of the town baby ... use the momentum
and show 'em what you got.
Network -- join or form a Latina women's group for support and
encouragement. Work together. There is strength in numbers. We
can do more by coming together and brainstorming ... sharing
ideas and roadblocks. No one knows more how to support Latinas
than fellow Latinas. We know the stereotypes we're saddled with
... we are force in number.
Most importantly -- respect your ideas, your thoughts, your
vision. Don't dismiss it simply because it's born in your own
head and heart. It's so easy to discredit our ideas ... our
creative thoughts and dreams. Don't. Believe in them. Nurture
them. Fight for them. They are yours. Remember, Stephen
Spielberg started with an idea in his head. That idea he wrote
down. Then he got a bunch of people together to project that
idea to the screen. It all starts with an idea that you believe
in ... that's the key.
I share many stories about maverick women ... because so many
have inspired me.
Like maverick photographer Margaret Bourke White, who gallivanted
around the globe in the 30's and 40's snapping the first
impressions of American industry, American poverty and political
injustice in the troubled Nation. She also captured in her lens
great leaders of the globe in legendary prints of Ghandi, Stalin,
prisoners in concentration camps and war on the front-lines.
This all at a time when few women dared to be daring dames.
Tina Madotti, another maverick woman whose daring adventures as
a photographer, journalist and government spy all add up to a
revolutionary life of intrigue. Her photographs of Mexico and
its Indian peasants are perhaps the most dramatic ever captured.
But it's her life's journey and her passion and love affairs with
men such as Pablo Nuruda and Diego Rivera that also add flair and
flavor to a life fully lived.
The great revolutionary journalist Oriana Fallaci, whose
interviews with the globes top dictators and pariahs make her one
of the most unique voices of the 21st century. Now dying of
breast cancer and writing her memoirs, hers is a most compelling
history of a maverick woman who made her own rules in an artistic
fight for democracy in all her writings.
One of the first female aviators at the turn of the century,
Beryl Markham, is another phenomenal example of a daring dame who
lived many lives within one life time. From Britain's
aristocracy to the primitive ways of the Masai tribesman, this
young woman learned not only hunting skills and the rites of
passage of a native people, she also learned to fly and became
the first woman to cross the Atlantic east to west. She then
became a master horse trainer and writer of a book Hemingway
himself said put his writings to shame. Her love life was as
controversial as her maverick re-definition of womanhood in her
time. Again, a woman who made her own rules at a time when it
took real courage and voice.
It's fun to look back in time. I'm so in awe of their courage.
But I am equally in awe of the daring dames of the new millennium
carrying the torch even further.
Profiles of modern day mavericks like CNN's Christiane Amanpour
and her life on the front-lines of the world's hot spots.
National Geographic's sole woman photographer on the front-lines,
Joana Pinneo, whose compelling prints have graced the covers of
the magazine for decades.
Daring female race car driver, Sara Ballantyne, who at 38 not
only is the winner of the 1998 ECO Challenge race staged in the
Atlas Mountains of Morocco, she is also the sole woman on the US
ECO Challenge team and three time World Champion mountain biker
And so many others who break the mold and dare to go where others
I'm not suggesting we all jump out of planes and light up the sky
with adventurous daredevil stunts to be maverick.
But I call these heroines into focus to inspire you to be
maverick in your own lives no matter how simple. Whether in your
offices, at home as a mom, wife, caretaker or whatever ... there
is a burning desire in each of us to fulfill a dream. Be bold
baby. Take a risk. Own your gift. That is my message to you
... to simply hear your calling and act on it.
Again ... you ask how.
I'd like to share with you the seven sacred aspects of living
that can make such a difference in our lives and in our building
self love and respect from where all good arises.
They are Respect, Compassion, Humility, Honesty, Truth,
Unconditional love and Wisdom.
Be a warrior of these seven aspects.
As my brother so beautifully wrote ... Be a warrior of mind,
body and spirit. A warrior of mind because we fight to learn. A
warrior of body because we fight to keep our bodies strong.
Warriors of spirit because we fight to keep alive the seven
As warriors we are born of the light and one with it. Respect
comes from the realization that the light shining on our eyes is
the same light that shines in the eyes of all men. Humility
means that we all shine with the same intensity and no one man
shines brighter than the next. Compassion means we are sensitive
to the sufferings of others. Truth means we are honest with
others. Honesty means we are truthful with ourselves.
Unconditional love means that we love ourselves and others simply
because we are of the same bright source. Wisdom is the
knowledge we gain from the mistakes we make along the road to
discovering the light that burns within us.
Now is a time of great promise. We have a great history. A
great heritage. We come from warrior spirit that races through
our cellular history. Tap into it now. We are greater, healers,
mothers ... lovers. We are women of the Americas with so much to
contribute to the world.
As one great maverick woman -- Jane Goodall -- said so eloquently
... "We have a choice to use the gift of our life to make the
world a better place. Or not to bother."
I challenge you to bother.
I leave you with my favorite quote from a Buddhist monk as read
by Nelson Mandella at his inauguration.