By Zohreh Ghahremani
November 1, 2011, Irvine, CA – On Sunday, October 23, 2011, over 680 Iranian Americans gathered at the second Women’s Leadership Conference: Pathways to Success Held at the Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa to listen to 40 successful Iranian American women share their stories of success.
Organized by PAAIA Board Member Mariam Khosravani, Executive Director of the Coastline Community College Foundation, the event brought together an array of young and established Iranian American men and women. Speakers included Parisa Khosravi, Senior Vice President of International news gathering for CNN Worldwide, Nadereh Chamlou, World Bank Senior Advisor to the Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa Region, and Shohreh Aghdashloo, Academy Award nominee an Emmy-winning actress among many others.
The following is a synopsis of the event as seen from the viewpoint of one of the conference’s attendees:
My daughter, born and raised here whose busy life allows little access to such events, and I attended the Second Pathways to Conference Success. This was my second conference and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Conference not only met but exceeded the experience of the first Conference held last year.
Everything about this year’s conference was ”new and improved.” The new location provided ample room for exhibits while the larger lecture halls provided sufficient seating for the entire nearly 700 attendees. The speakers, different from those who presented last year, were just as impressive. However, what I enjoyed most about this year’s conference was that the theme went further than mere reports on success or the mere introduction of highly successful women. This time, moderators made sure that the panel sent a message to the audience, words that would help them their own abilities to achieve success. This provided a chance for audience to reflect on how the speakers’ experiences might guide each attendee.
While I was inspired by all speakers, the words spoken by Ms. Soheila Karimi Motamed left an indelible mark on me. She spoke of her experience after being shot by an assailant during a car jacking attempt, an incident that nearly cost her life and put her into a coma and resulted in paralysis, multiple surgeries and years of rehabilitation. Though her works – such as research at Hughes Satellite & Communication – which in turn led to the launch of the Satellites for Direct TV – are most remarkable, what left me in awe was the message she sent us. “Life is filled with choices. Each morning as I continue to find some movements difficult, I can be bitter about what happened, or I can be grateful for my survival. I choose the latter!”
I was also touched by the fact that almost each of these successful women acknowledged those who had helped them to reach their goals. This could have been their moment to take credit for a lifetime of hard work, yet they showed gratitude where it was due. Rudi Bakhtiar acknowledged Parisa Khosravi while Maryam Khosravani, founder and organizer of the event, gave much of the credit to Dr. Loretta Adrian, the Dean of Coastline Community College as well as all those who had helped to turn this event into a triumph. The list goes on and on.
With Moderators such as Ms. Homa Sarshar, the award winning journalist and lecturer or Nazie Eftekhari, Founder and CEO of Health EZ, the panelists had no trouble providing the best response to all the questions posed by the audience.. Once again the Iranian-American Women’s conference proved to be most inspirational and at the end of the day, the audience was charged and ready to face the hard work ahead.
At closing, the familiar music blasted throughout the room, the crowd clapped to its beat, which in turn, turned into a symbol of togetherness. As Ms. Aghdashloo put it, it was time to remember Rumi’s words, that there should be no ‘me’ but rather a union of ‘us’.
When it was over I asked my daughter, “What did you think?” To which she exhaled, “Unbelievable!” And she thanked me for having invited her. Before we left, she turned to me and said, “I’ll definitely be back next year.” I smiled, for those words were exactly my thoughts. On the drive back to San Diego, I tried to find one simple reason why I had enjoyed the day so much and was reminded of an old quotation from Winston Churchill, who once said, “I am easily satisfied with the very best.”