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D.C. GOES WEST: The 24th Annual Women’s Conference in Long Beach, Calif., drew 14,000 attendees who lined up beginning at 6 a.m. to hear the morning’s trio of political power speakers: the event’s host, California First Lady Maria Shriver (in a dark purple shift, the same color she wore last year), second lady of the United States Jill Biden and, the cause for the early check-in and tightened security, First Lady Michelle Obama. The long list of introductory speakers, including Al Roker, Matt Lauer, Brian Phillips, Suze Orman, Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Starbucks chief Howard Schultz, were merely filling time before the Ladies took the stage. Shriver gave another heartfelt speech — though she wouldn’t say what she plans to do when she and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger leave Sacramento come January — which was in many ways a farewell to her first lady post.
“I thought my work would be over by the time I had to leave this job, but it’s still evolving,” she said. “But I was right to move to California; people here are dreamers, creative and daring. I feel at home here and I want to thank the people for understanding that being a first lady representing a different political party from the governor had its complications. Thank you for accompanying me on this journey, it has been a hell of a ride.”
For Obama, who spoke at the conference when she was still a candidate’s wife, the work is just beginning; she spoke of supporting military wives and families. Luckily she wasn’t at the Robert Redford Q&A, where the outspoken actor told Linda Ellerbee, “The leadership in this country is getting dumber and dumber.” The political power train continued after lunch, when Diane Sawyer moderated a conversation with Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who kept things light. “My husband said the reason he became such a good cook was because of my cooking,” said the latter, while the former said, “My husband, who I met when I was 18, was the only man who seemed to care that I had a brain.” — Marcy Medina