A review by David Borzo
The Smart Talk Series crowd at the Des Moines Civic Center was treated to something a little different on Wednesday night, March 3rd. Alison Levine may not have the same household name recognition as many of the Smart Talk Series speakers, but she more than held her own with her powerful message of doing whatever it takes to conquer complacency. She began her captivating presentation explaining her notion of a circle of experiences and enlightenment: from her early difficulties she gained the motivation and fortitude that drove her, eventually, to scale mountains; and those ascents to the top of the world in turn provide e her with the insight and wisdom needed to help her navigate her life. We should all have such drive. Ms. Levine’s accomplishments show that she has the right stuff: the right stuff in mountain climbing, the right stuff in business, and the right stuff as a motivational medium for us.
Ms. Levine shared her story as a health survivor – not with an illness as an adult, but one that she was born with – a heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. This life-threatening heart condition was so serious and unstable, that she was not even allowed to walk up a flight of stairs. Surgery as a teen then changed her life – conquering her physical ailment and energizing dreams that were as big as mountains. She encourages all of us to act on our own dreams. Ms. Levine’s advice, as reported in a recent Des Moines Register interview, is “If you have ever wondered about something — a sport, an activity, a hobby, a talent — don’t just read about it or talk about it or watch movies about it. Go out and do it.”
With her mantra of doing whatever it takes, Ms. Levine recounted experiences as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, a history-making climb that put her health and spirit to the test. In 2008 she also made history as the first American to complete a 600 mile ski-crossing in western Antarctica, all the way to the South Pole. In these adventures, Ms. Levine’s personal adversities included overcoming fears, as well as continued heath issues; she was at higher risk of frostbite, due to Raynaud’s Disease, which causes the arteries that feed her fingers and toes to collapse when experiencing cold weather and severe stress. Cold weather and stress! Naturally she took up mountain climbing…perhaps because it seemed an impossible task.
She recounted those extraordinary experiences and fears to the Smart Talk audience with well ordered clarity, and riveting images. How do you climb the highest peak in the world? How does your body become accustomed to the altitude and lack of oxygen? Ms. Levine recounted the arduous and exacting tasks, including a return to base camp every night, even as you get further and further up the face of Everest every day. Calling this “Climb high, and sleep low”, the process helps your body acclimate to the oxygen levels, and she used it to point out that there are times that you need to move back one step, in order to make it one step closer to your goal. As her team advanced on Everest, they eventually had to pause between each stoic step–needing to breathe in and out several times, before being able to even take another step.
“Fortitude” and “determination” just scratches the surface of what makes a woman like Alison Levine tick. As a successful businesswoman on Wall Street, she found that her hard work and dedication was applicable to the business world. And as a woman dedicated to helping others achieve, Ms. Levine founded the Climb High Foundation in 2005, a charitable organization dedicated to improving the lives of jobless women in third-world countries. Her drive and relentless pursuits keep her busy all over the world. Smart Talk is all about taking the lessons of others and applying them to your own life. Well, even if you are not setting out to climb mountains and conquer the poles, Levine’s advice is intrepid and poignant: “Fear and Risk will never kill you, but complacency will.”
Image Via Smart Talk
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It is often the speaker whose views we don't agree with, or who we think we won't enjoy, who is the speaker that we often end up enjoying the most! It is often that these speakers change our views and opinions and intellectually stimulate us! While one may not agree with that view of the speaker, the point of the series is to bring to the community distiquished people who are telling their personal stories.
Sometimes speakers challenge our views, opinions and intellectually stimulate our thinking. It's helpful to be wise of other thought processes and opinions. You are not expected to agree or accept the views just because he or she is famous. If you do not agree often during the Q&A it's a good time to ask the speaker questions, challenge their views or a chance to express your views.
Hopefully we will always have speakers whom you disagree with - otherwise our series would be boring! There is tremendous value in having diverse opinions! So though you may not agree with them - they will at least give you and your girlfriends something to talk about!
This is what makes our country and our series so great - diverse opinions!
By contract, we are prohibited from distributing the program in any form. Some speakers allowed their talks to be recorded for archival purposes only.
When dealing with such high-profile people there is a small chance that a postponement or substitution of a speaker will occur. This has happened a few times in the past. When you purchase tickets to the series you must assume this very small risk. Our brochures and forms state that speakers are subject to substitutions and or rescheduling. We make every attempt to reschedule the same speaker at a later time or bring in a comparable speaker ont he same date.
Audio/Video recording as well as the taking of still photos by audience members is strictly prohibited. At this time we are not able to provide audiotape, videotape or transcript of the events and any recording we make is for archival purposes only.
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A team of SmartTalk staff along with outside opinions from sponsors and partners brainstorm about the best women (and men) to bring to the series based on several catagories like authors, celebrities, political figures, important women of our time, etc. After months of planning and picking various women the process of finding out if they can come on the dates the venues have given us begins. Once we have aligned a speaker with a date we secure them for the next season by signing contracts. This process often takes a lot of time and thought because we want to bring you a balance of different topics and different lives.
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The events last approximately 1.5 hours.
Format: 45 – 55 minute talk directly followed by a 30 minute moderated question and answer period. Bring a pen, questions cards will be provided in the evening program. No intermission.
Men are indeed welcome and some do attend and enjoy the series but they are definitely outnumbered!
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We are frequently asked why tickets are sold only as a series and why individual lecture tickets are not always available. There are several reasons.
First and foremost, selling it as a series allows us to advertise the Speaker series at one time and reduces the overall cost of the series. If we had to advertise and market each speaker lecture (five times for each city) the cost for the series and the ticket prices would substancially be higher (more than double).
Second, speaker fees, security and travel have increased tremendously since we first started in 1991. By selling as a series we can afford to bring world class women to our series.
In addition, if tickets for individual lectures were sold, then it no longer would be a "series". By attending a full series you do not end up chosing your favorites only and missing the ones you don't know or agree with. The vast majority of our patrons have discovered that they get more out fof the series if they attend every lecture. They often find that the one they thought they wouldn't like becomes their favorites - don't believe us -read the testimonies on our website!
No - the series is a unique opportunity to share something inspirational with high school and college age students. Often, depending on the speaker, younger children may enjoy hearing her story as well! It provides a wonderful opporutnity for family dialogue on important issues such as politicts, current events, books, authors and inspiring women!
The series is so popular because it is a "real" live in person experience. Unlike television it's an interactive experience! It's a chance to hear from famous and empowering women such as Margaret Thatcher, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and more! They tell their personal "behind the scene" stories and let you into their lives. The speakers have a chance to elaborate at length about their lives opposed to "TV sound bites. When you hear and see them speak and have a chance to ask them questions directly, you can assess and develop your own opinion of the speaker as well as take away a great message that you can use in your life!
It's also a wonderful way to learn about a variety of subjects: history, international affairs, politics, current events, etc. Just think how many people in the world actually have an opportunity to hear, see and even meet these famous people in person! Often friends and small groups gather after the program to discuss the speaker and their topics - so it offers a chance to spend time with friends and family!
SmartTalk has been bringing women together to experience the power of the spoken word since 1991. Through a subscription of the series, you are exposed to the thoughts and insights of some of the most empowering women of our time! Our speakers share with the audience their unique and PERSONAL experiences and perspectives on a wide range of topics - politics, history, science, authors, busines and even arts and entertainment!
The series consist of 5 evenings begining in January and concluding in May.