Arianna Huffington Thrives as Keynote at USM Graduation

Arianna Huffington Thrives as Keynote, Expressing Authenticity and Beauty at USM Graduation!

Her Athenian, mythological eyes—soft, smiling and direct. Dressed age-appropriate, in her own Ambassador Fashion Icon Archetype style, in an elegant black-and-white crepe de chine and chiffon flowered dress. Arianna Huffington thrives as she expresses vulnerability and beauty from the inside out.

I had never met her before, but I just could not hold back when I saw her outside on the sprawling lawn of the UCLA campus quad. I walked straight toward her and exclaimed: “You are adorable! That was the best speech ever!”

She looked right at me and took my hand, smiling, and asked: “What is your name? Come, come with me, let’s go find Ron and Mary.” The next thing I knew I was accompanying Arianna Huffington, hand in hand, along the garden path toward a reception for the University of Santa Monica’s graduating master’s class in Spiritual Psychology.

We walked through the crowd of well-wishers and selfie-snappers. She held onto my hand as if we were lost friends from another lifetime.

University of Santa Monica

University of Santa Monica Spiritual Psychology Graduation! refreshments on UCLA quad lawn

Maybe it was the invisible courage I was embodying, having acquired it through my own USM education, that drew her to me. Since my time at the school, my life had undergone a complete transformation. I’d gone from being a runaway teen and an international runway model, to an Inner Beauty Empowerment coach, a fashion expert, and a counselor and mentor to women in prison and to at-risk teens. All I know was, in that moment, I felt the surge of her beauty, warmth, and strength, charge and hum through me like an electronic charge of a powered-up iPhone, inspiring me to no end. In that moment I felt Arianna Huffington thrive.

Arianna Huffington Thrives as Keynote at USM Graduation!

Arianna Huffington, keynote at USM Graduation with Lorelei Shellist!

I don’t know what had led up to Arianna Huffington being invited as keynote speaker for USM’s 34th graduating class, held at UCLA’s Royce Hall. But I do know that USM pioneers Dr. Ron Hulnick, Ph.D. (president, CEO, and COO) and his beloved wife and partner, Dr. Mary R. Hulnick Ph.D. (chief academic officer), are always on point. In fact, they have been ahead of the “game of life” for nearly 40 years.

The Drs. Hulnick have known Ms. Huffington for 20 years, and they are also frequent contributors to The Huffington Post. What a perfect time, place, and opportunity to have such a magical media maverick share her interpretations on how the principles and practices of a soul-centered education can add meaning to our own evolution.

The crowd that filled Royce Hall roared with applause of appreciation when Ms. Huffington took the podium and said: “I am really humbled to be here, because, although I am not a graduate of the University of Santa Monica, if you can graduate by osmosis, I think I have graduated. Because my sister, Agapi Stassinopoulos, who has been my spiritual mentor years, has graduated from the University of Santa Monica and actually believes that every problem in the world can be solved by the teachings of USM.”

Agapi Stassinopoulos with Lorelei Shellist

Author, Agapi Stassinopoulos snaps a selfie with fellow grad – Lorelei Shellist on the UCLA quad lawn at USM Graduation!

She went on, humorously quoting to the enthused students, alumni and guests some of the most popular, potent slogans of the university’s principles and practices, saying: “I’m sure that when you first started on this journey at USM, little did you imagine that . . . now that you are at the end [of this tunnel] . . . there would be a lady addressing you from behind the podium with a funny accent.”

Ms. Huffington then showed her vulnerable side by sharing that her accent has been the bane of her existence. In fact, she had only really learned to relax about it after meeting Henry Kissinger, who told her to relax about her accent, because, when it comes to Americans, “you can never underestimate the advantages of complete and total incomprehensibility.”

In one of her more personal moments, she shared that the parting birthday gift from her ex-husband had been a two-week course with a dialect coach, who followed her around telling her everything she was doing wrong. Ms. Huffington said: “By the end of it, I was completely paralyzed. I knew what I was doing wrong, but I couldn’t possibly fix it and be my ‘authentic self.’ So that was the end of my marriage, and the end of my trying to change my accent!”

Ms. Huffington told the students that there is no more important time than now to be graduating from USM. Quoting Dr. Ron Hulnick’s comment that “the evolutionary tide is gaining momentum, and we are really going through a tipping point,” she then said: “You have the opportunity to be at the forefront—to be able to really accelerate this tipping point. It is an exciting moment to be taking all these skills and this learning out into the world. The reasons why we are at this tipping point are twofold: The first reason is that the traditional way of living our lives has become unsustainable—the casualties are growing all around us.”

At this point, she referenced Belgian philosopher Pascal Chabot, who called “burnout the disease of civilization.”

“When our lives are measured,” she continued, “by these two metrics of money and power, it’s impossible not to burn out. We see all around us people living under this collective delusion that burnout and climbing faster and faster is the only way to succeed. You know better, and you can help the world realize that there is another way and another path.”

Below are some of the remarks from Ms. Huffington’s speech on a variety of topics.

On How to Thrive…

The other reason this is an exciting and incredible tipping point is that for the first time we have scientific findings that validate ancient wisdoms such as the things you’ve learned—like prayer, meditation, heart-centered listening, coming from your heart, and loving—that all these things are actually a way to live a life that is not just happy but is actually transformational in terms of the world around us. And now we have the evidence to prove that. So all these things that used to be considered a little new-agey, a little flaky, definitely California, now have a lot of scientific backing behind them.”

In Ms. Huffington’s most-recent book, Thrive, she’s deliberately added 55 pages of scientific endnotes in order to show evidence that we are now in a different world.

On “Beauty Sleep”…

Candidly suggesting one more tool to the list of skills taught at USM, she offered: Sleep!

“Ron [Hulnick] says ‘there is this evolutionary break when we go from being asleep to being awake’ . . . I want to convince you that you are going to cross that bridge by simply getting enough sleep.”

Citing a study on sleep deprivation, which she labeled an epidemic, she said: “What is so interesting is that . . . the reason why so many millions of people around the world have trouble sleeping is because we have valued our lives in the wrong way. We think our lives are about our to-do lists, and our projects, and our goal lines . . . And when we realize that, in fact, there is something bigger and higher that we all embody, that our lives are about, then surrender into sleep becomes a natural part of our lives. So, for me, adding that tool to your toolbox is really critical. I learned that lesson the hard way when I collapsed from sleep deprivation and broke my cheekbone.”

Reminiscing further about her own personal issues, she said: “Rumi was right—‘Live life as though everything is rigged in your favor.’”

On Technology and Boundaries…

“It is so important to reevaluate our relationship with technology. We are not only distracted by technology, we are increasingly enslaved by technology and addicted to technology. Eric Barker wrote, ‘Those who can sit in their chairs undistracted for hours, mastering something and creating things will rule the world, while the rest of us frantically trying to keep up with texts, tweets, and other incentive interruptions.’ I think, as somebody who runs a 24/7 media operation, who is on every social media outlet ever invented, what I have realized and practiced is that you need boundaries, you need time off, you need regular digital detoxes. That’s why the whole idea of the Sabbath is so important and continues to be, because what God was trying to say is that human beings were not designed to be on 99 percent of the time. After all, when She created the world, She took a day off, sending us a message. But we have forgotten it. Now we need to bring it back in our lives. It’s a much more effective way to run our lives, and to be able to achieve, while at the same time remembering our soul lines.”

On Being of Service and “What’s Working”…

“Being of service is such a critical part of USM’s teachings. One of the reasons why our culture is so bad at recognizing all the good things happening, all the examples of service and compassion and innovation, and ingenuity, is because those of us in the media tend to live by the precept, ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’

“We’re changing that at The Huffington Post by launching an initiative called ‘What’s Working,’ where we’re going to be putting the spotlight only on good things that are happening. We want to give you an accurate picture of what’s happening in the world. The media is creating ‘copycat crimes.’ We want to have ‘copycat solutions.’”

In closing, Arianna Huffington urged us: “Hold your hand on your heart and say, ‘This is what’s important.’ Let’s face it, if we are lucky, we have 30,000 days to play the game of life . . . In ancient Rome they used to carve MM—for ‘memento-mori’—on statues and trees, not because they were morbid but because they wanted to put everything in perspective. If you have been to a memorial recently, you realize that our eulogies have very little to do with our Linked-In profiles. So dear graduates, as you go out into the world bring joy, loving and gratitude into every moment, including the tough ones. And remember that ‘upward and onward’ is no longer enough. It’s now ‘upward, onward and inward.’

Arianna Huffington with Dr. Ron Hulnick Ph.D. at USM Graduation

Arianna Huffington onstage at Royce Hall with Dr. Ron Hulnick Ph.D at University of Santa Monica Graduation!

“The University of Santa Monica calls forth the hallmarks and qualities that we all inherently possess. Dr. Mary Hulnick reminds us that love, joy, compassion, courage, forgiveness—for ourselves and others—are the gifts of life that make our world a better place. That my friends, is beauty from the inside out.”

For more information on USM go to:

Books to read:

Loyalty to Your Soul by H. Ronald Hulnick Ph.D. and Mary R. Hulnick Ph.D.

Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Unbinding the Heart by Agapi Stassinopoulos

Lorelei Shellist, Image Consultant & Inner Beauty Empowerment Coach, author of “Runway RunAway: A Backstage Pass to Fashion, Romance and Rock ‘n Roll,” is a Speaker, Host, Model and founder of Fashion Icon Archetypes™ Personality Programs, an Image Consultant & Inner Beauty Empowerment Coach. MA Spiritual Psychology, and Consciousness Health & Healing from University of Santa Monica. Lorelei coaches Executives, Women, and At-Risk Teens and facilitates Prison Inmates with For more fashion facts and info go to

About Lorelei

Lorelei Shellist brings new meaning to the definition of "super model." Drawing from her own experiences as a runaway teen who followed her dream to travel the world and become an international couture model. Lorelei's delightful wit and sense of humor (as well as her "perfect fit" measurements) enabled her to serve as a graceful and spirited muse for top designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Yves St. Laurent, Christian LaCroix, Bob Mackie, Geoffrey Beene and Giorgio Armani. Lorelei writes candidly and boldly about life as a runaway, model, and her struggles with her fiancé’s addiction titled, "Runway RunAway A Backstage Pass to Fashion, Romance & Rock 'N Roll." Her life experiences have enabled her to pursue her passion to inspire others with her story of survival and success. Her intrinsic connection with others has led Lorelei towards counseling Women in Prison and At-Risk Teens, teaching critical “Life Skills.” As a fashion expert, Lorelei encourages women to attract appropriate attention though Conscious Dressing while having fun expressing themselves with what they wear. A graduate of the Masters Program in Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica, her appeal crosses many demographics and is particularly appealing to the baby boomer generation who have grown up inundated with confusing and contradictory mass media messages.

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