Marianne Williamson

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Marianne Williamson
Marianne Williamson - 33252886458 (cropped).jpg
Williamson in February 2019
Personal details
Born Marianne Deborah Williamson
(1952-07-08) July 8, 1952 (age 68)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Other political
affiliations
Independent (2014)
Children 1
Education Pomona College
Signature Marianne Williamson's signature

Marianne Deborah Williamson (born July 8, 1952)[1] is a Jewish-American author, lecturer, and activist. She has written 13 books,[2] including 4 New York Times number one bestsellers within the "Advice, How To and Miscellaneous" category.[3][4][5][6] She is the founder of Project Angel Food, a volunteer food delivery program that serves home-bound people with AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses.[7] She is also the co-founder of the Peace Alliance, a nonprofit grassroots education and advocacy organization supporting peace-building projects.[8]

In 2014, as an independent, Williamson ran unsuccessfully for the seat of California's 33rd congressional district in the United States House of Representatives elections in California. On January 29, 2019, she announced her campaign to seek the Democratic nomination for the 2020 United States presidential election.[9]

Early life and education

Williamson was born in Houston, Texas, in 1952.[10][11][12] She is the youngest of three children of Samuel "Sam" Williamson, an immigration lawyer,[12][13] and Sophie Ann (Kaplan), a homemaker.[14][15] Her family is Jewish, and she was raised in Conservative Judaism.[13][16] Her father's original surname was Vishnevetsky.[17] After graduating from Houston's Bellaire High School, Williamson spent two years studying theater and philosophy at Pomona College in Claremont, California.[14]

Writing and speaking career

Williamson dropped out of college her junior year in 1973 and moved to New York City, intending to pursue a career as a cabaret singer.[14][13]

In 1979, after delving into A Course in Miracles, she returned to Houston, where she ran a combination metaphysical bookstore and coffeeshop.[14][18]

In 1983, she moved to Los Angeles. She began regularly lecturing on A Course in Miracles in Los Angeles and New York City, and eventually in other cities in the U.S. and Europe as well.[18][19] Williamson said that reading that book was her "path out of hell" as she had been, according to a 1992 Skeptical Inquirer magazine article by Martin Gardner, "mired in a series of unhappy love affairs, alcohol and drug abuse, a nervous breakdown, and endless sessions with therapists." This article also reported on Williamson's professed fringe beliefs, including that the "Voice" described in A Course in Miracles came from Jesus, that "nothing occurs outside our minds", and that "sickness is an illusion and does not actually exist".[20]

She published her first book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, in 1992.

Books

Williamson's first book, A Return to Love, was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1992 and remained on The New York Times bestseller list for 39 weeks in the 'Advice, How To and Miscellaneous' category.[21] She has published 12 other books, seven of which have been on the same New York Times bestseller list and four of which have been #1.[3][4][5][6] She has sold more than 3 million copies of her books.[22] In 2018, she published a 20th anniversary revised edition of Healing the Soul of America.[23]

Healing the Soul of America

In 1997, Williamson published her book Healing the Soul of America (hardcover originally titled The Healing of America) and began a more robust political engagement. In this book, she laid out plans to "transform the American political consciousness and encourage powerful citizen involvement to heal our society".[24]

She wrote in the book,

It is a task of our generation to recreate the American politeia, to awaken from our culture of distraction and re-engage the process of democracy with soulfulness and hope. Yes, we see there are problems in the world. But we believe in a universal force that, when activated by the human heart, has the power to make all things right. Such is the divine authority of love: to renew the heart, renew the nations, and ultimately, renew the world.[25]

Patricia Holt of the San Francisco Chronicle called it "A huge and wondrous surprise.... The Healing of America somehow makes us proud to be Americans, because every hope for democracy seems newly within our grasp."[26]

Television and media appearances

She has been a guest on television programs such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, and Real Time with Bill Maher. In December 2006, a Newsweek magazine poll named her one of the 50 most influential baby boomers. She bases her teaching and writing on A Course in Miracles, a nonreligious self-study program of spiritual psychotherapy.[27]

Activism

HIV/AIDS advocacy

Centers for Living

In response to the HIV/AIDS crises in the 1980s, Williamson founded the Los Angeles and Manhattan Centers for Living, which served as a refuge and non-medical support for people with HIV/AIDS. There they could connect with a variety of psychological and emotional resources, as well as community of support. She has said of that time that "there was so much love, because there was nothing to hold onto but love."[28]

Project Angel Food

In 1989, she launched Project Angel Food to build off the work of the Centers for Living. Originally launched to support HIV/AIDS patients, Project Angel Food expanded its outreach and currently cooks and delivers more than 12,000 meals each week, free of charge, to the homes of men, women and children affected by various life-threatening illnesses.[29] The organization's food and nutrition services, including medically tailored meals and nutritional counseling, help under-served people throughout Los Angeles County who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves. In 2017, Project Angel Food served its 11 millionth meal.[30]

Women's advocacy

She has worked on behalf of women's empowerment issues for decades. In 1993 she published her #1 NYT bestseller, A Woman’s Worth.[31] Publishers Weekly said of the book: "Williamson gives sound, empowering advice on relationships, work, love, sex and childrearing."[32]

In 2010, she launched a series of Sister Giant conferences, trainings, and events to support individuals – particularly women – who want to increase their efficacy as activists and/or run for office. On the initiative she has said, “I want to be a cheerleader for women who have never even considered running for office or being involved in a campaign, but who in the quietness of their hearts might think, ‘Why not me?’” The events have focused on how to better address many social issues, including: child poverty, low levels of female representation in office, campaign finance reform, high levels of mass incarceration, among other issues.[33][34]

Peace-building

In 2004, she co-founded The Peace Alliance, a nonprofit grassroots education and advocacy organization focused on increasing U.S. governmental support of peace-building approaches to domestic and international conflicts. She has said of the need for this work: "You don’t just wait until there is a violent eruption and then just try to throw people in jail or just wait until there is a violent eruption and then try to bomb an entire country, there’s just a limit past which this is not workable. Rather, you proactively seek to cultivate the conditions of peace...so we can have a much more sophisticated analysis of what it will take to create a more peaceful world."[35]

Poverty alleviation

For years Williamson was a member of the Board of Directors and remains a public supporter of RESULTS, an organization aiming to create the political will to end hunger and poverty around the world. It lobbies public officials, does research, and works with the media and the public to addresses the causal issues of poverty. RESULTS has 100 U.S. local chapters and works in six other countries.[36][33]

Love America Tour

Starting in the winter of 2018, she began touring the United States as part of her Love America Tour, discussing how she believes "a revolution in consciousness paves the way to both personal and national renewal." Of the tour she said: "Our own disconnection from the political process, lack of knowledge of how our system operates, lack of understanding of our history, and confusion about many of the issues that confront us now, have led in too many cases to a dangerous emotional disconnection between our country and ourselves."[37][38]

Political career

2014 U.S. House of Representatives campaign

In 2014 Williamson ran, as an Independent, for the seat of California's 33rd congressional district (in westernmost Los Angeles County) in the United States House of Representatives elections. Regarding her motivation for running, she has said, "America has gone off the democratic rails. A toxic brew of shrinking civil liberties and expanded corporate influence are poisoning our democracy." Her core message was that "humanitarian values should replace economic values as the ordering principle of our civilization."[39]

Prominent elected and public officials endorsed her campaign, including former governors Jennifer Granholm and Jesse Ventura; former representatives Dennis Kucinich and Alan Grayson; and Van Jones, among others.[40] Alanis Morissette wrote and performed Williamson's campaign song, "Today".[41]

She campaigned on a broad array of progressive issues, including: greater access to high-quality education and free college; child poverty; economic justice; climate change & renewable energy; campaign finance reform; universal health care; criminal justice reform; ending perpetual war and increasing investments in peacebuilding; women’s reproductive rights; and LGBTQ equality among others.[42][43][44]

She finished fourth out of 16 candidates,[45] with 14,335 votes for 13.2% of the vote. Williamson said of the process and its outcome: "This conversation of a politics of conscience, a politics of the heart, is much bigger than any one woman winning a congressional seat. And if that woman loses, the conversation goes on. My losing the congressional seat is small; what’s big is the larger conversation ... you impact the ethers, and that energy goes somewhere."[46]

2020 presidential campaign

File:Marianne Williamson (39732023).jpg
Williamson in New Hampshire in January 2019

On November 15, 2018, Williamson announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee in a video in which she acclaimed that there was a "miracle in this country in 1776 and we need another one" which would require "a co-creative effort, an effort of love and a gift of love, to our country and hopefully to our world".[47] Visiting New Hampshire in early January, she said that she "received enough positive energy to make me feel I should take the next step",[48] and subsequently hired Brent Roske to lead her operation in Iowa.[49]

Roske, a film producer who also contested the same 2014 primary for the seat now represented by Ted Lieu,[50][51] maintained a wide network of connections in Iowa due in part to his previous involvement in the state, working on a political television show about the 2016 caucuses.[51] In response to the Iowa Democratic Party's proposed creation of "virtual caucuses" in the 2020 race, Williamson's campaign announced that it would appoint 99 "Virtual Iowa Caucus Captains" (each assigned to a single county) to turn out supporters in both the virtual and in-person caucuses.[52]

Williamson officially launched her presidential campaign in Los Angeles on January 28, 2019,[53] in front of an audience of 2,000 attendees, and appointed Maurice Daniel, who served alongside Donna Brazile in Dick Gephardt's campaign for the Democratic nomination in 1988, as her national campaign manager,[50] with her campaign committee, "Marianne Williamson for President", officially filed on February 4.[54] Following her Los Angeles announcement, she held her Iowa kickoff in Des Moines on January 31.[55]

On February 16, in addition to scheduling another trip to New Hampshire, Williamson's campaign announced the appointment of former Congressman Paul Hodes, who represented New Hampshire's 2nd congressional district from 2007 to 2011, as New Hampshire state director and senior campaign advisor.[56] Former Georgia state assemblywoman Gloria Bromell Tinubu, who returned to South Carolina in 2011 to run for Congress in the state's 7th district and later joined Phil Noble's bid for governor in 2018 as his running mate, served as South Carolina state director and national senior advisor to the Williamson campaign,[57] but later ceased working with the campaign.[58]

On May 9, Williamson's campaign announced that she had received enough contributions from unique donors to enter the official primary debates,[59] having raised $1.5 million in the first quarter of 2019, during which the campaign received donations from 46,663 unique individuals.[60] She subsequently met the polling criteria, with three unique polls at 1% from qualifying pollsters, on May 23.[61] In June, Williamson confirmed that she moved to Des Moines, Iowa in advance of the 2020 caucuses.[62] On June 30, a Facebook page called "Marianne Williamson Orbposting" was created which quickly amassed over 7,000 likes by posting screenshots of her tweets along with memes related to her candidacy. On July 25, another Facebook page called "Marianne Williamson Miyazakiposting" was created, which posted images from Studio Ghibli movies with text from Williamson's tweets imposed on the images. One of the images from this page was by Williamson herself on her official Facebook page.

Political views

Williamson claims to be a "pretty straight-line progressive Democrat", supporting an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, reducing income inequality, addressing climate change, and tackling student loan debt.[63] She backs a "Medicare for All model", Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants without a "serious criminal background", and says that the U.S. needs to be an "honest broker" in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.[64]

She ranks climate change as "the greatest moral challenge of our generation" and backs the Green New Deal.[65] She has called for the establishment of a Department of Peace to expand global diplomacy, mediation, and educational and economic development.[66] She also voices support for stricter gun control, criminal justice reform, improving public education, free college tuition, raising the top marginal tax rate to a point where high earners pay "their fair share of taxes", describing her policies as a "renovation" of a "sociopathic economic system" focused on "short-term profit maximization".[50]

She has described mandatory vaccinations as "Orwellian", stating "To me, it’s no different than the abortion debate."[67] She later stated that she misspoke, and "I support vaccines. Public safety must be carefully balanced with the right of individuals to make their own decisions."[68] According to the Los Angeles Times, she "has a history of skeptical comments about vaccinations."[68][69]

Her signature campaign promise is a call for $100 billion in reparations for slavery to be distributed over 10 years by a group of black leaders for selected "economic and education projects",[50][70] and later suggested distributing $200 to $500 billion on The Breakfast Club,[71] a sum far greater than any other primary contenders support. In doing so, Williamson became the only candidate in the Democratic field to submit a detailed plan for reparations for black Americans, though fellow Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris later pledged support for reparations in late February 2019[72] and Mike Gravel has also expressed his support for a national reparations trust fund. [73]

Personal life

Williamson was briefly married.[13] In 1990, she gave birth to a daughter, India Emma.[74]

Bibliography

References

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External links