Nearly 2,000 movers, shakers, students and policy makers at Perspectives 2012 heard liberal media star Arianna Huffington condemn the war in Afghanistan and challenge American media to focus on what works and what inspires, rather than what is disfunctional.
"The American dream is really in trouble - America is now No. 10 in the world in upward mobility behind France," Huffington said at the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce's yearly speakers forum. "That's like France being behind us when it comes to croissants and afternoon sex."
Huffington noted that while the presidential campaign is going to cost $2.5 billion, "the war is really absent in this campaign, even though we are spending $2 billion a week (on it.)"
With tens of millions unemployed and underemployed, and with more college grads entering the work force, Americans have no time to waste to embrace change and find ways to give back, Huffington told the audience at the Sacramento Convention Center. "It's like the house is on fire and we're sitting around discussing the Kardashians."
The demonizing that goes on in American campaigns and media "makes it very hard to reach common ground," she said. "There's also a lot that's working. What happened if we covered those stories as obsessively as what is disfunctional?"
Huffington said her web site, the Huffington Post, has created a good news section and a feature on "the greatest person of the day." Her organization is also spotlighting job creators and innovators to recapture "the spirit of the 'Greatest Generation' " that won World War II and made nothing seem impossible.
Huffington was preceded on stage by new-business guru Peter Sheahan, author of "Flip" and "Generation Y," who said the best new ideas come from within the cracks of existing organizations and collaborations between employees from different departments.
He noted that Sacramento is "still a $100 billion economy" and encouraged Americans to let go of their assumptions, "have an open mind politically, economically, business-wise and actually reach out and create partnerships."
Sheahan said Best Buy didn't dominate the electronics market - where men spent $200 million - until it realized that women approved 90 percent of the purchases. Then the company asked women employees what it needed to do, and learned to create better signage, more functional labels and clean toilets - a plan that drove sales up $4.4 billion.
In the afternoon, former Mexican President Vicente Fox and former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney were scheduled to address the crowd.