Spiritual Programming on Broadcast Television
I am sitting here talking to my cherished partner, Lili Fournier, a visionary thinker and avid researcher in human potential who has lived a wild and adventurous life, constantly calling on her courageous and trusting heart to pursue dreams that everyone said were impossible. It is my privilege to bring you along on part of what has been her fascinating and remarkable life journey.
As one of the founders of the Human Potential movement, she is credited for being a pioneering force behind making the Mind Body Spirit concept mainstream in broadcast television. She produced, directed and hosted the award-winning Quest series of TV specials on PBS which featured an unprecedented gathering of some of the world’s foremost spiritual and business leaders and best-selling authors to inspire people to pursue their passion and purpose in order to make a meaningful contribution to our world.
As soon as Lili graduated from University, she and I travelled around the world for over a year to over 80 countries footloose and free. It was during this year of discovering and living in different cultures that she learned first hand that empowering women in the grassroots with resources was the key to systematic change. She staked her life on this being the solution and shared it with anyone who would listen in the decades to come. We returned home with a suitcase and enough to buy a hamburger. She had graduated as a town planner but realized she could not work for the civil service. She took the one job opening at TV Ontario as Elwy Yost’ assistant who was just launching “Saturday Night at the Movie” and fell in love with live television.
HER FIRST VOW WHEN SHE SURVIVED - TO MAKE TELEVISION THAT MATTERS
Lili went on to have a successful freelance career working as a Script Supervisor and First A.D. on Hollywood movies and TV series, and Associate Director on major multiple camera dramas, like Pygmalion with Peter O’Toole. When she was bumped off a flight to India, which was then blown up by terrorists, she made a vow to only make “Television that matters” in gratitude for getting to raise her children. After being turned down for years by TV networks for her dream to produce the Quest, as the subject was considered “woo-woo”, she decided to take a deep dive and risk it all to produce herself.
Her life-changing programs were eventually seen by millions of viewers for over a decade, successfully raising millions for PBS’s fund-raising efforts. She started with 12 markets on PBS, and worked for years to expand syndication to reach 90 million households across the U.S., also airing on 6 Canadian networks and in Europe and Israel.
That’s how passionately committed she was to inspire people to go for their dreams. She always felt that personal change was the key to fostering positive social change.
“The Quest Wisdom Collection is a Masterpiece. I think it is one of the greatest collections of great master teachers a and spiritual leaders of all time.”
- Jack Canfield, #1 N.Y. Times Best Selling Author” Chicken Soup for the Soul”, and the Success Principles
THE SECRET OF LILI FOURNIER’S SUCCESS.
“If you have a dream that burns like a fire in the belly you have the power to achieve it”. Lili Fournier
When asked, she said it was her “incredible perseverance, her willingness to take risks and her courage to keep trying over and over again”. She continued on to say that she used to say “that if you believe it, and you can see it, then you can achieve it”. However, now she would temper that by saying that there are powerful cultural and economic forces at play that do not support your success, and one has to come to terms with this and know what you are up against. We women always think its our fault, that we somehow aren’t good enough. It’s just not true. After one success after another, it still was extremely challenging to get access to capital for the next documentary”. So I finally understood what Gloria Steinem meant that the “personal is political, and the political is personal”.
“Lili Fournier is a courageous visionary. A strong example of how passion and vision and commitment can be amazing change agents. She played a leading role in pioneering spirituality across America with her Quest TV specials, which offered timely and timeless wisdom. She is a woman of high moral authority, whom I have been privileged to support and champion.”
Stephen Covey. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Mentor and Quest Star.
Lili’s powerful personal success programming changed people’s lives as many would attest, giving them the inspiration and courage to go for their dreams. Lili’s moto has always been to take a leap of faith.
It’s great to be #1. A trusted leader in personal development. In its vanguard study on mega trends in America, the leading Ad Agency of the time, Chiat Day (Apple’s Think Different Campaign) cited Spirituality and chose the Quest, published by Simon & Schuster as the best product in the U.S. marketplace. The Quest also became the best selling video off the air on broadcast television in Canada.
Her first Quest featured the leaders in human potential from Stephen Covey to Thomas Moore, Deepak Chopra. It was an audacious ask and mission, given she had no committed network, no funding or connections. Then the doors began to open when American Public Television saw her short pilot and said ‘this is brilliant’. She never received any support in Canada, which had one network at the time dedicated to spiritual programming, and one of its founders and biggest suppliers of programming was a man who used to be the head of the TVO Network, for whom Lili worked as an assistant.
He used his power and influence to keep her from getting broadcast support which would leverage considerable other funding because she would not give him control of her show, once she had all the major stars already filmed. She could never believe it, but it was later proven that his jealousy of her huge hit her first one hour enjoyed in the U.S. Marketplace, given his hundreds of hours of television was an impetus for this subterfuge behind the scenes. Lili is revealing this struggle publicly for the first time. She felt she was never lucky enough to find someone to lend a helping hand and say “look at what you can be”, so she dedicated her life to holding up a light up for others.
WOMEN OF WISDOM AND POWER - A PASSION TO RE-IGNITE THE FEMINIST AGENDA
At this time, she decided to produce the 3 one-hour Women of Wisdom & Power specials with a 2-hour live broadcast in New York from the WLIW studios, which she co-hosted with Erica Jong and Lynne Twist as her guests. The shows featured an unprecedented gathering of fascinating and influential women to celebrate women’s leadership. The broadcast of these shows in most of the major markets across the U.S. clearly revealed to her the power of the media to impact change as so many women wrote to say it gave them the courage to think BIG and go for their dreams.
One woman named “Perla” from Boston, wrote to say that she was head of the online platform for Filipino women, and the shows “lit a fire” in her. She found the courage to go to the Philippines for the first time and started women’s wisdom circles across the country. Talk about a butterfly flapping its wings.
Realizing the immensity of what this meant, Lili felt an immense sense of urgency to re-ignite the feminist agenda. International Women's Day was not well known in North America. She decided to put it on the map. The broadcast showed women were gathering in every city worldwide, their voices growing stronger every year. If it wasn’t quite true, she felt it would become so the more women heard it. The shows aired prime time in 28 of the top 30 markets. The message was flowing in the airwaves.
A BOLD AND EXCITING GLOBAL WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT INITIATIVE
This visionary leader, philanthropist and social activist whose career path has garnered awards, respect and a peerless global network of colleagues who care about social change, now committed her legendary energy to a bold and ambitious mission for women’s global empowerment.
She would produce Women's Day Live, (WDL) a live global multi-venue benefit concert that would build an annual sustainable fund-raising and global advocacy platform to help accelerate the education and empowerment of women and girls worldwide.
WDL would harness the power of global media, celebrity and technology to build a popular International Music Festival that would keep giving back to the future every March 8th, on International Women’s Day. Thousands of self-created International Women’s Day celebrations take place annually.
LILI WENT THE DISTANCE.
She dedicated over a decade of her life to achieving the dream of Women’s Day Live, coming close and far. Lili said that when she first pitched the project at the Clinton Global Initiative after President Clinton invited me to make it a CGI commitment in 2006, she got interest to fund the whole thing from De Beers, the world’s biggest diamond mine. However, the talent at the time would not let her to take the funds.
Then thanks to Valerie Jarret’s support of the vision, President Obama’s senior Advisor, she was invited to present at the White House. The visionary Gloria Cabe then invited all the department heads at the State Department to listen to a presentation from Lili and Michael Olmstead, which led to an expression of interest in potentially partnering with Women’s Day Live. We did not get the support of the Ambassador for Global Women’s Empowerment and it never went further no matter how hard she tried.
Lili flew all over the world to meet with millionaires and billionaires who said they cared about the gender agenda and the global rise in inequality. From Vancouver to Bali, to Rio, to Baku, to Taipei, to N.Y., L.A. Washington, et al. But in the end they all had ‘no money’ to support the cause.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu became a trusted supporter and patron. Lili first met him at the Dalai Lama Peace Center in Vancouver and had asked him to give her a meeting. He asked her to fly to Bali to meet him and Leah at his next event coming up. She did. A week before the Tsunami hit, he agreed to be the Women’s Day Live Patron. She can say, that he is the one person along with Stephen Covey who always kept their word when it came to follow up.
HOPE ANCHORS YOUR SOUL
One year, her team met with the heads of all the Beauty Brands for P&G in New York who all said yes! They were wildly excited. But internal corporate changes put a halt to that. Then, she continues to say, they almost pulled off a miracle in 2017, but when Hillary Clinton lost, everyone ran for the hills.
She goes on to say “This past year was exhilarating. We had just about everything we needed at the table to pull off March 8, 2018. From Live Nation, the world’s biggest live entertainment company to produce at the Air Canada Center, to support for this bold global charitable platform from Universal and Sony music, who both said this was a fantastic Global Charitable Platform to get behind.
Riley O’Connor the chairman of Live Nation Canada really went the distance to help, as did our advisor, Kevin Shea, the chairman of the Ontario Media Corporation. So many great men helped support this vision.
Facebook was excited by the opportunity for global engagement and offered to live stream worldwide, but offered no funding. I was thrilled to enter into a strategic partnership with UN Women who agreed to help reach out to key stakeholders to get the funding and to engage Global Ambassadors. We also got support for the vision from then Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, who recorded an amazing video for us. The Foreign Affairs office sent letters of introduction to the CEO of the top 12 corporation in India on our behalf, as we were setting up a Women’s Day Live stage in India. Lili flew to India to meet with Indu Jain, the chair of the Times Group, the largest media conglomerate in India, who became a strategic partner in India.
The Honorable Kim Campbell, Canada’s former Primer Minister, and Musimbi Kanyoro, the CEO for the Global Fund for Women lent their person support for the mission by becoming Co-Chairs.
One of the people for whom I will always be grateful to is the legendary director, Louis J. Horvitz, who was to helm the show. He showed his support over all these years by keeping his name attached to the project. (Live Aid, Golden Globes, Grammys).
“As always anything I can do. You are the most committed person I know.
I hope your dream comes to fruition” -Louis J. Horvitz
“I have met Lili Fournier and I am impressed with all that she has achieved thus far and would want to support her efforts to celebrate International Women’s Day effectively.
We believe the concert will be an historic occasion and hope that you will join us in giving this annual event your support.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The catch 22 Lili says has always been that the money wanted to know that you had the talent booked, and the talent wanted to know you had the money in the bank. No one, in short, was ready to step out on a limb. Lili continued to divest herself, first her savings, then her retirement plan, and then her real estate assets to achieve this mission to change the future trajectory for the world’s women and girls. She laughingly quips “I’ve been so passionately committed to the cause that I should be ‘committed’.
The Bold Ask Lili staked her life on.
Invite world leaders to pledge Billions collectively to invest in education and women’s grassroots funds, putting women at the center of their International Development strategy. Presently less than 2% of funding makes it to women in the grassroots, where it is proven to have the most impact. She presented to Katie Telford, Chief of Staff for Prime Minister Trudeau who supported her vision. Many organizations lobbied the PMO likewise prior to the G7 summit.
INVITE THE WORLD TO KEEP ITS COMMITMENTS TO WOMEN AND GIRLS
Our strategy has always been to invite global corporate leaders to match this fund by donating 1% of their net profits and to invite Retailers worldwide to make International Women’s Day the biggest global give back day of the year by making it the biggest online Shopping Day of the year. Ali Baba did it with Singles Day in China, making 25 billion dollars in one day.
We are in one of the worst humanitarian crisis’ in world history. The public at large will be invited to support the Heart in Action Global Humanitarian Campaign, to raise matching funds committed by Corporate world leaders and Governments. Resources for advancing equality, education, an end to violence and Women’s Global Economic Empowerment is the key to sustainable change.
We simply must open the heart of humanity to the suffering and plight of women and children around the world. I have answered the call. Will you join me?
THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM MADE POSSIBLE
A GLOBAL CALL TO ACTION. YES WE CAN.
“You see I grew up in Communism. I was always being told “you can’t, you’re a girl.” Before I was 10, I was an immigrant twice over. I learned early about how painful it is to bear the brunt of prejudice, to not belong, and committed myself to fight for justice and equality.
I always tried to be fiercely brave and courageous even when I was scared, vulnerable and felt helpless - all at the same time. Courage is a muscle you learn to develop. I decided I would not let the world define how big I can dream or how far I can go which it was hell bent on doing. So my work on the Quest became ultimately about the freedom to become the person you want to be.
People who know what life is like without freedom, truly value it. I never take it for granted.
As Roosevelt said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.”
We are at a critical tipping point in our human history. We all need to be fierce defenders of the pillars of democracy and freedom. I have made vows which have tested my faith, my endurance and my will to the limit. Given my own history and my work, I have come to see that my quest for truth and belonging has led me to travel the world to explore the nature of the human heart.
I didn’t want to be a heartless self entitled creature with petty grievances that the world will not devote itself to making me happy. Spiritual maturity demands that we care about helping others and understand our human inter-connectedness. Given that everything I value is at stake, who would I be if I didn’t take a stand? “
I love what Brene Brown wrote about being a member of the wild heart club which sums up my own experience.
“I know what it means to stand alone and brave the criticism, fear, and hurt. I know the freedom of belonging everywhere and nowhere at all. The reward is great, but believe me, when Maya Angelou said “the price is high” – she was not kidding. I have made this quest and I have the scars to prove it.”
The Evolution of Power. Dare Greatly. Rise Strong.
This is a threshold moment in time, a wakeup call for all women to step up to the plate with everything they’ve got. Given the seismic changes for women this past year, women must realize by now that they have enormous collective power. Vote power. Dollar power. The future is in our hands.
The brilliant leaders of the Women’s March, Time’s Up and the Me Too Movement amongst others have inspired women to rise up all over the world. Now is the time to act. We have to choose courage over comfort and be willing to challenge the ‘status quo”. Now is the time to transform this formidable momentum into lasting progress and change.
Power is not given. It needs to be claimed.
3 THINGS WE CAN DO NOW
To Implement 21st Century Solutions.
- Commit to Women and Girl’s Global Economic Empowerment. Together we can spearhead a global call to action to invite world leaders post G7 to keep their commitment to put women and girls at the heart of their International Development Strategy as Canada has done. In one stroke, we could potentially move billions into the hands of women in years to come with this one change in national and global policy. Promises to women are made and usually broken. This is no longer acceptable. See G7 recommendations. Let’s support Canada’s ambitious global leadership effort to champion women and girls. If ever we had a world leader as a potential ally for bold action, to make global impact, this is it. Let’s do it while we have Prime Minister Trudeau in power. And let’s ensure he stays in power.
- Give voice to women and girls world-wide on one day on March 8, 2019. Help us finance the Women’s Day Live film – Stories of Us. A global co-creation call-out will invite women and girls all over the world to share their stories on International Women’s Day in 2019. Global Brand Ambassadors will help give us a global footprint. The film will be ready for broadcast and a global live-stream in 2020.
Help us Raise $2 Million Dollars now to have the Digital platform built NOW to be ready for the global call out in March.
Women’s Day Live – Stories of Us. (New link coming)
The “Women in a Day” film will ignite the potential of the digital revolution and give voice to women around the world. A historic snapshot of the world’s women. This is history in the making.
The Film on its release will celebrate the Centennial of the Women’s Right to Vote in America in 2020. Clearly a Historic Milestone for American Women.
- Women of the World Unite on March 8, 2020 to Herald a New Era
We will launch the Women’s Day Live global benefit concert. We will use the power of the music to bring the world together for a historic global celebration of women’s leadership. Music has always been at the heart of every social movement. Giving two decades of my life to bring this dream to fruition will have been worth it.
TOGETHER WE CAN GO FURTHER.
DO MORE THAN EVER BEFORE.
A WOMAN ON A MISSION
“If you have a dream that burns like a fire I the belly, you have the power to achieve it”.
The Quest continued to enlighten and inspire audiences with the Love series and the Women of Wisdom and Power series, which had a 5 hour broadcast, including a live 2 hour show in New York celebrating women’s leadership.