Meet Marianne Williamson, the motivational speaker and Oprah Winfrey pal who confused pretty much everyone at the Democratic debates

Ramesh Pathania/Mint via Getty ImagesMarianne Williamson – Spiritual Author and Lecturer, during a session on Religion, Consciousness and Spirituality. What Next? at Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2015
  • Marianne Williamson, a motivational speaker, New York Times best-selling author, and one-time congressional candidate with a substantial following, announced her candidacy for president in January.
  • Williamson, 66, is the 10th Democratic candidate to jump into the race. She began speaking and writing self-help books rooted in New Age spirituality in Los Angeles in the 1980s.
  • She appeared on the stage for the first round of Democratic debates, and her unique and sometimes confusing answers to policy questions made her the subject of endless online jokes and memes.
  • Here’s everything you need to know about Williamson’s life, career, and political aspirations.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Marianne Williamson, a motivational speaker, New York Times best-selling author, and one-time congressional candidate with a substantial following raised eyebrows and became the subject of endless jokes and memes with her very unique – and sometimes confusing – answers to policy questions.

At multiple points during the debate, Williamson rejected the notion that detailed policy plans would help Democrats defeat President Donald Trump, saying in her closing statement: “He’s not going to be beaten by someone with plans,” and addressing Trump directly, added, “you’ve harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out… I’m going to harness love for political purposes.”

Williamson, the 10th Democratic candidate to jump into the race in January 2019, began speaking and writing self-help books rooted in New Age spirituality in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

A 1992 appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s show helped launch her into Hollywood’s elite class as the preferred spiritual guide for many in the entertainment world.


Read more:


A self-help guru and Oprah confidante is running for president with a mission to heal a divided country via a spiritual awakening

Williamson has been involved in social justice advocacy for much of her life, creating two organisations to support HIV and AIDS patients at the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

Her first foray in politics was an independent run for Congress in California’s 33rd congressional district in 2014. She ended up losing to current Rep. Ted Lieu, but is now a contender for the highest office in the land.

Here’s everything you need to know about Williamson’s life, career, and political aspirations:


Williamson grew up in Houston, Texas. She attended Pomona College in Southern California for two years before dropping out and moving to New York City to pursue a career as a singer.

Source: ELLE


“Growing up in Texas in a liberal household, I was made deeply aware of issues of social justice,” she writes. “My father had grown up in poverty; he was insistent that we be aware of how fortunate we were, and always attendant to the needs of those who were not.”

Marissa Roth/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty ImagesMarianne Williamson in 1994

Source: Marianne for America


Her interest in religion and spirituality began in her 20s, when she discovered a set of books called “A Course in Miracles” written by a Columbia University medical psychology professor.

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesAuthor Marianne Williamson speaks at a book signing for her new book, ‘Everyday Grace’ on November 21, 2002 in San Francisco, California

Source: Los Angeles Times,
Marianne for America


“The Course is not a religion, but rather a self-study program of spiritual psychotherapy based on universal spiritual themes,” Williamson explains. “There is no dogma or doctrine; it is simply a book on how to forgive.”

Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Source: Marianne for America


Williams moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s, and began giving motivational lectures from a spiritual, but non-denominational perspective based on “The Course for Miracles'” teachings.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Sources:
Marianne for America,
Los Angeles Times


It was also at that time when she became involved in awareness and advocacy efforts for HIV and AIDS patients. She created two organisations — the Los Angeles and Manhattan Centres for Living, and the Angel Food Project — to support people living with AIDS.

Jennifer Lourie/Getty ImagesLos Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, Marianne Williamson and Richard Ayoub deliver Project Angel Food’s 10 millionth meal at Project Angel Food on March 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California

Source:
Marianne For America


Williamson is the author of 12 books, including four that have made The New York Times’ bestseller list. Her first book, “A Return to Love,” was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show and helped launch her to star-status.

Larry Busacca/WireImage for XM Satellite Radio/Getty ImagesJean Chatsky, Gayle King, Bob Greene, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Marianne Williamson, Dr. Robin Smith and Nate Berkus

Source:
Mother Jones


Williamson and Oprah are still good friends to this day.

Screenshot via OWNOprah interviewing Williamson for an episode of ‘SuperSoul Saturdays’ on the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2017

Source:
OWN


After the exposure from her Oprah interview in 1992, Williamson and her self-help books and lectures gained a cult following, including several Hollywood celebrities and elites.

Maury Phillips/WireImage/Getty ImagesLesley Ann Warren, Marianne Williamson, Lyn Lear, and Laura Dern at the Private Residence in Los Angeles, California

Source: Los Angeles Times,


“I’m a provocateur. I come into a situation where I don’t particularly relate to any of the institutionalized boxes. I’m not a minister, I’m not a rabbi, but I’m totally excited by God and Jesus. So you get this Jewish girl talking about Jesus — it’s going to get attention,” Williamson told Mother Jones in 1997.

Source:
Mother Jones


Williamson began to get involved in politics in 1997 with the publication of her book “Healing The Soul of America.” The book argued that universal values of spirituality and love could heal the divisions in the American political system.

Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Global GreenMarianne Williamson speaks at Global Green USA’s Millennium Awards at Fairmont Miramar Hotel on June 8, 2013 in Santa Monica, California

Source:
Mother Jones


“Because there’s a disconnection inside people, there is no listening,” Williamson told Mother Jones. “The reason that there are no major voices for social justice today is the listening isn’t there. We have to address it because people’s hearts aren’t open enough to hear. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

Jennifer Lourie/Getty ImagesLos Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, Marianne Williamson and Richard Ayoub deliver Project Angel Food’s 10 millionth meal at Project Angel Food on March 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

Source:
Mother Jones


In 2014, Williamson launched an independent bid for Congress in California’ affluent 33rd congressional district, which includes parts of Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Malibu.

Tibrina Hobson/Getty ImagesMarianne Williamson speaks at her election rally on June 2, 2014 in Santa Monica, California

Source: ELLE


While Williamson leveraged her high profile and large following to raise nearly $US2 million and secure endorsements from figures including Dennis Kucinich, she ultimately finished in fourth place in the primary.

Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images‘Glee’ actress Jane Lynch attends a campaign rally for congressional candidate Marianne Williamson

Source: ELLE


Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu, the winner of that primary, has represented the 33rd district since 2014.

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesPHILADELPHIA, PA – JULY 28: US Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) delivers remarks on the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received the number of votes needed to secure the party’s nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25.

At the time, many Democratic insiders questioned Williamson’s qualifications. “She has some very unusual beliefs about the world, a cult following, but she’s not a credible candidate,” the chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party said to LA Weekly. “She’s done a lot of work helping people heal, but that’s not preparation to be in Congress.”

Tibrina Hobson/Getty ImagesMarianne Williamson attends her election rally on June 2, 2014 in Santa Monica, California.

Source: ELLE


“It sounds nice to say, ‘I’m pure, I’m outside the system, and I can change the system,’ but that’s not how it works,” Democratic strategist Donna Bojarsky told Elle. “It’s too important a district to do on-the-job training.”

Tibrina Hobson/Getty ImagesCongressional candidate Marianne Williamson (C) leads a love mob rally in support for her run for congress at on May 18, 2014 in Venice, California.

Source: ELLE


“Over the six weeks I trailed her at numerous campaign question-and-answer sessions, I never once saw her glance at a note or trip over her words,” Elle writer Amanda Fortini wrote. “Her verbal dexterity, combined with her staccato, almost patrician, ’30s-era-movie-star delivery, often made me think of a heroine in a screwball comedy.”

Tibrina Hobson/Getty ImagesMarianne Williamson speaks at a campaign rally at Saban Theatre on May 19, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.

Source: ELLE


Williamson announced her presidential campaign at a January 28 event in Los Angeles. “It is time for us to rise up, the way other generations have risen up,” she said. “Sometimes, people are so cynical these days, as though other generations owed us something. Cynicism is just an excuse for not helping. And whining is not an option.”

Ramesh Pathania/Mint via Getty ImagesMarianne Williamson – Spiritual Author and Lecturer, during a session on Religion, Consciousness and Spirituality. What Next? at Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2015

Source:
Business Insider


“We need to address the deep emotional and psychological dynamics within the average citizen that have led to the erosion of our political system,” she writes on her website. “In order to have a moral and spiritual awakening in America, we need a leader who is a moral and spiritual awakener.”

Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty ImagesMarianne Williamson during her 2014 congressional campaign

Source: Marianne for America


Against all odds, Williamson met both requirements to qualify for the first Democratic debates in June by achieving 1% support in three polls and obtaining 65,000 donors.

Sean Rayford/Getty ImagesMarianne Williamson

Williamson appeared on the debate stage on June 27 — and stood out from the pack with a number of eye-catching and sometimes confusing statements criticising her opponents for laying out concrete plans, leading to a spike in Google searches for her.

Screenshot via NBCMarianne Williamson

Source: Los Angeles Times


On immigration, Williamson said, “I have great respect for everyone on this stage, but where have you been, guys? It’s not just a matter of a plan, and I haven’t heard anybody who talked about American foreign policy in Latin America and how we might have in the last few decades contributed to this situation.”

Screenshot via NBCMarianne Williamson and John Hickenlooper at the Democratic debates

Later, on the issue of climate change, Williamson also took a shot at her competitors for discussing their climate plans while invoking JFK, saying, “Just because you have an older body does not mean you don’t have new ideas. John Kennedy didn’t say, ‘I have a plan to get a man to the moon and we can all work to get a man on the moon,’ John Kennedy said by the end of this decade, we are going to put a man on the moon.”

Screenshot via NBCMarianne Williamson

When all the candidates were asked what their first priority as president would be, Williamson did not name a policy, but said she would call New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Arden to challenge her on who could make their respective country “the best place in the world for a child to grow up.”

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesDemocratic presidential candidates (L-R) Marianne Williamson, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, former tech executive Andrew Yang and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg

In her closing statement, Williamson raised more eyebrows when she said: “Donald Trump is not going to be beaten just by insider politics talk. He’s not going to be beaten by someone with plans.”

Screenshot via NBCMarianne Williamson

She concluded by saying: “Mr. President if you’re listening, I want you to hear me please. You’ve harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out. So I have a feeling you know what you’re doing. I’m going to harness love for political purposes. I will meet you on that field, and sir, love will win.”

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesMarianne Williamson debating on June 27

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