A women's conference held Thursday in California highlighted messages on leadership, activism and family for women across the United States, organizers and participants said.
The event, hosted by Maria Shriver, wife of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, gathered dozens of celebrities including NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, CNN foreign correspondent Christiane Amanpour, actress Jane Fonda and retiring US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Shriver told some 10,000 participants packed in the Long Beach Convention Center that a woman should always have a goal larger than herself, and with a mission to "change the world."
"You must never exclude people because of a political label, and you must always, always seek to change the world," said the California's first lady.
The one-day conference is to conclude with the presentation of Minerva Awards, which were created by Shriver last year to honor women "whose indisputable humanitarian qualifications demonstrate the enduring power of great acts of service."
Former US first lady Betty Ford will receive a Lifetime Achievement award, while 1976 Olympic bronze medalist Anita L. DeFrantz, the first black to serve on the International Olympic Committee, will be among other Minerva award recipients.
In addition to panel discussions on women's role in the modern American society, the conference also featured a Volunteer Village with exhibits sponsored by 45 not-for-profit organizations.
Governor Schwarzenegger was scheduled to attend the conference Thursday evening, and his planned appearance attracted dozens of protestors who blasted his November 8 ballot initiatives.
The protestors, organized by the California Nurses Association union, carried signs opposing Proposition 75, a measure that would require members' approval before union dues can be spent on political campaigns.
Voters in California will cast their ballots in the special election next month to decide the fate of the governor's reform agenda, which has drawn widespread opposition from unions of nurses, firefighters and teachers.