After a hectic day packed with morning meetings and a photo session, Maria Shriver takes time to sit down for an interview. Dressed for a charity dinner later that evening, she exudes grace and confidence; she seems the epitome of a first lady.
Much has changed in Shriver's life since her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was elected governor of California seven years ago. "When I became first lady I was a working journalist with four young children," she says. Now, two daughters are on their own, a son is about to leave the nest and her younger son is in middle school. Her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver--"the most instrumental figure in my life"--has passed away. Her father, Sargent Shriver, has Alzheimer's disease. "So I look at my life differently today," she says.
"I used to define success as getting the anchor job, by having a book on the best-seller list. Since I've done that and realized actually it didn't make me feel more fulfilled, I've gone back to the basics to really ask myself, What does it mean to be successful in one's world?"
When she became first lady of California, Shriver had to give up her job with NBC, "which seemed like the worst thing in the world," she says. But a funny thing happened. "I've become more of myself through the [first lady's] job," she says. "As a journalist, you're really a messenger of everybody else's stories and everybody else's opinions, and as first lady you step out of being the messenger an really look at what's of interest to you. How do you want to use your own voice? How do you want to step into your own life?"
Shriver found her voice--and her mission--as a champion for women and families. Her crowning achievement has been The Women's Conference [R]. Touted as the premier forum for women, the conference is a three-day, megawatt event that attracts a powerful lineup of more than 140 speakers, authors, celebrities and business, spiritual and political leaders. More than an event, though, The Women's Conference is the launching point for an ongoing effort that has positively impacted millions of lives in California and beyond.
"We're a movement; we're a main event; we're about personal transformation," Shriver says. "But we're also about giving you the tools to go out and become an architect of change, not just in your own life, but in the world around you."
Finding Her Own Path
Born into an American political dynasty--mother Eunice was sister to President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert and Ted Kennedy--Maria Shriver grew up with a sense of duty to make a positive difference in the world. But she was not interested in a life in politics and knew she needed to find her own. path.
As a teenager, she accompanied her father on campaign flights during his run as the vice presidential candidate on the George McGovern ticket in 1972. Sixteen-year-old Maria sat in the back of the plane near the reporters. She felt comfortable around them, and an idea began to take shape.
Shriver received a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and began her journalism career in 1977. That same year, she met a handsome bodybuilding actor at a charity tennis tournament at her family's home in Massachusetts. Nine years later, she and Arnold Schwarzenegger married.
As the young couple created a life together, their careers blossomed. Schwarzenegger became a box office icon, and Shriver worked her way up from local TV stations to positions with CBS in 1985, and NBC in 1987, where she co-anchored Sunday Today, NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC. She also won Peabody and Emmy awards for her work. In 1989, Shriver and Schwarzenegger celebrated the birth of the first of their four children.
Going into politics wasn't on Shriver's agenda, but her husband had different ideas. A republican, he ran amid a crowded field of candidates in the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election. Shriver supported her husband's candidacy without entirely realizing what his election would mean for her life. After he was elected, Shriver had to give up her job with NBC.
The transition was not easy. On her first day in the office, Shriver asked if there was a job description for the first...