Q&A: Maria Shriver

Former TV Reporter Talks About Her Family

Former television reporter Maria Shriver sits downs with Lesley Stahl to discuss a subject she cares about deeply: her family. Read an excerpt of her March 23, 2004 interview with 48 Hours.
Maria Shriver On Her Parents:
Shriver: [The Shriver legacy] is really a legacy of public service. When you look at mommy and daddy, [they are] the only two people to win the Freedom Award, Presidential Medal of Freedom -- independently, the only couple to do so.

...There is no couple, I don't think, on the planet, who has done so much outside of elected office. I think it really does show people, and I hope it shows young people, that if you have an idea, no matter what your age is, you can go out and start a program -- if you stick with it and follow it through, when everybody says to you, "It can't be done."

If you have an idea and a vision and stay with it and doom the naysayers, you can have a tremendous impact ... We were raised that you can make a difference, and that you must make a difference in your life, whether it's volunteering in an existing program, or starting your own.

Stahl: Your parents actually said that?

Shriver: Dished it out daily. Like you sat down at dinner, you know, "What have you done? What are you gonna do?" I remember after I had written this book which is about, kind of, my life in journalism. It was on the best seller list, and I came home and I was sitting with my dad and he came downstairs and he said, "So, what are you gonna do to change the world?"

I said, "I'm working. And I just did this book." He said, "Well, that's the past. Now what's the future? What are you gonna do to change the world? … You've gotta think about how you're gonna change the world. And you've gotta start thinking about it right now."

They see themselves, even to this day, as trying to come up with ideas and products and push us to make a difference. And that's the way I was raised.

Shriver On Her Father:
Shriver: He's constantly thinking about ways to create a more peaceful world, trying to think about ideas that aren't out in the public discussion …He's always had a global vision. And I think that by talking about those issues, by bringing people together from different worlds, by working really outside of the system and inside of the system, that's the Shriver legacy ...

He's fascinated with everybody, curious about everybody. When he talks to you, you are the center of the world, whether you're a kid in the Job Corps or whether you're a retarded child or you're Bill Clinton. Equal attention, equal focus, equal interest.

My father never was and isn't a mean man. You know, he never was ruthless. And he succeeded in life without sticking it to anybody. And that's a great example for a man, a strong man, a man's man, to give to his children. You can succeed, you can be successful, without walking over somebody.

He always wanted to bring out the best ... And I think he has done that, with my mother, for my brothers, brought out the best in them. And, you know, if they wanna see the perfect guy, they don't have to look to other than to the end of the table. Because he's sitting at the head of the table today.

Shriver On Her Mother:
Shriver: You know, in my 40s, I'm still being parented. You know, my mother still calls every day and says, "You know, this is an idea -- that's an idea." ...

I have a briefcase in my car full of stuff from my mother, that I haven't done. She sends me everything from foreign affairs to children's health care issues, to cuts for the disabled. She sends me religious books.

She sends lots and lots of speeches. She sends me all my uncle's speeches. She sends me everybody else's speech that she heard. She sends me things about what other women are doing in other countries. She sends me things about Bosnia, Afghanistan.

Shriver On Her Brothers:
Shriver: I feel very blessed to have four brothers. My brothers always say, "Oh, you know, we prepared for the world of journalism. We prepared you for Arnold. We prepared you for everything."

And in a way they're right. Because you know, they take no prisoners. They were very tough. They tease a lot. They have no patience for tears. They have no patience for waiting. They have no patience for asking for special treatment. And they're all very bright. They're all very attractive. They're all very funny. They're all very driven. They're all very competitive. They're all very athletic. And yet they're very different.

Stahl: How did you get a word in edgewise?

Shriver: You know, you become like that. You become like them. And that's OK.

Stahl: Do you see each other a lot?

Shriver: I talk to all of my brothers every week. Several of them, I talk to every day. They are my best friends. They're totally involved in my life.

They're constantly encouraging me or giving me different ideas. So, you know, a day doesn't go by where I don't talk to one of them. And a week doesn't go by where I don't talk to all of them.

They really are my best friends because there are very few people who have the same experience of growing up other than your brothers. And they're very protective of me. And I'm very protective -- hyper-protective -- of them.

Stahl: Let's talk about Bobby. He's the oldest.

Shriver: When I think of Bobby, I think of someone who's very passionate, extremely smart. Extremely dedicated. Extremely inquisitive. Someone who is always ahead of the curve, who's always thinking outside the box.

He was out in front on a lot of music things. So when he came and wanted to do an album to benefit Special Olympics and bring artists together ... no one had, kind of, used that model to create money for a charity. So Bobby has always been ahead of the game in my mind.

Stahl: Tim, to me, Tim's different.

Shriver: He's very wise, very thoughtful. Very good at bringing out the best in people. Very good at the collaboration. Very good at taking people's temperature, bringing them together … He has done an extraordinary job with Special Olympics, and taken it to new heights…I have great respect for Tim.

Stahl: Tim went to college and then went to work as a school teacher in the inner city schools of New Haven. And actually lived that life. And that's quite unusual.

Shriver: And he was very proud of living that life. And I think he misses living that life. I think he came in and has run Special Olympics in a way that nobody could have, other than Timothy. He really took the reins of that. And I think anybody who's worked with and for their parents knows that's incredibly challenging. And yet, he's made Special Olympics his own.

Stahl: And what about Anthony? Anthony's the baby.

Shriver: He's the baby. He has the humor of the youngest. But he's very serious as well. I mean, Anthony has started an organization from scratch. He works on it seven days a week. He's driven. He has a vision. He's taken it from a college program, you know, now it works in middle schools, it works in jobs. And he has really busted it out. He's now got it in other countries. And he has taken his idea, and I think he learned from what mommy and daddy did, he's incorporated a business element into it. He's incorporated, he's brought in the art world into it. He's a savvy entrepreneur with his business, which is a charity.

I think everybody looks at Anthony and, kind of, just laughs because he really lives life to its fullest. But underneath of that, he's also serious about what he's doing. And he wants it to be a success.

Stahl: Tell us about Mark.

Shriver: When I think of Mark, I really smile. He's now working for Save The Children. He was in the Maryland Assembly, ran for Congress two years ago. He's a great "people" person. And I think he is, when you think about your ideal politician ... Mark is that.

He is really one of those great idealistic men who believes that he can change the world through public service. He's honest, he's good, he's smart, he's committed and he loves people. And he loves people's problems and he loves fixing people's problems. And he's got patience with it.

Stahl: You know, all your brothers talk about the idea of doing good works or public service, but also having fun at it. How central is that?

Shriver: Well, I think we were raised in a really fun kind of Irish household, where everybody tweaked everybody, teased everybody, had a lot of laughs. And all of my brothers, as I've said, are very funny. And they make fun of each other.

Shriver On The Kennedy Women:
Stahl: There are several wonderful Kennedy women, or women in your family... in your generation, who have also gone into public service … I mean, you're in public service. Your mother, look what she's done. Look at Kathleen, Rory, Kerry, you can down the list. It's not just the guys in your family.

Shriver: Well, I think their women are formidable. My grandmother was formidable. My mother is formidable.

But, I've never operated, myself, thinking about any legacy or anything. I always have just said, "What do I want to do? How am I gonna make my mark?" Because I never wanted to live off of someone else's mark. I think, you know, that you didn't do that, they did it. And the issue is, what are you gonna do?

You don't wanna walk around and say, "I'm somebody's niece, I'm somebody's cousin, I'm somebody's daughter." Who are you? And I think that's always the challenge when you grow up in a well-known family, is ultimately, you have to face yourself in the mirror and say, "Who are you? What have you done?"

Shriver On The Family's Tragedies:
Stahl: Do you think you've all been affected by the tragedies in that way?

Shriver: I think everybody has tragedy in their life. Everybody has hurdles in their life. Everybody has tough things to overcome. My kids say to me, "This isn't fair." I said, "Life isn't fair." Everybody has their issues. It's how you handle your issues that distinguishes you. So I have never spent time thinking like, "Oh, you know, this tragedy or this or that."

I've met people who have much tougher things going on in their lives. I meet people who are raising four kids with no money. They're single, their husband died in a car crash, left them with three kids and no money. You know, that's tragedy.

As a journalist, you get to meet people and you get to be inspired by these incredible stories of people overcoming all kinds of stuff in their lives. So I think that the key to all of these "legacy issues" is to just not think about them and just do what you need to do.

Get on with your own business. Get on with it. Find out who you are. Do your own thing. And maybe it doesn't measure up. But it's your life and you have to do what's right for you. And I think when you grow up in a famous family, that's sometimes hard to figure out. You know, is what I do gonna be equal, is it gonna be as important?

Stahl: Yeah, but look at your family. You've all done it.

Shriver: Yeah, I think I feel really good at where we are in my family. I enjoy my family more than any group of people on the planet. I would much prefer to spend an evening with my brothers than anybody on the planet. I would much prefer to spend an evening with my cousins, or talking to my cousins, than anybody I know.

Shriver On Her Family And Her Husband:
Shriver: They are terrific with my husband. They have embraced him. They have brought him in. They treat him as an equal. They tease him as much as they tease each other. They welcome him. They are extraordinary human beings.

And, whenever my husband doesn't wanna spend time on the phone talking to me, he goes, "Go call one of your brothers. They have time for you." But they do, they've always had time or made time for me. And I admire them as a group and I admire them individually.