California First Lady on Living Your Own Legacy

The following are excepts of California first lady Maria Shriver's emotional speech to the Women's Conference Oct. 23, 2007, about her spiritual journey to find who she is, and what she wants her legacy to be.

I want to say thank you to all of you today for showing up here today, showing up as yourselves, and making this day such a priority for all of you.

Because I gotta say, I love, I love, this conference and what it's become. I love the inspiration and the unity that just permeates this entire day.

Because I think it lets us know that we're a part of something bigger than us. It lets us know that we're not alone, that we're not isolated. It lets us know that we're part of a community of women everywhere. And it's what I mean when I talk about the power of we.

Because when we come together, we are powerful. We can believe, we can dream, we can connect. We can care and we can lead. And, at the end of the day, we all learn, sooner or later, it's not about me, it's not about you, it is what happens when we come together.

I wanted to start this morning by talking about the concept of gratitude because it's become such a powerful concept in my own life.

This year I have been starting and ending my day with a prayer of gratitude. Gratitude is the place where I renew my faith in God and my faith in myself as well. Because gratitude helps me center myself and focus on the big picture of life. In gratitude I'm able to acknowledge all of the love that I have in my life.

Flowing into my life and flowing out. It lets me see and feel the good in my life and that helps me to be gentle with myself. Because like so many of you I know all too well how to be hard on myself. And this conference is a perfect example of how I do that.

You know every year when I get ready -- this is my fourth year -- I sit down to write and I try to think about what all of you want me to talk about and I get literally paralyzed with fear because I think I have nothing new to say.

I think I've said everything I'm ever gonna say, and I couldn't possibly be interesting anymore, and I think I'm not gonna measure up, I won't fulfill your expectations.

I stress, I eat licorice, I stress some more, I eat Dots. Then I wipe out a bag of Swedish fish. Then I'm on a sugar high. It's an ugly sight, my kids will witness that.

Then I sit down and I start to write. And I start by writing in long hand, I write in my room. I write in my bathroom. I write in my office. I write early in the morning. I get up. I write late at night. I write on the Lifecycle, I write in airplanes -- everywhere.

I'm going around with a legal pad, writing, ripping it up, crumbling up and starting all over again. Over and over. Trying to figure out exactly what you, what you want from me. What do you expect from me.

I think to myself -- well, they probably want me to talk about my four years as first lady. And I sit back and think, nah, I've done that already, that can't be it. Then I think, oh, I should talk about Arnold because everywhere I go everybody wants to talk to me about Arnold. But then I thought -- well he's already going to be here, he'll talk for himself. I don't have to talk about Arnold. Sometimes I do, but not today.

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