California's First Lady Dishes About the Governator

ByABC News via via logo

Dec. 6, 2006 — -- Maria Shriver grew up part of the Kennedy legacy.

As the wife of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, she is now part of a new kind of American dream.

Shriver recently dished about her past in journalism and her first-lady status with "Good Morning America's" Chris Cuomo.

Despite her pedigree as a Kennedy cousin, Shriver avoided the political morass, choosing the career of a reporter until her husband went from actor to activist and ran for office.

While Shriver misses the grind of news reporting, which she did for 25 years, she's embracing her latest assignment.

Her new beat is as spouse of the governor, highlighting women's accomplishments.

"One of the things when I first got into this role was to encourage women to stop saying that they're just a mother," she said. "Every woman has to fight, no matter what her profession is."

Her latest task: to let the world know that California has more to offer than Hollywood.

To that end, she's supporting the state's newest tourist attraction, the California Hall of Fame.

The Sacramento museum showcases Californians who have made an impact on the world -- President Reagan, tennis star Billie Jean King, and activist Cesar Chavez, among them.

"People are ignorant about California as a whole," Shriver said. "They like to think of it as just the capital of the entertainment world."

Like every wife, Shriver doesn't always agree with her husband.

Asked whether she had political conflicts with Schwarzenegger, Shriver laughed and said, "Doesn't everybody have some political conflict with their husband? Or their wife?"

Shriver said that even if she and Schwarzenegger disagreed, they were able to see both sides of an argument.

"I think the good thing about Arnold is he listens to my opinions, and I listen to his," she said.

Her independence is clear.

Maria is still Shriver, not Schwarzenegger, but her own sense of self has not made the role of first lady any easier.

When she married her husband, she never dreamed she'd end up next to one of the most well-known politicians in the country.

"When I married Arnold, politics wasn't really where I thought we were going!" she said. "Nancy Reagan gave me very good advice. She said, 'Do whatever you want, because you're going to get criticized anyway.'"

Anyone who expected Shriver to play the part of Schwarzenegger's silent partner was quickly proven wrong.

"The role of the first lady is going to have to adapt to women who are coming in who have careers," Shriver said. "And I'm not sure whether even the name 'first lady' should continue on."

This last Election Day, Shriver once again became first lady of the most populous state in the land -- a position of great significance, given all she has seen in her own family.

"I've been on a lot of stages with people in my family, and they've lost. And that's really painful," she said. "It's certainly easier to stand on a stage when someone wins, and especially when they win by 17 points."

Shriver takes the victories in stride with the losses, and she knows that nothing comes easy.

"I tell this to my kids. … There isn't anybody that you admire, that you will learn about, who has not been told 'No,' who has not been ridiculed, failed," she said.

"If you think you're not going to have to fight, don't go out there. Because you have to fight for anything you believe in."

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