Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Shriver offers plain advice

By Maria Blackburn
The Baltimore Sun

        Maria Shriver has it all.

        She is a mother, an award-winning broadcast journalist and the author of a best-selling children's book. She is the wife of movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a Kennedy.

        And she has a killer smile.

  Here is Maria Shriver's Top 10 list, from her best-selling book, Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Went Out into the Real World. (WarnerBooks, $19.95)
  1. First and foremost: Pinpoint your passion.
  2. No job is beneath you.
  3. Who you work for and with is as important as what you do.
  4. Your behavior has consequences.
  5. Be willing to fail.
  6. Superwoman is dead ... and Superman may be taking Viagra.
  7. Children do change your career. (Not to mention your entire life.)
  8. Marriage is a hell of a lot of work.
  9. Don't expect anyone else to support you financially.
  10. Laughter.
  Give this year's college and high school graduates the benefit of your experience. What do you wish someone had told you before you went out into the real world?
  We need your responses quickly. Send them before the end of the day Friday to nberlier@enquirer.com.
        But Ms. Shriver's life hasn't been without struggle. She's tried to be Superwoman and failed, been fired as co-anchor of CBS Morning News in 1986, and has grieved over the loss of family members.

        If only someone had told her before she graduated in 1977 from Georgetown University what she could have expected to find in the real world, maybe her life would have been different.

        Since no one had, she decided to do it herself.

        Ms. Shriver's new book, Ten Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Went Out into the Real World (WarnerBooks, $19.95) takes a single simple idea and expands it using anecdotes from her life.

        Based on a 1998 commencement address she gave at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., the book — already a best seller — is straightforward, funny and appealing.

        We recently caught up with Ms. Shriver, who lives in Santa Monica, Calif., and is a contributing anchor on Dateline NBC, by phone totalk about her new book.

        Question: In your book you tell readers to pinpoint their passions, be willing to fail and laugh. If someone had told you these and the rest of the suggestions in your book when you were graduating from college, would you have listened?

        Answer: I would have listened. I was interested in talking to people about what lay ahead. Would I have followed all the advice? Probably not. But it definitely would have been very helpful for me if someone had told me I was going to fail, and I shouldn't consider it the end of the world. People come back from it better for it.

        It would have been very helpful if someone had talked to me about pursuing my passion. It would have been very helpful to me if someone had talked to me about how difficult it was to balance work and family. I had no concept of that. When I graduated from college, everyone in my generation was talking about how you can finally do it all. When you struggled with it, you thought, "What's the matter with me?' It would have been extremely helpful if someone had addressed all of these things. It would have made my road far less lonely, far less anxiety-filled.

        Q: Ten Things started as a college graduation speech. It was so popular, you decided to expand it into a book, which is on the New York Times best-seller list. Why do you think it's so popular?

        A: It's about those things people don't like to talk about. People don't like to say they've struggled in their marriage. They don't like to talk about their failures. They're afraid if they do that people will look at that as a sign of weakness. Sometimes we underestimate what people are feeling because they aren't talking about it.

        Q: Who spoke at your college graduation?

        A: Pearl Bailey. I don't remember anything she said.

        Q: Who spoke at your high school graduation?

        A: My dad (Sargent Shriver). I remember everything he said. He had just come off a presidential campaign. He talked about the country we were going to inherit, our responsibilities. It was very uplifting.

        Q: What kind of college student were you?

        A: People at Georgetown who ran the American Studies program would say I was quite focused and serious. I also liked to have a good time. I wasn't one of those people who went to college knowing that I wanted to be pre-med. I went to college thinking I'd get a really good liberal arts education and figure out what I wanted to do along the way.

        Q: What are the 11th, 12th and 13th things you wish you knew before going out into the real world?

        A: How easy it is to lose touch with your college friends. How important it is to tell people what you think of them. And how important it is for siblings to have separate relationships apart from their parents. I gave that speech because those were the things I wish I'd known in life. The things in the Afterword are all things I've learned along the way since then. Several people have asked me to expand on the things in the Afterword. They've told me I should write another book. I'm too tired right now to do that.

        Q: You write about riding with the reporters during your father's campaign for vice president in 1972. Have you ever regretted becoming a reporter instead of a politician?

        A: No. Never. I feel like this was my life's calling for sure. I felt it in my gut. I still feel it now. It fits into all aspects of my personality. I love to write. I love to ask questions. I love meeting new people. I love people in the media. It's creative. It pushes you. For me it fit all the things that worked for me. The writing now works off of it. I don't think I ever could be writing (books) if I didn't have my journalism experience.

        Q: Are you the first Kennedy who has ever hated public speaking?

        A: I don't know. I don't think so. My mother (Eunice) always told me her brothers grew into that. I've grown into it. I'm a big believer in going out and doing what scares you the most.

        Q: In the book you write about how you hate and fear giving speeches. Have you been invited to speak at any graduations this year?

        A: Yes, I have been invited, but I haven't done any. I'm still waiting for my invitation to speak at Georgetown, though.


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