In an unscheduled surprise appearance at the University of California-Los Angeles' (UCLA) Pauley Pavillion, alongside her cousin, Caroline Kennedy, best friend, Oprah Winfrey, and co-political spouse, Michelle Obama, California's First Lady, Maria Shriver, publicly announced her endorsement of Barack Obama for president of the United States. With today's endorsement, Shriver now joins a long list of her Kennedy relatives who are endorsing Obama.
Shriver, niece of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and powerful Massachusetts Senator, Ted Kennedy, is an enormously popular figure in California. She assisted in resurrecting her husband, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's political career, after his early missteps in challenging union members and his failure to pass his self-absorbed ballot propositions in a special election he mandated on November 8, 2005. Indeed, after being badly defeated by the California electorate, Schwarzenegger pronounced publicly that he had learned his lessons and should have listened to his wife when she told him not to push for the special election or challenge the unions.
Maria Shriver's own high profile, stemming from her successful broadcasting career (which she suspended upon becoming California's First Lady), her close friendship with Winfrey, and her status as a member of America's pre-eminent Kennedys, has made her an enormously popular First Lady. Her parents, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver, have been leaders for socio-economic justice and mental health parity throughout Maria's life. Indeed, Maria Shriver's marriage to Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger has been an odd detour from her deeply honed Democratic roots. After her independent declaration today, many are likely to say that Maria has finally come home!
Onstage at Pauley Pavilion, Shriver announced to the crowd that she wasn't scheduled to be at this event today -- that she'd been at a horse show with her daughter, Katherine, but thought when she woke up this morning that "there's no place I should be than right here [Pauley Pavilion] today." When she told this to her daughter, Katherine, the young first-time voter believed her mom would do well to appear.
This past week, Shriver's California Governor husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, endorsed pro-war Republican John McCain for President. It's possible, with the current surges for Obama and McCain in their respective campaigns, that the First Couple of California will be supporting their opposing parties' eventual nominees.
It was obvious to those present at Pauley Pavilion today that this was an emotional moment for California's popular First Lady. It was certainly a buoyant moment for those in the audience and for her friends and family on stage. Shriver's Uncle Teddy must truly be in his glory with Maria's return to the family-fold to follow his endorsement lead.
No doubt, with the enormous clout California will have in Tuesday's Super Primary election, the Cliintons won't be happy that Shriver is endorsing Obama, since her popularity should add more momentum to his campaign. As of now, it's not clear whether Shriver will be campaigning for Obama. One would think it's not all that likely, however, whether she campaigns for him or not, her endorsement today and her presence on stage with the powerful women who support him, make Obama's success in California a tad more likely.
As Shriver told the Pauley Pavilion audience, 'as goes California, so goes the nation.' This Tuesday we shall see.
Congratulations, Maria. Welcome home!!!