Why not Maria Shriver as the next Senator from Massachusetts, should Senator John Kerry be confirmed as Secretary of State? In a way, she'd be filling her uncle Sen. Edward Kennedy's shoes. Her dear parents are buried at a cemetery in Hyannis, Mass., and her wedding was at St. Francis Xavier Church in Hyannis. It would be a coming home.
The biggest beef against the Senate and the House has been the lack of bipartisanship. Who better to bring it to the Senate than Maria Shriver as the Democratic First Lady of California in a Republican administration led by her husband then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger? Also, as a Democrat married to a Republican in the Kennedy family, she has lived her life reaching across the aisle. This is her moment.
Interviewing New York Times bestselling author Lawrence Leamer at the time his book, The Kennedy Women first hit the shelves, I was surprised when he said President Kennedy's sister, Eunice, would have made a fine candidate for public office. I had never thought of her in that way.
Leamer told me, in his opinion, an opinion based on his many interviews, exhaustive research, and unparalleled access to the Kennedy family, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was at least the equal of her brothers when it came to politics and may have even surpassed their many accomplishments, if she had been born later when more opportunities were opening up for women to run. If she had just had the chance to shine in the political arena and not been stifled by societal attitudes towards the women of her day.
As it was, Eunice Kennedy Shriver who vigorously campaigned for her brothers and her husband as they ran for office, still found time to start -- together with Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke -- the Special Olympics. Like mother like daughter, Maria sits on the board of International Special Olympics while her brother Anthony Kennedy Shriver has founded Best Buddies International to help students with intellectual disabilities.
Fast forward to today. Why not Eunice and Sargent Shriver's only daughter Maria as the Senator from Massachusetts? She wouldn't be the first Kennedy woman in the political arena. Her cousin Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was Lt. Governor of Maryland and President Clinton appointed her Aunt Jean Kennedy Smith as Ambassador to Ireland. Cousin Caroline Kennedy was considered for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's New York Senate seat.
Shriver's smart and well-educated, starting out at Manhattanville College, the alma mater of her mother and her aunts Ethel, Joan and Jean Kennedy and ending up with a bachelor's degree in American Studies from Georgetown University in our nation's capital. American Studies. What an appropriate major for someone seeking political office.
Let's face it. Maria grew up eating, drinking and breathing politics. How could she not with Chicago Board of Education President Robert Sargent Shriver Jr. as her father, and President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert and Edward Kennedy as her uncles? Not to mention her husband Arnold shedding his previous careers of bodybuilder and movie action hero, to become governor of the Golden State. Her brother Mark Shriver served in the Maryland House of Delegates and her cousins, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Growing up, we asked ourselves the question, "Can a woman have it all?" as we watched Mary Tyler Moore in her iconic sitcom on Saturday nights (when we didn't have a date), throwing her beret up in the air as the show opened each week to the song lyrics, "You're gonna make it after all."
"Can a woman be a wife and mother, and have a career?", we asked ourselves. At age 57, Maria has immersed herself in the family business of public service. So, why not the family business of politics? Women are conspicuous by their absence in the U.S. Senate in proportion to their numbers in the general population even though as ABC's Diane Sawyer reported, a record-breaking group of twenty women senators were sworn in last week. Maria Shriver could make it twenty-one.
In The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything, she partnered with the Center for American Progress, USC's Annenberg Center on Communication, Leadership and Policy, and the Rockefeller Foundation. That national study in 2009, showed for the first time ever, women comprising at least half the U.S. workforce. It also looked at the effect this has on the American family, business, government and organized religion.
It's not surprising Maria Shriver became involved in a report on the status of women since her trailblazing uncle, President John F. Kennedy, created by executive order the very first Presidential Commission on the Status of Women in 1961. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was its Chair and noted Chicago labor leader Rev. Addie Wyatt played a major role as well.
Winner of Emmy Awards in television and the George Foster Peabody Award for journalism excellence, Maria Shriver knows how to ask questions and how to get things done.
Throughout her life, Maria Shriver has demonstrated she is one tough cookie, and she knows how to bake them, too. She's raised four children and even found time to author many children's books.
From WJZ-TV in Baltimore where she became fast friends with work colleague Oprah Winfrey to the CBS Morning News to anchoring, producing and reporting for NBC News, Maria proved herself again and again as someone who works hard and with a conscience. And why not? She was blessed with two parents who lived their Roman Catholic faith including attending daily Mass.
Maria introduced a 10-point pledge at the California Governor and First Lady's Conference in 2007 in Long Beach, Calif. In it, she pledged to use her voice to empower herself and others. To show up for life. To serve her community in ways to benefit others. To ask herself, "What do I want to stand for?" Not to describe herself or others as "just" a housewife or "just" a mother. To live her own legacy. And to pass it on.
Sounds like a good prescription and description of the next Senator from the Bay State. Maria Shriver might best be described as a go-getter. So go get this senate seat, Maria. And as you yourself have said to others, "Remember to enjoy the ride!"