A tireless advocate for women and peace hopes for a more mindful 2020
Long before women’s empowerment became a hashtag movement, Maria Shriver made it part of her life’s work.
Shriver, 64, was born into a leading political family—her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was a sister of President John F. Kennedy—and in 1986, she married into a future one: Her then-spouse, Arnold Schwarzenegger, would become governor of California in 2003. Also a news correspondent and author, she has used her influence to effect change for as long as she’s been in the public eye.
Just during her tenure as First Lady of the country’s most populous state, she spearheaded The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything, a groundbreaking survey of the impact of women in the workforce. And she began leading the nonprofit Women’s Conference, a global gathering of important women and their supporters, which drew figures as diverse as Oprah Winfrey, Billie Jean King and the Dalai Lama to the California confab. And her Emmy-winning HBO documentary series “The Alzheimer’s Project” premiered, exploring an illness that disproportionately affects women, and that has become a passion project for Shriver.
This month, she becomes the latest powerful woman to keynote Mindful Boca, an annual New Year’s lecture from Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life initiative. She’s likely to discuss her own wellness practice as outlined in her best-selling 2018 essay collection I’ve Been Thinking … Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life.
“We knew going into 2020, an election year, that our community was going to need someone extra special to inspire, motivate, and leave us feeling hopeful for what is to come,” says Barb Schmidt, co-founder of Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life. “With her own personal life experience, her professional scope and her inspiring content, I knew [Maria] would be the perfect fit for Mindful Boca 2020.”
How does the Peaceful Mind/Peaceful Life programming here in Boca gel with your interests and motivations as a writer and thinker?
I talk a lot about the importance of mindfulness and slowing down—both of which are important to the Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life group. I believe that we could all afford to slow down our lives and make more time for what really matters.
The New Age/self-development section in most bookstores is a large one. How do you believe I’ve Been Thinking … stands apart from the rest?
I’ve Been Thinking… was my most personal book to date. It was my most reflective and my most spiritual. It’s the best example of how my views on life have grown and evolved over time. I don’t need to compare my book to others or talk about how it stands out, but I will say that I think it resonated because I allowed myself to be real and vulnerable. So many of the issues I write about in the book are issues we all face in our families, faith, careers and life as a whole.
How do you recommend people read the book to get the most out of it?
The nice thing about I’ve Been Thinking… is that the book can be read however you see fit. I intentionally structured the book to include short essays, reflections and meditations so that a person could grab it whenever they need a pick-me-up and find at least one message that most speaks to them in that moment. The book can be read in order or out of order, all at once or in bits and pieces. I still write new I’ve Been Thinking… essays weekly in my Sunday Paper digital newsletter.
Are we making any progress in the prevention or cure for Alzheimer’s?
Yes, I do believe that we are. Alzheimer’s is the only major disease without a treatment or a cure, and I find that to be completely unacceptable. That said, there are many smart scientists and researchers out there who are just as upset by this fact as I am, and who are working tirelessly to break ground and find answers. My nonprofit The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement raises money for critical gender-based research so we can help advance the study of women’s brains in particular and help uncover why women are disproportionately impacted by this disease.
You mention in the postscript of your book that “both parties contribute to the divisiveness in this country.” What led you to believe that your former party, the Democrats, were part of the problem as well?
It wasn’t that I felt the Democratic Party was part of the problem necessarily. It’s that I came to realize that neither political party had all the answers, and that neither was entirely right or wrong about every issue. I registered as an Independent shortly after serving as a Democratic First Lady in a Republican administration. [That] required me to reach across the aisle. It made me realize that we’re all facing similar issues, that we all have good ideas, and that most of us want what’s best for one another, even if we have different ways of getting there.
One of the only ways we’re going to come together and get anything done is if we pause, take a deep breath, put aside our “R” and “D” labels, and start having meaningful conversations about what unites us and what we have in common. Trust me, it’s a lot more than we often think.
WHAT: Mindful Boca 2020: An Evening with Maria Shriver
WHEN: Jan. 28, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University, 3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton
CONTACT: 561/955-7227, pmpl.eventbrite.com