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Video: Maria Shriver on her new book

TODAY contributor
updated 4/23/2008 12:48:39 PM ET 2008-04-23T16:48:39

Maria Shriver back at NBC News?

That seemed to be the first lady of California’s wish during an interview on NBC's TODAY Show on Wednesday.

Shriver’s latest book, “Just Who Will You Be?,” discusses the difficulties of abandoning a 25-year career in television journalism to support husband Arnold Schwarzenegger in his rather sudden 2003 run for governor of California.

She playfully told host Matt Lauer that she would welcome a return to the place she worked from 1989-2003: NBC.

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“This was my home,” Shriver, who is 53, said. “All my friends were at NBC. I had worked 25 years to build a reputation there. I liked my job. I liked traveling. I liked doing stories.

“I think I can always come back,” she added with a laugh. “I think I can do special reports. You could hire me.”

When Schwarzenegger became a candidate for governor in the 2003 California recall election, Shriver, who served as an anchor on Sunday TODAY, NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC, took a paid leave of absence from the network.

She became the first lady of California when her husband was sworn in as the 38th governor of the Golden State on Nov. 17, 2003.

Nearly three months later, NBC relieved Shriver of her duties at NBC News due to the potential conflict of interest that comes from being a television journalist and being a public advocate of a particular administration.

Lauer, who joked that their chat was a “job interview,” asked Shriver if she could have continued at NBC without a conflict of interest.

“I do,” Shriver said, laughing. “But clearly everyone here didn’t.”

Lauer also coyly pressed to find out whether she had any resentment toward her husband for facing what became a mandatory life change, although Shriver didn’t bite.

“I say in the book, ‘Don’t rely on your job to define who you are,’ ” Shriver said. “So actually I shouldn’t come back. Should I come back? I don’t know. I’ll talk to myself.”

In one of the chat's wittier moments, Lauer then offered Shriver his notes and the opportunity to interview herself.

Regaining an identity
In the more serious parts of the interview, Shriver said she was prompted to pen the book, her sixth, when one of her sons described her as a “housewife” to a friend.

She later found herself at a loss for words when asked to speak at a graduation three years ago.

“I wasn’t the journalist anymore,” Shriver said. “I didn’t know who they wanted me to be at the graduation speech. Did they want me to be Maria Shriver, the NBC journalist? Well, I wasn’t that any more. Did they want me to be the first lady? I didn’t really know what that meant. Should I be the Kennedy, the Shriver? What was I?

“It really made me think that we’re asking young people and ourselves all the time the wrong question. We always say, ‘What do you want to be?’ And then when the ‘what’ goes away, you’re sitting there going, ‘I don’t know who I am.’ ”

Shriver, of course, was no stranger to politics before her husband’s run for governor in California. Her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was the sister of former President John F. Kennedy. Her father, Sargent Shriver, was Sen. George McGovern’s vice-presidential running mate in the Democrat’s bid for president in 1972.

In her second book, “Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Out Into the Real World,” the Chicago native wrote of her passion for broadcast journalism, which originated in her interaction with the press on the campaign trail during her father’s run for vice president.

Shriver graduated from Georgetown University in 1977 and began working as a news writer for KYW-TV in Philadelphia. It wasn’t long before she began reporting on air, working her way up to national reporter for CBS. She co-anchored the CBS Morning News with Forrest Sawyer from 1985-1987.

Back to politics
Many political observers say Shriver was hesitant to embrace her role as first lady. But she has warmed to the job somewhat by supporting initiatives to promote community service and end poverty in California while raising awareness of the contribution of women to the state.

Hailing from a family of Democrats, Shriver has also differed from her Republican husband on certain issues. Earlier this year, she endorsed the presidential candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama. Just a few days earlier, Schwarzenegger put his public support behind Sen. John McCain.

“It was kind of a struggle between my mind and heart,” Shriver said of her decision. “I’d be honored to vote for either one of those two people come November. I think many people who are involved in this election have come out for one person or another. But [Obama] spoke to my heart, and seeing how hard it is to bring people from different parties together, I really identified to that level.”

Shriver said she is also better at identifying herself.

“I’ll be a work in progress, I hope, until my dying day,” she said. “There is no set definition for who I am today. I have no specific career. I’m an evolving woman and I like that I’m a work in progress. I thought I’d be cooked at this age and the fact that I’m not is both exhilarating and scary.”

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