Break Your Mirrors! A Thank You

Special Olympics

“Break your mirrors!! Yes, Indeed — shatter the glass! In our society that is so self-absorbed, Begin to look less at yourself and more at each other! Learn more about the face of your neighbor, and less about your own.”

That’s a quote from one of my Dad’s speeches at Yale University and it’s the mission of the Sargent Shriver Peace Institute.

I mention this because all this week I have been deeply struck by all the thousands of people who broke their mirrors and came out to support the Special Olympics International World Games.

They came as volunteers. They worked in health clinics. They cheered in stands. They acted as translators and coaches, guides, mentors. They played on Unified Sports teams. They brought their children to witness athletic prowess, and more importantly, character superstars.

I was blown away day in and day out.

Moved to tears, humbled, left speechless on so many occasions.

I found myself wondering everyday: Who are these people??? Where are they when they are not here??? Who raised them?? How did they get so kind ,so caring, so selfless??

In the era of the selfie, all week long I meet selfless people. People who took hard-earned vacation time to volunteer. People who closed their own business to be here.

I feel so blessed that I got to witness this kind of selfless humanity. I feel so blessed that my kids got to see it as well. It had a great impact.

As the games come to a close I feel a swell of emotion. I’m so proud and so grateful to all those who volunteered. I’m so humbled by the athletes and their families.

Thank you all for showing me love in action.

To the companies who stepped up: Coca-Cola, Deloitte, Mattel, Bank of America,Toyota, Kaiser Permanente, ESPN, New Balance, USC and UCLA: all my gratitude. And thank you to my friends who gave so generously, you’re truly the Angels of LA.

To my parents: thank you for teaching me about service and for introducing me to people who seek a better world and work hard to make it so.

And to all the people I hugged, cried with, cheered with: Thank you for restoring my faith in humanity. Thank you for restoring my belief in the City of Angels and for showing me that differences are to be celebrated not hidden. May the positive ripple effect of these past 9 days reach out from the hearts and souls that participated in these World Games and hopefully touch many more hearts and souls in towns and homes all over this great country and this world. #PassItForward

[Images via Special Olympics LA 2015 World Games Flickr]

Are You Brave?

Special Olympics Richard Corman

Are you brave?

Growing up I would hear that a lot, “Do this.” “Try that.” “Be brave.”

I usually associated being brave with some athletic adventure. Ski down the black run. Jump the highest fence. Volunteer in a far away country. Tough it out. Run for office. Serve your country. Risk your comfort, your security. That’s what bravery looked like.

For me, being brave slowly evolved into: Do live TV. Move across the country. Get married. Have kids. Put yourself out there. Try. Be brave.

I knew my bravery wasn’t the same as someone who risked their life fighting for their country, or running for the highest office in the land. To me, those were really brave people, but slowly, over time, I’ve come to realize that bravery is all around me. It shows up in people everyday.

[Watch Maria Shriver’s sit-down with Robin Roberts for ‘Good Morning America’]

As the Special Olympic World Games opens here in Los Angeles, I’ve been reflecting on bravery.

I think of the athletes who have come from little villages, who don’t speak a word of English and yet they come here to the U.S. to compete in front of thousands. That’s brave.

I think of the volunteers who take their vacation time to volunteer and help the Games go on. It’s not nice or sweet, it’s brave.

I think of the families who have a special needs child. How they care for them 24/7. That’s brave.

I think of my friend Eddie Barbanell, who is intellectually disabled. I’ve watched him stand up and speak about his disability, about his loneliness, his pain and his joy. That’s brave.

[Do You Want to Make an Impact in the World? 10 Ways You Can ‘Change The Game’]

And I think of my mother who started the Special Olympics. Who stood up, said she would change the world for people with ID. Who walked into the President’s office and demanded change. That’s brave.

Bravery is all around us. Here in our Architect of Change community I read stories of incredible bravery. Of people starting over. Of people who risk everything to live in their own personal truth. Wow. So Brave.

Today and this week I’d like to celebrate the bravery that is all around us and in us. I’d love to invite you to watch the 30 for 30 film I did about my mother called “Brave in the Attempt.” Those four words come from the Special Olympic athlete’s oath, but they also describe everyone in the movement and they describe my mother, who got up every day, put on her big-girl pants, used her strong female voice, stood her ground, and got s+++ done. She was a brave woman.

[Watch clips of the ESPN 30 for 30 “Brave in the Attempt’]

And I’ll bet you also know someone really brave. Share their story with me. #PassItForward

[Image by Richard Corman for the Special Olympics]

What This Week Taught Me


There were so many images and stories this week that made me pause, think, smile, shake my head and reflect on life.

What struck you? What elicited emotion? What did this week teach you?

My heart broke for the families in ChattanoogaIt reminded me once again how fragile life is. You never know what’s coming next, so reach out and tell the people you care about that they matter today.

Caitlyn Jenner’s speech at the ESPY’s made me think about the idea of courage and how difficult it is for so many to figure out who they are and their life’s purpose. While many applauded her speech, there was still so much hate that filled the Internet in response, which tells me acceptance for those who chose a different path is still threatening to many.

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Why is that and how can each of us move the needle from hate to love?

I was struck by the image of President Obama going into a federal prison to meet prisoners and get a sense of life behind bars. He is the first Commander in Chief to do that and I found myself moved by his comments that we all make mistakes but too many don’t have the family or community support to help us get back on track. Family, support, guidance, how does one navigate life without it? That’s really hard to do.

All of these images and stories reminded me how blessed I am and how difficult it is for so many: Financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually. They made me check in with myself.

Do I tell those I love that I do indeed love them? Do I support and comfort my circle? Am I there when someone makes a mistake (or I do) to offer guidance, reassurance, to listen? Do I accept and let others pursue their life’s journeys even though it might not be comfortable to me or for me? Have I ventured outside my comfort zone to see, meet and find out how others live so that I may be more informed and reflective?

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It’s not just people behind bars that feel as though they live in prison. Any one of us right now could feel trapped, forsaken, invisible, unaccepted.

And so on this Sunday my prayers are with the families of the slain American service members. My heart is with all those who struggle with their identity, sexuality, purpose. I am pushing my mind to be more open because, when I hear Donald Trump, I know I have to work harder to understand the political divide in our country.

It’s easy to shake your head and close your mind. It’s harder to shut your mouth, listen and try to understand. Understand why what he is saying infuriates so many and yet cause so many others to say “That’s my guy.” That tells me that whoever wins the election next year has to be open in their mind and their heart. They have to be inclusive in their speech, because we have a long way to go before we see eye to eye.

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ Essays]

So on this day I’m thinking a lot about how to understand: Myself, others and the world around me.

What about you? What struck you? What is your intention for this week? Is it to turn off and go inward? Or is it the opposite? Tell me, I want to know. And, as always, take some positivity and #PassItForward.

[Image via Unsplash]

Change Is All Around Us

us womens soccer ticker tape

I’ve been thinking a lot about how fast everything seems to be changing these days and what impact that has on our minds and our hearts and how we see our world and The world.

Just this week alone I was struck by all different images of women.

For the very first time we saw a women’s sports team be celebrated with their very own ticker tape parade in New York City. When I was growing up that was reserved for Presidents or men who went to the moon. Here were really strong, resilient, heroic women being feted by a city and a nation. The women went on to appear onstage as part of Taylor Swift’s, another M-Powered woman, record-breaking world tour. Swift had the World Cup champs walk out on stage to thunderous applause — they were treated like rock stars. (Swift, herself, pulled an M-Powered move just a few weeks back when she penned a open letter to Apple music leaders forcing them to change a policy that didn’t pay artists for their music.) Bam!

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No sooner had that image been digested by the world than it was replaced by Serena Williams powering her way to another international tennis championship, the “Serena Slam” as it’s now being called. No matter who you are you had to be awed by her eye-popping strength, her talent and sheer dominance of her sport. Oh yeah!

And then there was, and is, Hilary Clinton, who continues her march on the Presidential campaign trail. I continue to listen in amazement as young women I talk to more or less think that it’s normal or “expected” for a woman to run for President. While folks my age can’t believe it’s actually happening. I feel like I’m continually shaking my head.

Change is everywhere.

As a friend of mine recently said to me, “Maria it’s like the Wild West out there.”

Marriage is being redefined, so is gender. Institutions are crumbling. Countries are defaulting. Even the Popepope is in on the change, saying you don’t have to believe in God to be spiritual and opening the door to millions who want to see themselves as good, spiritual people but not be tied to a church practice (much less church donations). Whoa what?

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And people, all that is just in the last month.

So, buckle your seat belts and get your M-Powered hats on because we are all going to need it. Now, more than ever, it feels to me that one’s own core beliefs, one’s own core strengths, one’s own center must be strong, because if not change will bounce you around every day and you will be left not knowing what you think, what you believe, what’s ok with you and to you.

The world is asking us to change in thought, word and deed. To be comfortable in our own unknowing. That is, I believe, something each of us must face and figure out for ourselves.

How do you navigate change without changing your core?

How do you start over? Whether it’s in a job, a city or a new relationship, without throwing everything out? How can you be open without losing yourself? Open to new beliefs, new words, new thoughts. Open to change.

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Not too long ago I wrote about how my cousin asked me to be her change consultant as she was preparing to sell her dream home and embrace a new life in a new stateIt turns out she didn’t really need me. She put her house on the market, sold it in record time, packed her stuff, planned her son’s wedding and announced how excited she is about starting over. Turns out she is going to need to be my change consultant. Because as I look ahead to an empty nest, a new decade of life and a slew of other changes, I too want to be excited and hopeful. I want to embrace the Wild West. Ride the wave of change and be open to the joy of starting over.

So share with me your stories of navigating change. Share with me your steps to successfully starting over in every area, no matter your age, tell me how you did it. How you went for it. How you stumbled, got back up changed and triumphed.

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

Tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine. Let’s go. #PassItForward

[Image via CNN]

Happiness Is a Choice; Will You Choose It?


I was shooting a story this week for the Today Show (it airs Monday) on the pursuit of happiness. I interviewed two young guys who set out across the country to talk to the happiest people in the United States. And what they found was pretty simple: They found people who believed in gratitude, who relied on community and who consciously decided to choose happiness.

Choose happiness…

Direct yourself — your mind — towards that goal. I like that because it means that happiness — positive well-being — is actually within our reach. It’s in our power.

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That’s huge. Because that means every day we can get up and decide to look at the gloom and the doom or we can redirect our thoughts, shift our outlook, and look towards the good.

As one expert I interviewed (she airs Wednesday) said, “It’s like going to gym. You have to work for it.” Just like you can decide to pursue a healthy body, most of us can chose to pursue healthy thoughts.

On this holiday weekend when we celebrate our independence as a nation, I think celebrating the fact that we have the freedom to chose happiness is also a cause for celebration.

Now, I know millions struggle with depression. Other face sickness that can surely rob us of joy. Every day people confront grief and loss, but what these guys and others found is that very often people who go through really hard times, who face what seem like insurmountable issues, come out the other side and experience joy, and yes, happiness.

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They choose it.

A friend of mine said to me not too long ago: “Look, everyone is fighting for happiness and you really do have to fight for it.”

Sure, some lucky people are just born happy. God bless them, but most of us have to fight for it. Most of us have to fight through stuff, and the good news is that most of us can get there if we decide it’s a priority worth fighting for.

Our forefathers and mothers fought for freedom in all areas of their lives and they believed that the pursuit of happiness was worth fighting for as well. I know that being grateful, being part of a community, giving back as much as you can, it all helps push us in the right direction.

But knowing that everyday I get to make my own happiness choice is a gift.

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

On this holiday, which I’m blessed to be spending with family and friends, I will choose happiness and will be, as always, so grateful to live in the greatest country on Earth. 

Thank you to all those who fought to make this land what it is and all that continue to do so. God bless America. Land of the free home of the brave. #PassItForward

[Image via Pixabay]

The Message of Love


I sat down when I heard about the Supreme Court’s decision regarding gay marriage this week. It was that big of a deal, I needed to let it sink in.

I nodded in agreement when I read the President’s comments about the acts of courage of everyday people through the years that got us here. Regular people and families that searched their souls and had the courage to open their hearts and change old beliefs to let love in.

Two years ago one of my best friends married the love of his life in a beautiful ceremony. I was honored to stand up for them and with them to read a poem about love. Seeing their love for each other and the love of both of their families who put the love of two men first while pushing past old beliefs about gender and marriage, on display was one of the most moving moments of my life. That day I witnessed the domino effect of love.

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To me, that’s what is exciting about this ruling: To see that change can happen if courageous people keep at it and keep pushing for what they believe in. This could only have happened because people stayed at it.

They kept trying. They kept pushing. Kept telling their story. And with time people’s hearts opened.

I think of those who fought for this day and didn’t live to see it. I think of those who fought in small towns who risked losing everything and everyone for love.

Last week the Pope summoned us all to changeI firmly believe that what our world truly needs is more love. It’s the best way to open your heart, to hear others, to allow for change.

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And I feel the shift. In this week alone, the President sang “Amazing Grace,” health care was protected and provided for any and all who need it, anyone can get married, my kids are getting along (really!), even the White House was a rainbow! We have been living in a state of heartbreak, so let’s revel in this moment we are experiencing right now, we’re living history.

I have long envisioned a more conscious, caring, compassionate, loving society. I believe that it starts within each of us. Love starts within us and goes out from there. It can take you into the embrace of another. It can take you to the registrars office, to a church, to a shared home. It can even take you to the Supreme Court.

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

I am so happy that I got to witness this decision. That I got to witness people I love be able to proclaim their love to one another, to their families and to the loving God that I believe in.

I’m so proud to live in this country. I’m encouraged that change can happen. And I know that love is the best catalyst there is.

Amen. #PassItForward

What Is Up With Us as a Nation?

sargent shriver martin luther king

Today is Father’s Day. It’s also “The Longest Day,” the biggest day for those of us involved in the fight to wipe out Alzheimer’s. It’s called The Longest Day not only because it’s the actual longest day of the year, but once you or someone you know is diagnosed with this disease every day becomes an incredibly long one.

It’s the first time The Longest Day has coincided with Father’s Day, which is important to me as my dad died four years ago from Alzheimer’s. I can’t help but think about him on this day and about the disease that took him from us long before he died from it.

I know for millions today will be a joy-filled day. But I can’t stop thinking of all the families of those who lost their lives and their loved ones in the Charleston tragedy last week. Reverend Clementa Pinckney. Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. Reverend Daniel Simmons Sr. Myra Thompson. DePayne Middleton Doctor. Susie Jackson. Ethel Lance. Tywanza Sanders. Cynthia Hurd. Fathers, mothers, future parents all taken in a split second.


What is up with us as a nation?

When addressing the attack, our President, a father himself, spoke about the fact that he has had to make too many similar speeches. Other public figures offered their thoughts and prayers. Media outlets focused on the shooter. Who was he? What was he so mad about? Why did he do this? Families are left shocked. No one will fill the spot of the loved one they lost.

They were men and women at bible study. No doubt praying for our country and world’s collective family.

We need it.

Pope Francis released his encyclical letter, “Laudato Si,” this week saying, “Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change.” He wasn’t saying this in response to Charleston, he was saying this in response to all of us and they way we walk through the world in 2015.

The sentiment is 100 percent true. The words apply to Charleston just as much as they apply to climate change, ISIS, Syria, Yemen, Israel and Palestine, the list, sadly, goes on. But while I’m a big believer in prayer, especially collective prayer, I don’t think prayer and our thoughts are going to do it anymore. I think we all have to go back to our own drawing board, as mothers, as fathers, as children. We need to look inside ourselves and take stock. The families of the victims acknowledged their hurt and offered forgiveness. This is a lesson to all of us. Follow their lead. How are we behaving? Are we quick to rage? Are our conversations racist in any way? Do we have hate in our hearts? Do we need to offer forgiveness? Are we spewing hate or judgement that our kids are hearing?

Are we each sufficiently awake in our own lives to see what’s going on in our own homes? Are we surrounded by people who tell us the truth, or encourage us to look the other way even when it comes to our kids?

One can’t help but notice that all of these tragedies seem to share a pattern: The loner, quiet, kept to himself, but showed signs of what was to come. Facebook pages that might have caused concern. No one took the troubling comments seriously. There is a flag here for all of us. Look, listen, take stuff seriously, reach out.

Change starts with us. Peace starts within and goes out from there. So today, be kind to you and then take one step out into your circle and be kind to someone else. Keep moving that outwards. Try the effect of peace on just two others, other than you. We must change.

This latest national tragedy makes me sick to my stomach. As an American, as a mother, as a person.

This is about more than gun control, although I do believe we need stricter laws and better education. This is about mental health and parenting. This is about racism and how deep it runs in this country where so many have fought so hard to eradicate it. This is about our collective family.

Who are we? What values are we espousing? What are we teaching our kids?

Which brings me back to my father. Before Alzheimer’s robbed him of his mind, he used it to fight against racial intolerance. He used it to fight for social justice. He used it to spread the gospel.

He taught my brothers and I that people of different colored skin were not to be feared but embraced because they were the same as us. He taught us that people who were poor deserved our nation’s support and help and compassion. As a daily church goer, he filled our home with people of different faiths to stress understanding and acceptance. He ran for President because he believed we as a collective family could do better and should do better, not just for the few, but for all.

I will miss him on this Father’s Day. I’ll miss his voice, but I know it’s in my head.

On this Father’s Day may we all think about those who are no longer here, may we pay homage to those who lost their lives in the church at Charleston and may we celebrate and love the fathers still amongst us. Encourage them in their roles.

Happy Father’s Day to my father who I’m sure is in heaven. Happy Father’s Day to my brothers, to all my friends who take the role of fatherhood seriously and to the father of our blessed children. May we celebrate them all, encourage them all and support them all — and those who need fathering — on this day and all days. #PassItForward.

[Image via Sargent Shriver Peace Institute]

Here’s What I Plan to Do This Summer


Summer is upon us — and I don’t know about you, but I’m excited. Excited for my kids to all be out of school and at home with me (though not excited for any upcoming sibling drama), excited for the time we’ll spend together and I’m excited for the big things we’ve got going on right here in LA.

There are a lot of big things happening in the next few months. Right now, I’m in Japan with all four of my kids (Lord, help me) to visit my cousin Caroline while she’s serving as U.S. Ambassador to Japan. It’s my first time in the country, which doesn’t happen frequently for me these days and it’s been an amazing trip.

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When I come back we’ll be just 35 days away from the Opening Ceremony for Special Olympics World Games, which are happening in Los Angeles. The City of Angels. It’s the first time this century the city will host such an international event (the Olympics were held here in 1932 and 1984), and the first time the Games have been in America in nearly a decade. Over 7,000 athletes from 177 different countries will come to LA to compete in over 25 different sports. It’s a program my mom, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, started in our backyard, and it’s grown to an international event of epic proportions and I couldn’t be more excited to have it happening now in the “backyard” of the city I call home.

[Watch: Maria Shriver Talks Special Olympics with Hollywood Reporter]

I’m also excited to just spend time with my kids. My four kids are evolving and growing into lives of their own choosing. I’ve just started the one-year countdown to being an empty nester. And believe me, you’ll be hearing a lot about that. I’ll need your support when the time comes. In the meantime, I’m working on being in the moment, celebrating the gift of my life, my health, my friends, my kids, my tribe. I am lucky to have them so near to me, and I know it. I want to spend my summer just enjoying them. Laughing with them and learning from them.

I hope the same for you in these next few summer months. And if you are looking for a place to visit, come to LA from July 25 through August 2 for the Special Olympics World Games. The world is invited and I guarantee you will leave changed, invigorated and inspired. #PassItForward

[Read more of Maria Shriver’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays] 

Are You Living An Authentic, ‘Free’ Life?


My daughter Katherine texted me the first picture of Caitlyn Jenner. At first I didn’t realize who it was. When I did, I stopped, took a deep breath and realized the world had just shifted.

I then watched a short video wherein Caitlyn said once the world had seen her Vanity Fair cover she would finally be “free.”

Finally Free.

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I started to think about that phrase: “I’m finally free,” and I wondered, What would make me (or you) feel that way?

Do you know? Do I?

Caitlyn Jenner aside, the desire to live free, to live your own authentic life, is a deeply personal desire, a deeply personal quest. Some go on that quest at a very young age. Others wait for children to leave the nest to finally ask themselves ‘Am I living the life I desire/want?’ Others never answer that question at all.

As Caitlyn said, “If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life. You never dealt with yourself,’ and I don’t want that to happen.”

The question in front of all of us is: How do you know whether you are or aren’t living your authentic life?

For me, it’s pretty simple, I think it’s a feeling. 

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I remember in high school feeling I wanted to be a journalist. It was just a feeling I had that it was where I was meant to be. It didn’t make sense to many of the people in my life, but it made sense to me. And so I followed that feeling. I checked in with myself along the way and that’s something I continue to do.

Many I have spoken to saying living with a sense of freedom is a financial luxury. Others have said it has nothing to do with money, that freedom is a state of mind. It’s not just about the country you live in, it’s how you live within yourself.

It’s up to you to organize your life in a way that grants you that feeling. Because the feeling of freedom is based on your tribe, your passion, your heart and yes, also the country you live in. I feel so blessed to live in a country that was built out of the quest to live freely. Living free, living from an authentic place and/or space is my wish for every human being — regardless of gender, finances or nationality.

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

May we all support those on a quest to find that free space with love understanding and acceptance. Let’s give that peace to ourselves and to others. #PassItForward

[Image via Vanity Fair]

My Message to Graduates


We’re in the thick of graduation season again, and I’ve been thinking back on all of the commencements I’ve given over the years.

When I think about all the young adults heading out into the world — whether that be to start their first year of college or enter the workforce — I have many hopes for their future. And since I’ve talked about those hopes in many commencement addresses over the years. I thought I’d share some snippets from them all today.

“I know everybody is asking you these exact questions: ‘What are you gonna do after graduation?’ ‘Where will you be working?’, ‘How much are they gonna pay you?’, ‘Where will you be living?’, ‘Where are you going?’ … There are so many questions,” I asked the graduating class of 2012 at USC (which included my daughter Katherine).

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“But today, I have one small wish for you. Before you go out and press that fast-forward button, I’m hoping, I’m praying that you’ll first have the courage to press the pause button. I hope you’ll remember about the Power of the Pause. Pausing today, and throughout your entire life, allows you to take a breath, it allows you to take a beat, it allows you to be in the moment.”

I identified “Ten Things I Wish I’d Known — Before I Went Out into the Real World” for a 1998 commencement speech I gave to the graduating class of Holy Cross College (I dug up a very dated C-Span video of it here). I won’t put all 10 here, but I will share a few: Pinpoint your passion, no job is beneath you, who you work for is as important as what you do and be willing to fail.

I also believe that “it’s ok to be scared. And not only is fear okay, it’s a good thing. Our fear gives us wisdom. It lets us know we’re confronting something new.” These thoughts come from another speech I gave at a mother-daughter luncheon for my good friend Ally’s senior class (that became my book “And One More Thing Before You Go…”).

[Watch Maria Shriver & Katherine Schwarzenegger Discuss Post-Graduation Paths & Reinvention]

I’ll end with part of the poem I wrote for the commencement address at my nephew’s High School, which turned into my “Just Who Will You Be?” book.

Just Who Will You Be 
When you get to prime time?

In the end all that matters
Is not in the bank
Not your money or your home
Or the gas in your tank

It’s not just about
Your husband or wife
It’s what’s in your heart
How you live your own life

How much joy do you give?
How much love, how much laughter?
All the people you helped
And felt so good after

If you follow your heart…
And just listen to me
You’ll turn into the you…
You are destined to be! 

My daughter Katherine, who I mentioned graduated from USC in 2012, has her own advice for graduates in her generation that she shared in her book “I Just Graduated … Now What?”. “Pace yourself for the road that lies ahead and don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers right away.” It’s great advice and there’s lots more from lots of interesting people (maybe even me) in the book.

[Read more of Maria’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essays]

So if you’re graduating this year, I hope you’ll pause, be willing to fail, accept your fear, follow your heart and pace yourself. And if you’re still looking for graduation gifts…I’ve got a few book ideas for you. See above & #PassItForward

[Photo Credit: mfillhart via Compfight cc]