Why politics didn't come between Sargent Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Over the weekend, Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote an Op-Ed for our pages in tribute to his father-in-law Sargent Shriver. He recounted the 1994 commencement speech Shriver gave at Yale that inspired Schwarzenegger to change his life path.
Break mirrors, Sarge said in a renowned 1994 commencement speech he gave at Yale. Stop looking at yourself. Stop being so self-absorbed. Learn more about others -- know their hopes and dreams, find out what makes them smile and what makes them weep. That speech hit me. There I was, a bodybuilder. I was someone who literally spent his life in front of mirrors, practicing poses, working on the biceps or the triceps, always checking the mirror for progress. Standing in front of mirrors was my job, my fortune. And Sarge convinced me that the only way to truly succeed is to break those mirrors, to direct that energy and ambition not toward myself but to serving others.
He also shares the story of how he "avidly praised" Richard Nixon the first time he met Shriver, despite the fact that "Sarge had run for vice president on a ticket with George McGovern five years earlier, and [...] defeated by Nixon and Spiro Agnew."
Not that that ruffled Shriver; he understood where Schwarzenegger was coming from. Here, in a 1995 interview with Terry Gross on "Fresh Air," he explains…
Gross: I'm sure you get asked this all the time, so forgive me for asking it again. But your son-in-law is very, very famous, Arnold Schwarzenegger. And he's not only famous as an actor. He's famous as a Republican, a Republican supporter. What's it been like for you to have a son-in-law who is for your opposing party?
Shriver: Well, I grew up in a rather large family, the Shriver family in Maryland. About half of them are Republicans and half of them are Democrats. So I'm not at all surprised to be closely related to somebody who is a Republican. Secondly, I understand fully why Arnold, when he came to this country, became a Republican rather than a Democrat. He came from Austria, where the Socialist Party in Austria was really European socialist in its outlook. And he thought - and I think this is a fair statement. He thought that the Democratic Party in our country was analogous to the Socialist Party which he had experienced in Austria. Actually, that's not an accurate comparison, but that's what he thought.
So when he came here, went to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, he was approached by Republicans who invited him to become a member of that party. And he looked upon the Republican Party as being more in keeping with his ideas. And his ideas were based on the fact -which is a great tribute to him - that he had been able to come from, you might say, very simple circumstances in Austria. I mean, not from the top upper crust of Austrian society, either socially speaking or financially speaking. He had made it on his own, and he thought that's the way everybody should be able to conduct their life. They should succeed on their own.
Gross: So this doesn't interfere with the family relationship.
Shriver: No, not at all.
You can listen to the rest of the interview here.
-- Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: Arnold Schwarzenegger celebrates his recall-election victory in October 2003 with Sargent and Eunice Shriver at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. Credit: Blake Sell / Reuters