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Los Angeles Times
Apr 24, 2005 - 01:00 AM

by STEVE LOPEZ / POINTS WEST

Wife's Book Has Good Tips for Gov.

I sat down to a haircut Friday morning and began reading a book by Maria Shriver, wondering which would come first: the end of the haircut, or the end of the book.

It was a horse race for a while, but I breezed through the last two chapters of "And One More Thing Before You Go … ," then had nothing to do while the barber cleaned up my neck.

With time on my hands, I went back to the acknowledgments and saw that Shriver, the first lady of California, confessed she had her doubts about writing this "book." She didn't love the idea, she wasn't sure anyone would read such a book and she didn't think she had the time to write it.
I can understand her first two concerns, but I don't quite get the third.

The $13.95 book is the size of a Hallmark card, and that can't be mere coincidence. If I could read it in less time than it took to get a haircut, how much time could it have taken to write it?
The book grew out of a speech Shriver gave at a luncheon for girls who were graduating from high school and on their way to college.

I don't know what high school we're talking about, but I just have a feeling it wasn't one of the California public schools with a scandalous dropout rate and more trouble ahead now that Shriver's husband, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, has reneged on his promise to give schools the full funding they were owed.

But thanks to this remarkable book -- assuming their school libraries can afford to purchase a copy -- even girls at the most crime-ridden and disadvantaged schools will learn from an American aristocrat that "Fear Can Be Your Best Teacher."

I have to tell you something, though. While reading this 62-page philosophy for better living, it occurred to me that Maria's words of wisdom -- "Be willing to make changes" -- might be of use to someone other than teen-age girls.

As you probably know, Gov. Schwarzenegger's Arnold Express has dropped its transmission. With his agenda disintegrating, staff members duking it out, his popularity dipping and Maria telling Oprah she wants Arnold to come home, it looks like he could use some help.

I don't like to get in the middle of family affairs, but here's a suggestion: Why not just give Arnold a copy of "And One More Thing Before You Go… "?

I would advise, however, that he skip Chapter 5: "And When You Need Courage… Think of the Women in Your Life."

Enough said on that one.

But I would highly recommend Chapter 2: "Be Willing to Let Go of Your Plan."

At first, Shriver writes, she felt like it was the end of the world when Arnold decided to run for governor. Then her wise friends emphasized that her life had merely been altered.

"Remember that phrase: Just altered. It'll come in handy in your life."

The lesson for Arnold? Maybe he should alter his strategy of bullying legislators, avoiding negotiations and throwing countless half-baked propositions onto the ballot.

Reading Chapter 3 -- "Learn From Your Mistakes" -- would point him in the right direction. As Shriver admits, she tried to commandeer a state museum in Sacramento and ticked off everyone involved. She had to then put her ego aside and make amends. Wanna guess how she did that?
"I listened, and I ALTERED [there's that word again!] my vision."

And today, Shriver's new book is for sale in the museum gift shop.

That's INCREDIBLE. Way to go, Maria!

Sure, it was a struggle, but guess what.

"It's not shameful to struggle. It's not wimpy or weak."

Everybody makes mistakes, Shriver says.

"Don't panic."

"Do admit it."

I hope Arnold reads that section carefully. It might lead him to admit that it was the height of hypocrisy to criticize former Gov. Gray Davis for his shameless fundraising, only to rake in a gazillion dollars more than Davis ever dreamed of getting his mitts on, much of it from corporate special interests.

Arnold could admit it wasn't nice, or politically smart, to mock and belittle hard-working nurses and teachers. This would take courage, sure. But as Maria reveals:

"Along with love, courage is what you need more than anything in this life. In tough times it tells you, 'I can go through this!' Even when it feels like you can't."

You know the crazy thing about life?

"It's a Balancing Act," as we learn in Chapter 6, but if you "Have a Little Gratitude" (Chapter 7), not only can you move beyond self-pity, but, "It's good for the soul."

In Arnold's case, he could say:

"Politics is harder than I thought, and I wish I hadn't broken so many of the fantastic promises that carried me to victory. But, hey, I made a bazillion dollars in Hollywood."

The governor also should study Chapter 9, "Forget Your Mirrors," which runs all the way from Page 50 to Page 52. The message is to get over yourself, quit preening and do something selfless.

Or as Maria puts it:

"I'm challenging you today to not just join sororities in college, to not just spend your extra time in Starbucks, although I love Starbucks."

OK, so it's not quite Uncle JFK's "Ask not what your country can do for you." But politics -- and publishing -- aren't what they used to be.
-----------------------------------------------
Reach the columnist at steve.lopez@latimes.com and read previous columns at http://www.latimes.com/lopez




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