Maria Shriver was impressed with Fresno the minute she was greeted by Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims at the airport.
“I was like, ‘damn, a woman sheriff,” California’s former first lady said to much laughter and applause at the Central California Women’s Conference Tuesday.
Then, Shriver was so impressed by her limo driver — a Fresno single mother of two who has been driving for nearly 20 years to support her family — that she invited her to Tuesday’s event and had her stand for applause.
“I went to bed thinking about her and about how we all, at some point in our lives, are in a million little pieces in the floor and we have to glue ourselves back together again...” Shriver said. “We’re at a time when we’re all here to rise, and we can all be the change we envision for ourselves. And she reminded me of why I’m here, and why I picked myself back up again, so I just wanted to shout her out.”
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The one-day conference at the Fresno Convention Center aims to “empower women in all stages of their lives” and has donated more than $1 million to organizations that benefit women and children in the Valley.
Shriver, a bestselling author, journalist and member of the famous Kennedy family, was the keynote speaker at Fresno’s annual conference, which welcomed the event’s largest crowd of women in 31 years. She spoke about her passion for motherhood, for ending Alzheimer’s and for women having “a seat at the table.”
For too long, men have been leading alongside too many people that “look like them,” she said.
“We have this new kind of found freedom and voice... We can be more inclusive perhaps than men have been,” Shriver said. “You deserve to be at the table, and anybody who thinks you don’t should be out of your life.”
Now is “a reckoning moment” for women, Shriver said, pointing to “a challenging political time.”
“It’s a time for all of us to kind of take a beat, figure out what we value — what do we think? What are our standards?” she said. “And implement them, even starting in our own homes.”