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October 27, 2008 10:46 AM

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Maria's Moment

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Maria Shriver sure knows how to draw a crowd.California's first lady lured a solid-gold list of figures from government, finance, culture and entertainment to her annual Women's Conference here on Wednesday to engage in the theme,...

maria-shriver.jpgLONG BEACH, Calif. -- Maria Shriver sure knows how to draw a crowd.

California's first lady lured a solid-gold list of figures from government, finance, culture and entertainment to her annual Women's Conference here on Wednesday to engage in the theme, "Architects of Change."


In addition to her husband, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, participants included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and one of her predecessors, Madeleine Albright, Warren Buffett, Bono, Gloria Steinem and Jennifer Lopez, as well as Cherie Blair, wife of former prime minister Tony Blair of the U.K.

It was quite an eclectic group. Still, I didn¹t know what to expect from spending an 11-hour day seated with 14,000 other people at the Long Beach Convention Center, but the time flew.
Chris Matthews moderated a conversation between Schwarzenegger and Buffett on the economy, and Jennifer Lopez spoke about how motherhood has changed her and prompted her to start a foundation to benefit kids.

Showing both vulnerability and strength, Shriver gave an almost 30-minute speech that moved people to tears when she spoke about dealing with her fears of losing her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and her uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.), who is battling brain cancer.

Shriver shared poems she had written with and about her mother, and recounted the moment when, during one of her mother's many hospital stays this year, she got into bed beside her. "This was the closest I had ever come to snuggling with my mother, this woman who never once had asked for help from anybody," she said.

She described her uncle as "the rock" of the family.

Shriver also told the audience how she had left a voice- mail message for her friend and NBC mentor Tim Russert, after he died. "I said, 'Tim, if you are picking up these messages, I want you to know that I love you and miss you.'"

CNN's Campbell Brown, who appeared onstage after Shriver, said, "Thanks, Maria. I had to redo my makeup because I cried it all off."

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