Maria Shriver was born in 1955 into a politically prominent family as the daughter of diplomat Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy (a sister of John F. Kennedy).

After earning a B.A. in American studies she forged a career in television journalism as a writer, producer, national news correspondent for CBS and coanchor of CBS Morning News.

Maria married actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1986 (now divorced) and they have four children. Her husband was elected Governor of California in 2003. As First Lady of California, Maria worked to promote service and volunteerism, taking on several key initiatives, including raising awareness of the contributions of women to the state, working on practical solutions to end cycles of poverty, and encouraging all Californians to engage in acts of service to their communities.

Maria earned two Emmy Awards as executive producer of The Alzheimer’s Project – a four-part documentary series which looked at cutting-edge research in the country’s leading Alzheimer’s laboratories and examining the effects of the disease on patients and families.

A lifelong advocate for people with intellectual disabilities, Maria is a member of the International Board of Special Olympics, the organisation her mother founded in 1968 and the creator of The Minerva Awards to honour and reward “remarkable California women” who have changed their communities with their courage, wisdom and strength.

“The gift my mother gave me was the gift of possibility. From an early age, she instilled in me a belief that I could do anything I wanted to do. It wasn’t a matter of, ‘Can I?’ or ‘Should I?’ It was just, ‘You can, you must, you will!’ She wanted me to believe that anything was possible.”