Bobby Shriver is a Santa Monica City Councilman and a former member of the California State Park and Recreation Commission. Shriver is the older brother of Governor Schwarzenegger’s wife Maria, and the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy. He is the co-creator of (Red) and the Chairman of Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa, (DATA) organizations dedicated to helping African women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. We caught up with him after he testified at a hearing at the Capitol earlier in the day.
Tell me a little bit about what you are doing here in Sacramento.
We are trying to get the Legislature to put the word “permanent” into the state park legislation. We’ll have to wait and see what their reaction is. The reason it’s important of course is because at the moment, people are trying to develop parks all over the state and if they don’t make these things permanently unavailable for development, they are going to get developed into all kinds of things-roads, power plants, housing, hospitals.
You’re on the city council in Santa Monica. Do you think this will be the last stop for your career in elected office?
I don’t know. You’ll have to tell me when you see my rap. Is that working? Does that guy have any Obama in him or is he just like a piker? I don’t know man. I try to take it one step at a time.
You got caught up in quite a mess when the Park and Recreation Commission that you were a member of voted to block a toll road that would have cut across San Onofre State Beach.
I didn’t get into a mess. It was a unanimous vote of a commission made up of both Republicans and Democrats and that was our commission’s decision. So it was all good. I got in trouble when we persuaded the Coastal Commission to agree to the vote and then the people that opposed us …got us fired.
Do you think you were unfairly removed by your brother-in-law from the State Park and Recreation Commission?
No, no. Look, he’s the Governor. He has a total right to do whatever he wants, whatever the people elected him to do. I think it will turn out that he’ll realize that he was wrong on building the road [through San Onofre] and I think the road will lose. It was a bad idea in a bad location. There are much better alternative ideas. Everybody agrees that Orange County has a terrible traffic problem but building that road through the park is not a good idea.
Still though, there must be some hard feelings at the Thanksgiving table.
[Laughing]. Oh yeah-there are a lot of hard feelings. You’ve got to watch yourself. I said to him before that he’s got to bring some protection whenever he goes anywhere with me. No, I’m just kidding. Look, people disagree. People have been disagreeing in my family my whole life. Although [Arnold] was wrong, just for the record. And he remains wrong.
Tell me about the organizations DATA and Product Red.
Well, we started up with Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa to do lobbying and policy analysis work, which we did. And we expanded that to an organization called One.org, and the idea there was to not do lobbying but to go out to the soccer moms, churches, schools and so forth and organize. And then we realized, even though those two things were going pretty well, we weren’t really able to tell the story of the pandemic in Africa without some really gifted storytellers, so we went to try to get the private sector people to help us and that’s where (Red) came from.
So JoinRed.com is a brand venture and Gap and others run ads that are meant to get people to buy there cool (Red) [products], and also to tell people that there is a story out there about the pandemic and what a complete and total disaster it is. When we started there were basically no Africans getting ARDs (antiretroviral drugs), and now there are about 2.5 million. The United States government and the Global Fund together have done an incredibly great job of getting this message to people now. I was looking at the stats today about distribution in Africa and who would have thought, four or five years ago, that it could be done? So many people said it couldn’t be done. [There is] still a long way to go though.
You are working with Bono of U2. How’d you first get in touch with him?
Making a Christmas record. We made a bunch of Christmas records, which are called “A Very Special Christmas.” U2 did one, and we met up there. And then he called me 10 days later asking me to work him in. And then one thing led to another-we were working really well together. He’s an amazing character, an incredible leader, and I thank God that I got to work on such a cool thing.
Is Bono just as cool in person?
Umm … not really [laughing].
He doesn’t walk around wearing those sunglasses all day?
I don’t know what to say about the guy. He’s an amazing character. Very Irish. Let’s put it that way.
How’s Maria for a kid sister? Did you beat up on her as a kid? What did she report you to Mom for most often?
Oh yeah, constantly. I gave her the spit torture and the Chinese chest torture. I have a lot of siblings. I was the oldest so I had to constantly beat them all up. Everybody loves the youngest. Mom would always say to me about Maria, “She’s a girl, don’t hit her.” Maria has always been a very tough customer. She’d take it out on you in other ways.
How’s Uncle Ted doing?
I gather that he’s okay. I’m going up to see him tomorrow, so I’ll know more then. But I gather okay.