In addition to his political career as governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been an international bodybuilding champion and an action movie icon.
But at Emory University’s 2010 commencement ceremony on May 10, Schwarzenegger encouraged nearly 4,000 graduating students to look beyond fame and financial success.
“No matter how successful any of you get, you have to be hungry for more,” he told the crowd of about 15,000 faculty, students and family members. “My father-in-law, Sergeant Shriver, told me to stop looking in the mirror. He said, ‘Tear down that mirror and you will see millions and millions of people that need your help.’ I tore down that mirror and looked beyond.”
Schwarzenegger has long been involved with the Special Olympics and other fitness initiatives over the years. He encouraged the graduates also to be inspired to help others.
Emory University has a history of community service as the school was one of six universities in the country that earned the Presidential Award for General Community Service in 2008. The university also annually is host to the Georgia Special Olympics.
“Helping others and looking beyond mirrors is my measure of greatness today,” Schwarzenegger said. “We each have the same responsibility to use our voice and to serve and make a difference. I knew serving California would be a great opportunity for me to make a difference in the country and in the world. You should be hungry for success. As you become successful, make sure you stay hungry and look beyond the mirror.”
Schwarzenegger, who has been governor of California since 2003, has carried his community service interests into the political arena. He is the first governor to appoint a cabinet position for service and volunteerism.
“I know you can be great, great contributors to the state and to the world,” he told the Emory graduates.
“I thought it was great,” said Emory University graduate “Ronke Adebiyi, who earned a masters of business administration. “It was pretty inspiring and was the caliber of speech I though Arnold Schwarzenegger would give.”
James Weber, who also earned an MBA, agreed. “It was inspiring. He hit on all the key points. It was a good message.”
Before the address Schwarzenegger was awarded an honorary doctors of laws degree from the university.
Four others also received honorary degrees at the ceremony, including civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, who received a doctor of divinity degree. Award-winning author Melissa Fay Greene, a Druid Hills resident, received a doctor of letters degree.
“This is my first law degree,” Schwarzenegger said with a smile. “Now the Kennedys will finally think I’m successful. Maria (Shriver) [niece of President John Kennedy] can finally take me home to meet her family.”
He also poked fun at his acting career by saying, “I took a survey of the students to see what they wanted to hear me speak about. Thirty percent said they wanted their money back from the movie Jingle All the Way.”
After recounting his dream of becoming a world-class body builder as a teen in Austria and then his desire to come to the United States to pursue an acting career Schwarzenegger got to the heart of his message.
“Work like hell, trust yourself, ignore the naysayers, break some rules and stay hungry,” he told the graduates. Anything and everything can be done if you visualize it and believe in yourself. You’re going to find naysayers at every turn you make. Don’t listen to them. Never, ever be afraid of failure.”