Campus News

May 17, 2010

Commencement Address

'Be hungry to make your mark'

I want to begin by congratulating today’s graduates. And that is all of you: the amazing men and women of  Emory University’s Class of 2010!

You are our nation’s newest nurses, doctors, teachers, social workers, ministers, artists, scientists, business leaders — and the list goes on and on.

I was  wondering what I should be talking about here today. So I sent my staff out and did a little survey here among some of the students.  It was interesting: 17 percent want me to be inspirational. 23 percent want me to give practical advice. And 30 percent just want [your] money back for “Jingle All the Way.” The other 30 percent wanted me to say the following lines:

• Hasta la vista, baby.

• It’s not a tumor. It’s not a tumor at all.

• Crush your enemies. See them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women.

• I’ll be back. [Laughter.]

So now that we have that out of the way… I really want to talk to you about my rules for success. And about visualizing your dreams.

[These] are key principles that have brought me incredible success in several careers, from bodybuilding to acting and from public service to politics:

• Work like hell

• Trust yourself

• Break some rules

• Don’t be afraid to fail

• Ignore the naysayers

• Stay hungry

Imagine you’re 15 years old and you’re in Austria and you say to people, ‘I want to be the bodybuilding champion of the world.’ Of course they say, ‘but wait a minute, this is not an Austrian sport...’ But I had it very clear in my vision and I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a bodybuilding champion. I started training one hour a day, two hours a day, three hours a day. By the time I was in military service, at age 18, I trained four to five hours a day. And I became the youngest Mr. Universe ever at the age of 20. So much for ‘it can’t be done.’

And right after that, I went after my next goal, which was to come to America. …So I immigrated here and kept training and training hours every day…

By the time I was finished with bodybuilding I won 13 world championship titles, more than anyone.

And then again I was hungry to move on, because you can’t do bodybuilding for the rest of your life.… and I knew that it was acting that I wanted to get into.

But again I faced the same obstacles. I talked to agents and they said to me, ‘you cannot.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want to just become an actor, I want to be a leading man.’ They said ‘forget about it’ and they laughed. ‘I mean, with your accent, no one has become a leading man with your accent. And with your body, look at all those bumps sticking out... And your name, Schwarzen-schnitzel or whatever your name is. That’s never going to sell any tickets.’

But you know something? I didn’t listen to them. I started working very hard, just like I did with bodybuilding. Five, six hours a day, I went to acting classes, speech classes, dialogue classes, accent removal classes…

And slowly everything started happening. All of those liabilities that they talked about started turning into assets...I went from one movie to the next and started making more and more money until I ended up becoming the highest-paid actor, with $30 million for “Terminator III.” …This is why I try to tell you, anything and everything can be done if you can visualize it and if you believe in yourself.

I know that one of the reasons you invited me here today was to honor my commitment to public service. That is a great honor coming from a university that has distinguished itself through service.

I know that you’re not just famous all over the country and all over the world because of the great education that you provide here, but also because of the extraordinary service of reaching out into the community and the state.

As a matter of fact, one my favorite things that you do here is host the Georgia Special Olympic games. What a great accomplishment — you have been doing this at this university for two decades.… And I want to thank you on behalf of my mother-in-law, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who started Special Olympics more than 40 years ago. Because she changed the world by starting the Special Olympics movement. And she is a shining example of the chain reaction that begins simply by one person taking that simple step forward…

And I believe that we each have that same responsibility…to use our voice to serve and to make a difference. I take that responsibility really seriously.

And that it is why I ran for governor of the great state of California, because I knew that I could reach out to 38 million people. That is why it gives me such satisfaction today.

You all should go and be hungry for success, you should be hungry to make your mark, and you should be hungry to be seen and be heard and to have an effect out there.…

Start with simple things, like coaching a school soccer team, or helping a child learn to read, or deliver meals to someone who is homebound.

Use your power and potential and make this nation, and this world, a better place. It worked for this immigrant who came over here to this country with $20 in his pocket. And I guarantee it will work for you, too, the 2010 graduates of Emory University. I am proud of each and every one of you, of how far you’ve come. And I know you’re going to make great, great contributions to this state and to the world.

This is an excerpt from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2010 Commencement address at Emory.

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