May 28, 2020
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2020 Commencement Address Transcript
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gave a Snapchat commencement address to the class of 2020. Full speech transcript here.
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Arnold Schwarzenegger: (00:03)
Congratulations to the Class of 2020. But I’m not going to stand here and bullshit you about this being a fantastic time to graduate. I mean, just recently, I participated in my son Christopher’s graduation from the University of Michigan over Zoom. I know that virtual graduations aren’t the celebration that you envisioned, but the world is in a crisis. This coronavirus is unbelievable. But no matter how much damage this coronavirus does around the globe, let me be clear. Corona virus can’t erase your success. No way. But life is messier than an Instagram feed. That’s clear. I can promise you that this virus won’t be the last obstacle that you face, but it can help you prepare for the next one.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (00:57)
That’s what life is all about is overcoming obstacles. You see, throughout your whole life, you will see obstacles being thrown in front of you like that. I mean, let me just tell you a brief story about the biggest obstacle that I faced just two years ago, literally four months before shooting Terminator 6: Dark Fate. I got a physical. I went to the doctor and he checked me up. That’s what you always do before you start a movie. The doctor said, “You’re in great health, but I would recommend that you go and replace your valve, your heart valve. It’s leaking blood.” So I said, “Well, I’m not going to have open heart surgery now, four months before shooting Terminator. Are you crazy?” I was just in the middle of working out really with heavy weights and everything, getting ready, doing my standard training and everything. I’m not going to go now and have open heart surgery.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (01:48)
And he says, “No, no. The technology has changed. This is not anymore open heart surgery. This is a noninvasive surgery that it goes through your artery in the bottom, go up to your heart, replace the valve, and the next day you go home. And then a week later you can continue with your regular training.” And then I remembered that a friend of mine, a 90-year-old producer, had the procedure done just recently. Two days after the procedure, he was there at a meeting in the studio in Hollywood, and he looked fantastic. So I said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” So after I woke up from the surgery, I woke up 16 hours later instead of four hours. And there was a tube sticking out of my mouth. And then the doctor moved forward and he took the tube and ripped it out of my throat.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (02:40)
And I was coughing violently. And he says, “Just keep coughing.” He says, “And then let us tell you what happened.” So then he told me that they had to do an emergency surgery, that something went wrong during this kind of noninvasive procedure. And then it became very invasive. They said that they broke through the heart wall and there was internal bleeding and I could have died if they didn’t open up my sternum and then do open heart surgery. So imagine. A day before I was in the hospital, I was training really hard for Terminator 6, and now all of a sudden, he’s telling me that they were saving my life. Then he goes on and he says, “You’re not out of the woods yet. There’s another danger. There are still patients in our heart unit here that, after heart surgery, pass away, die, because, not because of the heart surgery, but because of the lung. They get pneumonia. So we are really worried about you getting pneumonia.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (03:36)
He says, “The only way you can really protect yourself is to do breathing exercises. Here’s a plastic tube. Breathe into that all the time, throughout the whole day. And then start walking. Get up and walk around with a walker.” Now, all of a sudden, I had to go and make myself get out of the bed and start walking with the walker. I did the first 10 steps like an old man. It was unbelievable, but I’ll tell you one thing. My usual principles worked, because I was visualizing right away that I’m going to be on the date, August 1st, I will be on the set, and I will be shooting Terminator. And I will be doing my fight scenes and everything that it requires. That’s what I was shooting for.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (04:17)
So I started declaring little victories. After I did the first 500 steps with the walker, I declared victory. After I had an appetite again to eat normal, I declared victory. Then I was discharged to go home, out of the hospital finally. And finally, I could train again with the light weights. Then I could train with heavier weights. But you know something? I always had a very clear vision of me being on that set of Terminator on August 1st, exactly the day when I was supposed to be there. A very clear vision. And I concentrated on that vision in everything that I did, my walking and my breathing exercises, the weight lifting and everything like this was going towards that vision, to make that a reality.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (05:00)
Sure enough, comes August 1st, I am there in Budapest on the set of Terminator 6 and battling it out with the new Terminator, the more sophisticated Terminator, the Rev-9. You had the fight scene, kicking each other, and punching each other, and rolling around and falling down the steps and on and on and on. It was the most wild kind of a fight scene that you can imagine. We did this for two days. The director, Tim Miller, came up to me after these two days and said to me, he says, “Arnold, you’re a [inaudible 00:05:33] machine.” I said, “No. I’m just back.” The reason why I’m telling you all this is because no matter how successful you are, life will throw obstacles in your path like it was with my heart surgery or like with your graduation now. But if you have a very clear vision, like I talked about earlier, of exactly what you want to do and who do you want to be, you can go and find a way around all of these obstacles.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (06:04)
And because I had a very clear vision, I was able to find a way around and to get right there and do my movie. The reason why I’m talking about the vision is because one time I gave a graduation speech, and I remember it very clearly, the next day I was celebrating with the students and I was asking them, I said, “What do you want to do now? You have this degree. What do you want to do with this degree?” And they said to me, “Well, if I’m lucky, I’ll maybe get a job.” And they were all over the place with what they said, but they didn’t have a very clear vision. As a matter of fact, one guy looked at me like a deer in a headlight. Like, “Uh, uh, uh.” Didn’t even know what to say when I asked him about his vision, where he wanted to go.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (06:50)
I’m concerned that young people, that they don’t have a clear vision. And that’s a real problem, because you see in America, we do the poll, and 70% of the people were not happy with their job, what they were doing during the day or at night. Think about that, 70% of the people are not happy with their work. Every day they go to work, they’re not happy. That is a terrible statistic. I don’t want you to be part of that statistic. This is why it is so important to have a vision. If you know your vision, your working will be fun. When you have a vision, then it’s not a grind anymore to go towards your vision in the work that you’re doing.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (07:38)
This is why people ask me all the time, they say, “Arnold, we saw you in Pumping Iron and we saw you smiling all the time and being happy and the other guys all had serious faces and looked very intense.” And I said to them, “That was because I was happy to work out. I smiled because I was looking forward to every 500-pound squat, every 700-pound deadlift, every crunch, every chin-up, every curl, every squat, everything because every rep brought me closer to my vision. Every weight that I lifted brought me one step closer to that vision of becoming Mr. Universe, the greatest bodybuilder of all time.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (08:18)
If you only remember one thing today, it is you must have a very clear vision. You must develop that very clear vision. Ask yourself, who do you want to be? Not “what.” But “who?” You see, a disaster can change what you are. It can steal jobs and force your inside. But it is who you are that rises in the face of adversity. Marcus Aurelius, who was the great emperor in the Gladiator movie, and who was one of the greatest minds among the Roman emperors, he said, “What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (08:56)
Now, what does that mean? That means that a life will be always about obstacles in front of you. And it is the way to overcome those obstacles is nothing unusual. That’s the way it is. So when you know your vision, every setback, every stepping stone, every struggle, all resistance builds your inner strength, builds your character, makes you stronger as a person. You see, your mind is no different than your body. I could be doing curls like this with no weights all day long, nothing would happen to my arm. But as soon as I put a weight into my hand and there is a resistance, now the bicep will respond, and it will grow. It will get bigger. It will pump up, and the arms will get stronger. The same is true with the mind. Embrace the climb towards your vision, and not just the selfie you take at the top. Because the climb is what made you grow and build who you want to be.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (09:55)
You can ask any mountain climber that has climbed Mount Everest. They would tell you that it was the climb up to the top, to the peak that was the learning experience, that was the thing that they will remember. Not just standing up there on top of that peak and doing the selfie, take the photograph, and then have to turn around again right away so they make it down before it gets dark. It’s the climb.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (10:21)
And think back over the last four years. Te struggle that you went through to get this degree now, the all-nighters before the test, the essays that required two pots of coffee, the study groups that you put together. You came together to study together and struggle together. Those are the things that you’ll remember. Not just this degree. You are celebrating that journey today. Not just a piece of paper that you hang on the wall. This is nothing. We all have these pieces of papers, but let’s be honest. This celebration, by the way, is not the end. Yes, it is the end of this particular chapter, but it is the beginning of your next climb. It is time to celebrate now. Be in the moment. Enjoy, go all out. Yes, of course. But tomorrow, when this is all over, it is time to start developing your vision, and it’s time to start climbing towards that vision. Thank you very much all of you for listening. God bless America. And God bless all of you around the globe. Hasta la vista.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (11:36)
How did he go?
Speaker 2: (11:37)
Arnold, you’re not wearing pants!
Speaker 3: (11:38)
We’re still rolling.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: (11:40)
Yeah. My calves look okay, okay, so don’t worry about my pants now.