University of Southern California

USC Global Conference

Global Challenges for Humanity
Seoul, Korea
May 23-25, 2013

Arnold Schwarzenegger recounts life lessons in keynote address

Arnold Schwarzenegger

In a thirty minute keynote address to the attendees of the USC Global Conference, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger revealed some of the secrets to his success—and ended up bringing audiences to their feet for a standing ovation from the 400-plus members of the audience.

Citing five personal rules that he lives by, Schwarzenegger gave examples from his life and the multiple professional roles his career has encompassed—bodybuilder, film star, entrepreneur, governor, now educator, as the Governor Downey Professor of State and Global Policy at USC.

He emphasized the importance of giving back as his first rule, and urged listeners to “serve a cause greater than ourselves.” After discovering his passion for volunteerism, through his work with Special Olympics and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, he decided to walk away from a successful movie career to pursue public service full-time, a decision he has no regrets about.

“To wake up every morning, to have interesting meetings on every subject you can imagine, from prison overcrowding, to education issues, to climate change, problems with the budget, to immigration reform. That capital became the best classroom in the world,” he told the audience, “It was the best job I ever had.”

The move to a very different kind of public role emboldened Schwarzenegger to challenge himself and others to work even harder, to think bigger, and take personal responsibility in order to make real change in the world.

“There is a saying in German, Wenn Schon, Den Schon,” he said, “It basically means, if you’re going to do it, do it. Go all out.”

He described his lifelong fascination with transportation as an example, “When I wanted to rebuild California’s ancient infrastructure, I didn’t want to fix a few roads,” he said, “I wanted to build massive freeways on top of freeways, the first high speed rail in the United States, bridges and tunnels. You name it. I wanted to see cranes everywhere. At first, some of those legislators looked at me like I was nuts.”

In time, Schwarzenegger’s time in office produced bold initiative on policies on renewable energy, transportation, and a reinvestment in the state—moves that were inspired by developments in countries all of the world, in places like Korea, China, and Brazil. From his experiences as governor, Schwarzenegger emphasized his commitment to sharing what he has learned from his time in office with the next generation of leaders and decision makers, particularly through the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy.

“We have assembled the greatest leaders in every possible field,” said Schwarzenegger, “No other university in the United States calls to the world like USC. It is truly a global university, with the most international students in the United States. USC has big vision, and this conference is a perfect example of that.”

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