Arnold Schwarzenegger at University of Houston Commencement: 'None of Us Can Make It Alone'

May 15, 2017
Ideas

Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered the commencement remarks at the University of Houston on May 12.

Well, thank you very much. Thank you. Wow. I am now a cougar. Whose house? Who's house? Whose house? Let me try that. It is wonderful.

Thank you so much for the wonderful introduction, President Khator. It is a wonderful day to be here at the University and thank you also for the great work that you are doing on behalf of all of those students. Let's give a big, big hand for the wonderful work that your president is doing here at University.

I tell you, When I read her bio, I am so proud of her. What a great immigrant. How many great contributions she makes to this university, to this state, and to this country. When I heard that she was the first Indian immigrant to lead a comprehensive university in the United States, I say to myself, I'm going to hit it off really well with her. The reason is because I love going to places where I'm not the only one with an accent.

But seriously, I'm proud to be introduced by a fellow immigrant. And the students are very lucky here to have such a fantastic and talented leader. I also want to say thank you to the faculty. You have spent years teaching the students, inspiring them, and occasionally even arguing with them. But none of them will be here without you, so big hand to the faculty.

Finally, I would like to say thank you to the parents and to the families that are here today. You shaped the students from the beginnings of their lives, way before they became proud cougars. You have been there for them every step of the way, giving them advice and giving them affection, love, and pushing them along, and probably sometimes even worried about them. But thank you very much for all of the great work that you have done. Let's give the parents and the families a big hand of applause.

Now, to the students; This is a big day for all of you and I know some of you are going to say, 'Wait a minute, this is our day. Why is Schwarzenegger thanking everyone here in Houston? When is he going to get to us?'

Well, first of all, congratulations to all of you. I know that it took a huge vision, great vision, and a lot of work and a lot of studying and there is no one that can study for you. You have to do that yourself. So I want you all to know that I am very, very proud of all of you. Thank you for the great work that you have done.

Now, the diplomas — there will only be one name and this is yours, but I hope it doesn't confuse you and you think that maybe you made it that far by yourself. No, you didn't. It took a lot of help. None of us can make it alone. None of us. Not even the guy that is talking to you right now, that was the greatest bodybuilder of all times. Not even me, that has been the Terminator and went back in time to save the human race. Not even me that fought and killed predators with his bare hands.

I always tell people that you can call me anything that you want. You can call me Arnold. You can call me Schwarzenegger. You can call me the Austrian oak. You can call me Schwarzy. You can call me Arnie. But don't ever, ever call me the self‑made man.

But this is so important for you to understand. I didn't make it that far on my own. I mean, to accept that credit or that medal, would discount every single person that has helped me get here today, that gave me advice, that made an effort, that lifted me up when I fell. And it gives the wrong impression that we can do it all alone. None of us can. The whole concept of the self‑made man or woman is a myth.

Now, I know you are going to say, look, we have read so many stories about you and we saw documentaries where they talk about that you are the model of the American dream and that you're the perfect example of the self‑made man. Well, let me tell you, I have seen, and heard, and read those stories myself. Enjoyed reading them, but the fact of the matter is, it is not the whole story.

I didn't just materialize out of nowhere like the Terminator through a fireball in the streets of Los Angeles, and then all of a sudden I was there. No. I would have never made it in my life without the help. I happen to be someone, for instance, that believes in God. That we were created by God, but let's assume for a second that you are not into that, then you must also believe in — at least believe in a biological aspect, that parents creating us. I wouldn't be here without my parents creating me, nurturing me, feeding me, changing my diapers, loving me, hugging me, and all of that.

And then later on when I went to school there were the teachers, and then there where mentors, the coaches, and then my mother was there in the afternoon helping me do my homework and be tutoring. And then in the evening my father was there helping me in sports, coaching us in soccer and in the winters skiing, sledding, ice skating, ice curling, and all those kinds of things. My father taught me about discipline and my love and appreciation for sports. And he gave me my first great advice, by saying, 'Whatever you do, Arnold, be useful.'

So, you also read so many times that I decided from one day to the next to become a bodybuilding champion and I started training 5 hours a day and then I became the youngest Mr. Universe ever. Well, it is true, but the fact of the matter is, it is not the whole story, because if I wouldn't have met a lifeguard at the lake where I grew up and some bodybuilders that introduced me to weight training and taught me the first chin‑up on a branch of a tree of that lake, and that eventually introduced me also to a weightlifting club locally, where the coaches taught me powerlifting and weightlifting and bodybuilding. They helped me and they nurtured me. They pushed me.

And then eventually I saw a magazine with Reg Park on the cover. It said, Mr. Universe becomes Hercules. There was Reg Park in a Hercules pose on the cover. I bought that magazine. I read the story from the front to the end cover and let me tell you something. I read exactly how he trained; 5 hours a day. And how he became a champion, Mr. Universe three times, and how he went to America. And then discovered in the movies — Hercules' movies. Well, when I read that, I found my vision.

And let me tell you the most important thing in life is to have vision, to know exactly where you're vision. I found my vision and that magazine, Reg Park, gave me my blueprint for my life, and five years later, after training 5 hours a day, just like him and doing his exercises, I became, through his help and his inspiration, the youngest Mr. Universe ever.

And this is what made then Joe Weider the father of bodybuildings, the owner of a giant food supplement empire, the editor of Muscle and Fitness invited me to America. So, it was Joe Weider that brought me to America, to the greatest country in the world, to give me the opportunity to train in Gold's Gym and to get me a little apartment. I came over here with absolutely nothing. It was his help. I had $20 in the pocket and some sweaty clothes in the gym bag. I had this one little apartment and on Thanksgiving, the bodybuilders from Gold's Gym came to my apartment and they brought me pillows, dishes, silverware, all of those things I didn't have.

And even a black and white TV and the transistor radio, which I still have today on the end table next to my bed. The generosity I saw. The amount of help that I got when I came to America was absolutely extraordinary, saw firsthand how generous the American people are. And then in Gold's Gym, there was a magical place with all of the champions, Mr. Americas, Mr. World, Mr. Universe, everyone was training, powerlifters, Olympic champions and so on. And they helped me change from an amateur champion to a professional champion.

And after that, I won champion after championship, Seven times Mr. Olympia. You heard it all. And became the greatest bodybuilder of all times according to the bodybuilding magazine in 1975. Now this is just — with all of the help, I would not have made any of that by myself.

So, this is why I don't believe in the self‑made man and even when it comes to show business, it was the same thing. I mean — you read the stories that Schwarzenegger decided from one day to the next to retire from bodybuilding and to go and become an actor. And in no time, he did Conan the Barbarian and Terminator and Commander and so on. Well, it is true, but it is only half of the story because the reality of it is without a lot of help I wouldn't have made it.

First of all, it would have been fun to make it that easy and to be that easy, but it was very, very difficult to get into the movies. Very difficult. And only because I had help, I could get in because in the beginning every agent, every manager, every studio executive said, you will never become a leading man. Look at your body. You look like a monster.

I was upset about that because I trained so hard and for so long and all of a sudden they call me monsters, but the bottom line is, they said, 'This is the 70's. Twenty years they did Hercules. Movies today, the little guys are in; Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Woody Allen. Those are the sex symbols of the 70's. Don't you understand it?' I said, 'Oh, my God. Who are they?' But they even belittled me with my accent.

They said, 'Look, the way you talk. I have to be very honest. I don't want to offend you, but you give me the creeps with your accent, with that German accent. It's scary.' They said, 'Maybe we can get you a job in Hogan's Heroes, in that TV show, to play a Nazi officer. And plus your name, Schwarzen, Schmitzl, or whatever it is, I can see that already up there on billboard, and people running in because of the name.'

The bottom line is, it was very, very difficult but only because I decided not to listen to the nay‑sayers and because I decided to work as hard as I did in bodybuilding, to take acting lessons, to take voice lessons, English lessons, speech lessons and accent removal lessons.

Now, I know you are going to say: 'Get your money back, Arnold.' But the bottom line is I ran around, 'The fine wine grows on a vine,' because the Germans always had difficulties with the F, W, and the V. The fine wine grows on a vine. And then, 'The sink is made out of zinc' and all those kinds of things. So, I did this thousands of time and eventually it worked. I started getting little parts and then I started getting bigger parts, and then eventually, even though it was very difficult, it was Dino De Laurentiis and Ed Pressman that came to me with Conan the Barbarian.

And if they wouldn't have helped me to get that part, I would not have broken through and become a leading man.

This movie came out — they spent $20 million, which in today's terms is around $200 million on that movie. It was number 1 in the box office. That was, for me, the big breakthrough. And at the press conference, the director even said, if we wouldn't have Schwarzenegger, we would have to build one because I was the only one that could act and had a body like that for Conan the Barbarian.

And then, of course, there was James Cameron that directed Terminator. When Terminator came out, James Cameron said, the reason why Terminator worked is because Schwarzenegger talks like a machine. Now, I don't know if I should take this as a compliment or what, but the bottom line is, it was the two things that the studio executives said would be big liability, became big, big assets and my career took off.

And this is why I always say thank you to the people that helped me along the way and not ever think that I'm a self‑made man because, not only was the producer and directors that are helpful, and the studio executives are helpful, but every person that works in a movie. As a matter of fact, when we have a wrap party, which is the party at the end of the movie, I always make sure every person gets invited to that wrap party, to say thank you to them at the wrap party. And go to the microphone and you say thank you to the cameraman because without him, I wouldn't look as great on the screen; to the makeup person; to the visual effects person; to the stunt people; the stunt coordinator; the cable pullers; craft services; and the list goes on and on and on. There's 280 people that work in a movie that make you look great on that screen so how can I say I'm a self‑made man?

So, this is why it is important for all of us to recognize and this is why I tell you, on every step of the way I had help. Even when I ran for governor, people say, 'One day he decided to run for governor and to take over the sixth largest economy in the world.' No, this is not the way it was.

Yes, I took over and yes, I won the governorship, but if it wouldn't have been for Jay Leno, who hosted the tonight show, who I called a week before and I said, 'I want to announce my candidacy on your show, on the Tonight Show because I want to sell myself as an outsider because the people in California are sick and tired of the typical politician.' So, he said to me, and he was a great friend, he said 'Yes. I'm going to help you with you that.'

And I announced, without anyone knowing, on August 6th, on the Tonight Show, my candidacy. And he even organized 100 journalists from politics to sit in the back when I announced my candidacy. So, this is the kind of help I got. Then, of course, I didn't even have a team yet. People came out of nowhere and just started helping organizing the campaign, and with fundraising, and with communication, and with all of those things. And I became, two months later, the governor of the state of California, but it took a lot of help.

And I have to say that it is important to acknowledge that because people make it always sound that you did all this yourself. I didn't. I did it with a lot of help. Yes, I was determined. Yes, I never listened to the nay‑sayers. Yes, I had a great vision. Yes, I had the fire in the belly and all of those things, but I didn't do it without the help.

And even when you then say, Schwarzenegger did the most unbelievable environmental laws in California, well guess how laws are done? It took the legislators — 120 legislators to negotiate for weeks and months at a time, and then to send down legislation and then you sign that. So you need help too.

I had a lot of help along the way and this is why it is so important for all of you to recognize that. And the biggest help, of course, was from America.

If I wouldn't have come to the United States, if I would have come to any other country, I would not have had the success. I mean, America has proven not only to the be the land of opportunity image‑wise, but America has proven to be the greatest country in the world. Anyone can make it!

This is why I always tell people, none of my careers would have happened if it wouldn't have been for the United States of America. I could have gone to the Middle East. Do you think I would stand here today? I could have gone to Africa. Do you think I would stand here today Or to Australia or to Asia, to any other country in Europe, it makes no difference. This place has given me the opportunity, step after step, all the way through all my three careers and the millions and millions of dollars I've made all because of America.

So, thank you, America, for the great thing that you're doing for immigrants that come over here.

And the reason why I want you to understand that is because as soon as you understand that you are here because of a lot of help, then you also understand that now is time to help others. That's what this is all about. You got to help others. Don't just think about yourself. Help others.

As my father‑in‑law, sergeant Shriver said, at Yale university commencement speech, just like I'm speaking right now here, except I speak to a better university, but he said — Sergeant Shriver said — you know he was the guy that created the Peace Corps, the Job Corps, Legal Aid to the poor and an extraordinarily human being under the Johnson and Kennedy administration.

So, he said to those students, he said, 'Tear down this mirror. Tear down this mirror that makes you always look at yourself and you will be able to look beyond this mirror and see the millions of people that need your help.'

And let me tell you something, when I heard that, it all made sense to me, that we have to go out and help. And this is why I got involved in special Olympics, to be the international coach of special Olympics, and then eventually became the chairman of the president's council on physical fitness and sports. I was appointed by President Bush, my favorite Houstonian and — I should not say the only one, but Barbara. I should add Barbara because I see them later on. I don't want to leave out Barbara here because otherwise, she gets really mad. Yeah, so anyway, So both of them.

And then drive through around all 50 states to promote health and fitness and then eventually started after‑school programs and now we are in 40 different — 48 different cities providing after‑school programs for over 100,000 kids and all this.

So, i mean it is — to me, it was very important to give back and also to go — every time I travel around the world, to go military bases and to visit our brave men and women that save us, that protect us, to say, thank you, thank you, thank you to them, anywhere in the world that I travel. So it is important to recognize that. So all I'm saying is, it is my challenge to you today to go ahead and to celebrate your accomplishment. You should.

This commencement is a great success and each of you earned your diplomas, but at some point, take a break from the celebration, away from the Instagrams and snapchats, and think about all of the people that help you. Make sure to go and to recognize President Khator and to say thank you to her for the great work that she has done. Say thank you to the deans of this university that are responsible to make this university so great.

Say thank you to the professors and associate professors, everyone that taught you and everyone that's responsible for you to be here today, and go to your parents and give them a big, big hug and tell them that you love them and thank you for everything that you have done to get me here today.

do that, And give something back to your community and to your state and to this country because remember, in the end, we are not going to be remembered for how much we made but for how much we have given.

Make sure that it is not about me. That it is about 'we.' Turn the 'me' into 'we,' and I guarantee you that you can change the world.

Thank you very much all of you cougars. Thank you.

And now I'm going to do a snapchat with my glasses. Let's hear it. Fantastic. Hasta La Vista, baby. I'll be back.


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