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Monday, June 5, 2023


Q&A: Schwarzenegger says ‘shoot for the stars’

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would never require a fee to speak at a university. | Thom Dwyer/The Cougar

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the keynote speaker at the University of Houston’s 2017 Commencement, addressed the 8,690 students graduating from the University on Friday morning.

Before his speech, Schwarzenegger, a successful bodybuilder, actor and politician, spoke to The Cougar and CoogTV about why he refused the speaker fee offered by the University, the importance of academia and how to initiate more diversity in the TV and film industries.

The Cougar: You’ve been highly successful in three different careers: bodybuilding, acting and politics. Do you think a college degree is necessary for that kind of success?

Arnold Schwarzenegger: No, a college degree is not necessary, but I think that it really helps. So, for instance, it was not on a list of my goals when I came to America. It was to become a bodybuilding champion and be the greatest bodybuilder of all time and get into acting and do movies and make millions of dollars. But when I took English classes at the university, I somehow then started really falling in love with the idea of education and taking business classes and marketing classes, and one thing led to the next, and all of a sudden I had a degree in business. I think it was very helpful to study, and I was always into business, so I think it’s good to educate yourself in an academic way and also in a practical way. So I believe in both.

The Cougar: Why did you turn down the speaking fee for the commencement speech?

Schwarzenegger: That was not the point. I travel around the world and do speeches, and I do that as part of the fun, and I make a lot of money doing that. But I would never go to a university and ask a university for money, because if they want to give me something, that’s fine, but then I’ll give it back for the students for something that they can use very wisely, because I’m not in need of cash.

CoogTV: Based on your experience in the TV and film industries, as well as politics, what is your biggest advice for students that want to break into any of these three industries?

Schwarzenegger: Well I think that the first thing — one of my messages today will be — is to recognize the fact that we are not here because of our own doing. We need a lot of help. That’s number one. Number two, then: the rules of success. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Make sure that you’re working your butt off. Make sure that you have a very clear vision of where you want to go.

Don’t shoot for lower goals — shoot for the stars. I believe in some of those principles because they really helped me to accomplish my goals. And also to understand that you will have failures, and not to be afraid of failure. It’s OK to fail, but the key thing is just to pick yourself back up again and to get going, because losers stay down. Winners get up and keep going.

CoogTV: The University of Houston is commonly cited as the second most diverse public institution in the nation. In the film and TV industries, there tends to be a lack of diversity at points. How do you think we can add to that diversity in the industry today?

Schwarzenegger: I think the key thing about all of this is always to think about it, and I think that if we think about it, then we go in that direction. That’s why I said earlier, when you go after a career, you have to have a clear vision. If I don’t have a vision to be the world champion in bodybuilding, or if I don’t have a vision to have more diversity, it’s not going to happen by itself.

You can have the best ship in the world, but if the captain doesn’t know where to go, he’s going to just drift around and is going to get lost. The same is with everything, including diversity. We’ve got to think about it. We’ve got to make this our goal. We’ve got to make this be our vision, and then automatically things will fall into place if you think about that.

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