Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t resist a dig at Donald Trump during his virtual commencement address, which otherwise focused on how he fought back after open-heart surgery in illustrating that life is about “overcoming obstacles.”
The movie star and former governator of California, 72, used the platform ATTN: to deliver his speech, kicking it off by telling the graduates, “I’m not going to stand here and bullsh** you about this being a fantastic time to graduate.” Schwarzenegger — whose youngest son with Maria Shriver, Christopher Schwarzenegger, just graduated from the University of Michigan — then spoke about the coronavirus “crisis,” saying no matter how much damage it has done around the world, “the coronavirus can’t erase your success.”
Schwarzenegger told the grads that “life is messier than an Instagram feed,” and the virus “won’t be the last obstacle you face,” but “it can help you prepare for the next one.” In fact, life is all about “overcoming obstacles,” he added, and said the biggest one he’s faced was emergency open-heart surgery in 2018.
He said four months prior to shooting Terminator 6: Dark Fate, he had a physical and his doctor said he was “in great shape” but recommended he have a heart valve replaced because it was “leaking blood.” The Mr. Universe title holder, who was in top shape for the film, was told it would be a non-invasive procedure and he’d be home the next day, working out again in a week.
However, the procedure didn’t go as planned. He woke up 16 hours later, instead of four, with all kinds of tubes connected to him. His surgeon explained they had to do emergency surgery because “something went wrong.” He was told they broke through the heart wall and there was internal bleeding. He would have died if they didn’t open his sternum and perform open-heart surgery. And while the surgery was a success, he still wasn’t out of the woods. Pneumonia was a big concern, so he had to get up immediately and start moving as well as do breathing exercises.
“It wasn’t easy but my usual principles worked,” he said. They included visualizing that he would be on set the day production was slated to start and be fully able to play the physical role.
He said he celebrated “little victories” as they came (the first 500 steps he took, his appetite returning, being discharged, training for the first time with light weights and then with heavier ones). He was able to make his deadline and be on set, he recalled, and after a very grueling physical scene, he recalled director Tim Miller coming over to him and saying, “‘Arnold, you’re a f***ing machine.’ I said, ‘No, I’m just back.’”
His point, “No matter how successful you are, life will throw obstacles in your path” — his heart surgery, this coronavirus — “but if you a have a very clear vision … of exactly what you want to do and who you want to be, you can go and find a way around all of those obstacles.” He said all young people should have that clear vision.
Schwarzenegger went on to say that graduating is not just about the degree or the piece of paper you get for the wall — it’s a celebration of the journey accomplished by each person. At the mention of a diploma, he held up a framed honorary degree he was given by the president’s shuttered university, which has been the target of lawsuits.
“This is nothing,” he said taking a dig at his fellow Republican, whom he is no fan of.
“I mean we all have these pieces of paper, but let’s be honest. This celebration … 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 it… But tomorrow, when this is all over, it is time to start developing your vision and it is time to start climbing toward that vision.”
While Schwarzenegger and Trump used to be friendly, they’ve been publicly sparing throughout Trump’s presidency. In 2017, after Schwarzenegger became host of The New Celebrity Apprentice, Trump celebrated the show’s low ratings. Schwarzenegger has also criticized Trump’s position on climate change.
Schwarzenegger told Men’s Health last year, “I think [Trump] really — he’s in love with me. That’s the reality of it. With Trump, he wants to be me.” And when Howard Stern asked if he’d support Trump’s re-election, he said, “I doubt it,” going on to say he’d consider voting for a Democrat instead.