Schwarzenegger offers words of advice to graduates


Dr. Governator · Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers the main address at the 126th annual commencement ceremony at USC Friday. The governor was awarded an honorary USC degree by President Steven B. Sample before giving his speech. - Brandon Hui | Summer Trojan

More than 8,000 graduates were honored Friday as USC marked its 126th annual commencement ceremony with an address from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who shared “six rules of success” with the new alumni.

President Steven B. Sample honored the movie star with an honorary degree from the university before his speech.

“Wow, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Doctor of Humane Letters,” Schwarzenegger said. “I love it. But, of course, I noticed that it wasn’t a doctorate in film or in cinema or in acting. I wonder why?”

Schwarzenegger poked fun at his acting throughout his speech, offering graduates advice based on his own experience as a bodybuilder and actor.

“Red Sonja, Hercules in New York, Last Action Hero…those movies went in the toilet. But that’s OK, because at the same time I made movies like Terminator and Conan and True Lies and Predator and Twins that went through the roof,” he said. “So you can’t always win, but don’t be afraid of making decisions. You can’t be paralyzed by fear of failure or you will never push yourself.”

The governor also shared what he called “Dr. Schwarzenegger’s Six Rules of Success,” with graduates — telling them to trust themselves, break rules, not be afraid to fail, not to listen to “naysayers,” give back and, most importantly, “work like hell.”

“There are 24 hours a day. You sleep six hours and have 18 hours left,” Schwarzenegger said. “Now, I know there are some of you out there that say well, wait a minute, I sleep eight hours or nine hours. Well then, just sleep faster, I would recommend.”

Hard work would be especially important in the near future, Schwarzenegger said.

“We are in tough times now and there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world,” he said. “But there is one thing certain: We’ll be back. And we will be back stronger and more prosperous than ever before because that is what California and America have always done.”

Sample also acknowledged the insecurity many graduates feel because of the economic downturn.

“It’s true that you’re graduating in an uncertain economy,” Sample said. “But I would encourage you to be positive, innovative and courageous. The world needs your ideas, your enthusiasm and your talent — it also needs your kindness, your curiosity and your desire to live a full and meaningful life.”

Sample then referred to posthumous salutatorian William Zarifi, a senior majoring in business administration and manager of the USC basketball team who died of cancer in October.

“He lived a thoughtful and ethical life, a life in which his determination, his compassion and his respect for others earned him the admiration of all who knew him and loved him,” Sample said.

Brenda Nuyen, a USC Renaissance Scholar who majored in biological sciences, and Sara Schlievert, a USC Trustee Scholar and National Merit Scholar who majored in music, were the two other salutatorians honored at the ceremony.

Professor Anito Jones, journalist Elena Poniatowska and social worker Frances Wu also received honorary degrees from USC.

Overall, graduates said they enjoyed both the ceremony and the governor’s remarks.

“I was just happy he said ‘I’ll be back,’” said Megha Mehta, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. “[It was] pretty entertaining.”

Emily Yu, who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and East Asian languages and cultures, said she was surprised by Schwarzenegger’s humor.

“[The ceremony was] pretty interesting and a lot more humorous than I expected,” she said. “[Schwarzenegger] made fun of himself. He gave the students what they wanted to hear.”

Lucy Mueller contributed to this report.