The most lasting impression of a commencement keynote is rarely the words being said. It's the person who says them.
Even the most pedestrian commencement speakers can inspire a certain amount of good feeling and excitement in an audience. Unfortunately, that excitement generally lasts until the audience reaches their cars for the ride home.
For Emory's 165th Commencement on Monday morning, keynote speaker Arnold Schwarzenegger 10H may not have delved too deeply in his message, but the undeniable power of his personal magnetism made for a memorable morning. Even as the words of the newly minted alumni alumnus (he received an honorary doctor of laws degree) vanished into the chilly air, the booming voice delivering them made kept the crowd at rapt attention.
Schwarzenegger spoke a lot about himself and how achieved his success. He skirted the narcissistic edge, but never fully crossed it. Mainly because he deftly tied his personal experience to the bumper-sticker-like (but worthy) advice he bestowed on the graduates: Work hard. Stay hungry. Never give up. Believe in yourself. Don't listen to the naysayers. Never be afraid to fail.
Schwarzenegger devoted the final quarter of his speech discussing the Special Olympics, which was founded by his mother-in-law, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver. He has strongly supported the organization for many years, and in an important contrast to the earlier part of his speech, Schwarzenegger said what he most cherished about his work with Special Olympians was that it taught him to tear down the mirror that always made him look at himself ... and look beyond it toward helping others.
Schwarzenegger expertly played to the crowd. He poked fun at himself, his accent, his famous in-laws, and even pulled out four fan-favorite movie quotes. (My personal favorite, "It's not a tumor," from Kindergarten Cop, made the cut, as well as Terminator 2,'s "Hasta la vista, baby.")
Schwarzenegger, the politician, rarely showed himself. Now in his second term as California governor, Schwarzenegger made passing reference to a handful of chief-executive accomplishments (most of them about the environment), but primarily spoke of the governorship as one step in his life's ambitions.
He saved his most political statement for a cutting joke about a state adjacent to his own: Arizona. He quipped about being invited to speak at a commencement there but was concerned that "with my German accent I might be deported back to Austria."
As for the rest of the address, I don't remember a lot about it ... but I can't wait to tell my friends who I saw today.
-- Eric Rangus, director of communications, EAA
Watch Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Emory Commencement address in HD: