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Monday, May 10, 2010

To the Class of 2010: Hasta la vista, baby (ECW, part 5)

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:

1 comment:

  1. I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened. All of us ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated, but this is not the case.

    I know the proponents of this law say that the majority approves of this law, but the majority is not always right. Would women or non-whites have the vote if we listen to the majority of the day, would the non-whites have equal rights (and equal access to churches, restaurants, hotels, retail stores, schools, colleges and yes water fountains) if we listen to the majority of the day? We all know the answer, a resounding, NO!

    Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics and do what is right, not what is just popular with the majority. Some men comprehend discrimination by never have experiencing it in their lives, but the majority will only understand after it happens to them.