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Schwarzenegger Symposium convenes innovators from politics, entertainment

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger set the tone for the day’s dialogue, saying that “the best ideas often require political courage.” (Photo/Dietmar Quistorf)

USC President C. L. Max Nikias and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted the official launching of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy on Sept. 24 with a daylong symposium that brought together prominent leaders in government and entertainment.

The event drew nearly 1,000 attendees to the University Park Campus, along with approximately 30 national and international news media outlets. The symposium’s discussions highlighted the importance of post-partisanship, the effectiveness of local strategies in solving global challenges and the value of innovation.

The institute, housed at the USC Price School of Public Policy, focuses on the responsibility of policymakers to move beyond partisanship to implement policies that best benefit the people they serve. Its priority areas include education, energy and environment, fiscal and economic policy, health and human wellness, and political reform.

“The establishment of this institute marks the merger between the brightest policymakers of our time and the university that has long been the leader in civic engagement, locally, nationally and internationally,” said Nikias, who delivered the day’s opening remarks. “The emergence of the Schwarzenegger Institute at USC could not come at a more critical moment. The world is beset by a myriad of challenging problems, all crying out for serious and sustainable solutions.”

Schwarzenegger, who was introduced by Nikias, set the tone for the day’s dialogue by sharing a lesson he learned as governor.

“I learned the old way of doing things just didn’t work, so I broke the rules,” said Schwarzenegger, a Republican who hired a Democrat as his chief of staff and made almost half of his judiciary appointments from the other side of the aisle. “In the process, I discovered my own rules … and those are the very rules that will direct the vision of this institute.”

The morning panel, “Political Leaders’ Views on the Importance of Post-Partisanship,” convened public officials from the Republican, Democratic and Independent parties.

Panelists included Schwarzenegger, inaugural holder of the Governor Downey Professor of State and Global Policy at USC; Charlie Crist, former governor of Florida; Tom Daschle, former U.S. Senate majority leader; John McCain, U.S. senator from Arizona; Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico; and Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania and the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. ABC News political commentator Cokie Roberts served as the moderator.

The panelists agreed on the importance of bipartisan collaboration.

Ridge pointed out that the Declaration of Independence urges us to have “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” He added that it takes more courage and leadership for public officials to drive compromise than to simply embrace a “my way or the highway” approach.

Richardson, a member of the institute’s board of advisers, noted that “states are laboratories where the federal government can learn from.”

The lunch-time discussion centered on “Local Solutions to Global Problems” and addressed issues involving energy, the environment and climate change.

The panel featured R. K. Pachauri, chair of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster. NBC 4-Los Angeles reporter Conan Nolan moderated the panel.

Among notable points highlighted during the discussion was the importance of making investments for long-term gains involving energy and the environment.

“We need to base actions on knowledge,” said Pachauri, who serves on the institute’s board of advisers.

In the afternoon, USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott introduced the panel discussion on “The Power of People and Innovation.”

“Innovation resides at the intersection of disciplines,” Knott explained. “It also occurs at the confluence of disparate opinions and approaches.”

Speakers included Schwarzenegger; Rob Friedman, co-chairman of Lionsgate; Brian Grazer, chairman of Imagine Entertainment; Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M and chairman and co-founder of Beats; and Ron Meyer, president and chief operating officer of Universal Studios. Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed, moderated the panel.

Much of the discussion focused on the entertainment industry’s ability to spark social change.

“I think we have a chance as an industry to tell a story that makes an impact on society and the way people think and feel,” Meyer said.

Schwarzenegger also noted how, in some cases, the power of entertainment can have more impact — and be more influential in shaping public culture — than politics.

Matthew Kredell contributed to the story.

Schwarzenegger Symposium convenes innovators from politics, entertainment

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