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Schwarzenegger recounts life lessons in keynote address

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger addresses more than 400 attendees at the USC Global Conference in Seoul, South Korea.

During his keynote address at the USC Global Conference in Seoul, South Korea, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger candidly revealed some of the secrets to his success — and ended up bringing the 400-plus members of the audience to their feet for a standing ovation.

Citing five rules that he lives by, Schwarzenegger gave examples from his life and the multiple professional roles that his career has encompassed — from bodybuilder and film star to entrepreneur and governor to now educator, as the Governor Downey Professor of State and Global Policy at USC.

As his first rule, he emphasized the importance of giving back and urged attendees to “serve a cause greater than ourselves.” After discovering his passion for volunteerism, through his work with Special Olympics and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (now called President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition), Schwarzenegger decided to walk away from a successful movie career to pursue public service full time — a decision that he has not yet regretted.

“To wake up every morning, to have interesting meetings on every subject you can imagine, from prison overcrowding to education issues to climate change, problems with the budget, to immigration reform. That capital became the best classroom in the world,” he told the audience. “It was the best job I ever had.”

Schwarzenegger said the move to a very different kind of public role emboldened him to challenge himself to work even harder, to think bigger and to take personal responsibility in order to make real change in the world.

“There is a saying in German: Wenn Schon, Denn Schon,” he said. “It basically means, ‘If you’re going to do it, do it. Go all out.’ ”

He described his lifelong fascination with transportation as an example.

“When I wanted to rebuild California’s ancient infrastructure, I didn’t want to fix a few roads,” he said. “I wanted to build massive freeways on top of freeways, the first high speed rail in the United States, bridges and tunnels. You name it. I wanted to see cranes everywhere. At first, some of those legislators looked at me like I was nuts.”

In time, the former governor was able to produce bold initiatives on policies on renewable energy, transportation and a reinvestment in the state — moves that were inspired by developments in countries all of the world, in places such as Korea, China and Brazil.

Schwarzenegger emphasized his commitment to sharing what he has learned from his time in office with the next generation of leaders and decision makers, particularly through the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy.

“We have assembled the greatest leaders in every possible field,” Schwarzenegger said. “No other university in the United States calls to the world like USC. It is truly a global university, with the most international students in the United States. USC has big vision, and this conference is a perfect example of that.”

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