Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Speech at Tsinghua University (Excerpt)
And today I want to talk to you a little bit about the dreams, about the dreams ofyour future, and dreams for this country. I want to talk to you a little bitabout dreams, because it seems to me that I’m somewhat of an expert in dreams,because I had a lot of my dreams become a reality. So let me just briefly tellyou my story, and tell you a little bit about how I started with my career. Ithink that this story kind of relates a little bit also to you, and also toChina.
I started way back as a weightlifter. I always liked the idea of lifting weights and being a bodybuilder. From the first moment when I gripped a barbell and heldit around the bar and lifted the steel up over my head, I felt thisexhilaration, and I knew then that this is something that I’m going to do, thatI was in love with that, and this is going to be something that I’m going todo. I’m going to pursue the sport of weightlifting and bodybuilding. Now, Iremember the first real workout that I had. It was…eight miles away from myhome village in Austria there was a gymnasium, and I rode to that gymnasiumwith a bicycle. And there I trained for half an hour, because they said thatafter half an hour you should stop because otherwise your body will get reallysore. But after half an hour I looked at my body, and nothing had happened. So I said, “I’d better work out for another half hour.” So I lifted some more. My strength didn’t improve, I didn’t see the muscles pop out oranything like that, so I trained for another half an hour. And then afteranother half hour I trained another half hour, and all together I trained twoand a half hours.
Well,let me tell you something. After two and a half hours, I left thegymnasium—even though they told me that I shouldn’t train that much or I wouldget really sore—I rode my bicycle home. And after the first mile I got numb,and I couldn’t feel anymore the handle of the bicycle, and I fell off the bikeand I fell into the ditch on the side of the road. So I got up again and I triedit again. Another few yards, I fell off the bicycle again. And I tried it three, four more times, and I just couldn’t ride my bicyclebecause my body was so numb and my legs felt like noodles. Well, let me tellyou something. The next morning when I got up, my body was so sore that Icouldn’t even lift my arms to comb my hair. I had to have my mother comb myhair, and you know how embarrassing that is. But you know something? I learneda very important lesson, that pain means progress. Pain is progress. Each timemy muscles were sore from a workout I knew that they were growing and they weregetting stronger.
I think there is a real life lesson in that. After two or three years ofdiscipline and determination and working out hard, I actually changed my body,and I changed my strength. And that told me something; that if I could changemy body that much, and if I could change the strength of my body that much,then I could also change anything else. I could change my habits, I couldchange my intelligence, I could change my attitude, my mind, my future, mylife. And this is exactly what I have done. I think that that lesson applies topeople, and it also applies to countries. You can change, China can change,everyone in the world can change.
My parents, of course, I have to tell you, didn’t understand my dreams at all.They were always wondering, they said, “What is he doing? When are you going toget a job, a real job? When are you going to make money?” And all of thosequestions I got. And they said, “I hope we didn’t raise a bum, someone thatdoesn’t make money and just wants to live in a gymnasium and think about their bodies.”Well, I endured all of this negative thinking, and the more negative thethinking got, and the more negative the questions got, the stronger and themore positive I became, the stronger I became inside.
So of course some of your families maybe think the same way, and this is why I’mmentioning that. Some of your families maybe don’t believe in your dreams. Butlet me tell you something, my young friends. Keep your dreams. No matter what,keep your dreams. Don’t give up on them, even when you are temporarily defeatedor denied. Keep your dreams. I remember the first time I went to the UnitedStates and I was competing in a competition, the World Championships inBodybuilding. I lost. I came in second, and I was devastated. I was crushed. Ifelt like a loser, a major loser, let me tell you. I cried, as a matter offact, because I felt like I disappointed my friends and I disappointed myself.But the next day I got my act together, I shifted gears, and I said, “I’m goingto learn from that lesson. I’m going to stay here in America. I’m not going togo back to Europe. I’m going to stay in America and I’m going to train with theAmerican champions, I’m going to train the American way. I’m going to eat theAmerican food; I’m going to train with the American machines and the principles.And a year later, in America, I became the World Champion in Bodybuilding. So Ithink this is a very, very important lesson.
And from then on, I continued. My career took off, and every thing that I wanted to do I accomplished. First it wasto become a champion in bodybuilding. Later on I became a movie star, to do allthe great movies, the Conan movies and the Terminator movies and all this. ThenI became the governor of the great state of California, of the sixth largest economy in the world. All of this happened because of my dreams, eventhough other people told me that those dreams were bogus and they were crazy,but I held onto my dreams.
And people would always say, no matter what, even in bodybuilding they said I wouldnever make it. And later on in the movies, in Hollywood they said I would notmake it. They said, “You will never make it. You have a German accent. No one in Hollywood has ever made it with aGerman accent. Yeah, maybe you can play some Nazi roles or something like that,but you cannot become a leading star with an accent. Plus your body, you’re overdeveloped, you have all these muscles. They did Hercules movies 20years ago, that’s outdated. Now it’s Woody Allen. Woody Allen is in, his bodyis in.” And those were the messages. “And Al Pacino, the skinny guy, he is in. Butnot your body, it’s too big. And your name, Schwarzenegger, it will never fiton a movie poster. Forget it. Forget it, you will never make it. Go back tobodybuilding.”
Well,the rest is history. After Terminator 3, I became the highest paid movie starin Hollywood. And let me tell you something, it continued on. Even when I ranfor governor people said, “Arnold, you will never make it. You will neverbecome governor of California. What do you know about government?” Well, thefact is, I knew exactly as much about government as the rest of the people knewin California, which is that government is out of touch, and it’s out of syncwith the people,and it needed a shakeup. So I didn’t listen to all those peoplethat said I would never make it. I continued campaigning, I listened to mydreams, and the rest also is history. I became governor.
So always it just carried me on, those dreams. So bodybuilding gave me theconfidence, movies gave me the money, and pubic service and being a governorgave me a purpose larger than myself. And that is the brief story of my dreamsand a brief story of my early life, and how my dreams made me successful. Aperson, of course, should not be stingy with their dreams. So I, of course,don’t just think and dream about myself, but I also have dreams for you, anddreams for China. So let me just talk a little bit about that. China’s economyhas become an engine of human progress, lifting millions of people out ofpoverty. This is a moral and economic good for China and for the rest of theworld. I often read that China’s economy is likely to become the largest in theworld over the next 50 years, and I think this is terrific. This does not mean,of course, that America will get poorer; it just means that China will getricher, and the United States will benefit from China’s progress as much as theU.S. benefited from the rise of Western Europe after World War II.
Some in my country fear that China’s research and development will overtakeAmerica’s, but I believe that America and the world will benefit from China’sscientific and technological advances. I think we will benefit from that. IfChina makes advances in stem cell research, the rest of the world will benefitfrom that. If China discovers an energy breakthrough, this is good for the restof the world, such as the benefit of a free market.
Some fear that China will buy up American companies, but that fear also existed inthe 80s, when America feared that Japan was going to buy up American companies.So what? It was just good, and to the benefit of America. We should welcomeChina’s investment in American companies, just as we welcome the billions ofdollars that China has invested in U.S. treasury bonds. This shows that Chinahas faith in America, and American investment in China shows that we have faithin you. So I believe that China and U.S. economic relations will become evencloser in the years ahead. Certainly I realize that we do not agree oneverything, but who does? Certainly I realize that China has major hurdles toovercome, but it is not for me to say how China should overcome those hurdles andachieve its dreams.