California Governia Pays a Surprise Visit

"Where did I go wrong?" That's the question that most would assume Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would ask himself after his attempt to alleviate the economic crisis facing California failed as voters rejected five of six proposed measures last Tuesday.

However, as an aspiring body builder and teen growing up in Austria in the 60's, it was his mother, Aurelia, asking the tough question.  "There's something wrong with you," Schwarzenegger recalled his mother saying as she stared in disappointment at his wall's décor. "All your friends have pictures of girls on their walls and you have half-naked men oiled up," she said referring to his posters of body builders, weight lifters and "strong men."

"She looked up and all of a sudden she had tears rolling down her eyes," said Schwarzenegger. The posters were "for inspiration" he assured the star struck audience gathered in HSS 165 last Thursday.

View a slide show of the the Gov.'s arrival HERE

This special visit to Dr. Nancy Grass Hemmert's speech and communications class came to be after a chance encounter between Schwarzenegger and Grass Hemmert's partner, Deirdre Weaver, at a local Starbuck's.

Weaver, a Santa Monica College alumnus, was on a bus ride home from her critical pedagogy class at UCLA and considering what to write to the Governor for her midterm assignment when in a moment of complete serendipity a fellow commuter pointed out Schwarzenegger and "his motorcade," said Weaver.

"I got off the bus and made my way towards them," said Weaver.

Weaver approached Schwarzenegger, an SMC alumnus, and he offered to come speak at SMC.  After learning that Weaver's partner, Grass Hemmert, is a communications professor, Schwarzenegger agreed to speak because communications is his favorite subject. 

"I think he genuinely has a fondness for SMC and he recognizes the significance and importance of communication," says Weaver.

In anticipation for his arrival, students eagerly awaited Schwarzenegger's homecoming of sorts as word had spread of his surprise visit and droves of spectators cheered him on outside as he made his way inside the classroom. 

Finally Schwarzenegger arrived carrying himself as a politician but glowing with a healthy movie star tan.  His attire was that of a proper elected official until noticing the bold skull on his belt buckle and chain hanging from his side.

"I believe he is the definition of the American dream," said Youngsho Kim, a Film and Graphic Design major, as she introduced Schwarzenegger."He's my role model and also my dream guy," said Kim gleefully. "I still remember his famous words, ‘I will be back' And he's really back right in front of me."

In a week which saw much scrutiny for Schwarzenegger, who is dealing with the state's ballooning state budget crisis, he came in ready to share of his experience and bring some inspiration to SMC students and focus on the importance of communications despite the challenges that currently face him.

As a foreign student at SMC, his sights were on making a career in bodybuilding, legitimizing the sport and transition into film. "I of course think the world of Santa Monica College simply because I wanted to come here to just take some English classes because my English was horrible," he said.

After meeting with a counselor, both specified Schwarzenegger's career objective. "He realized I was very interested in business and that I was serious about making millions of dollars." So he took economics, business and math classes but counts his speech and communications courses as those which set him up for success.

"It doesn't make any difference what profession you eventually get into. When I took speech classes here at Santa Monica College, I had no idea where this would lead," he said.

In an unprecedented career, Schwarzenegger has been able to constantly reinvent himself despite the discouragement and warnings from his contemporaries.

"You've got to see exactly where you're going and stay connected to that vision and be passionate about that vision," he said.

However, if all else fails, the short answer to success he jokingly said is: "come to America, work like hell and marry a Kennedy."

And for those lacking confidence, Schwarzenegger encourages to take risks from raising your hand in class to ask questions and working from there until eventually mastering the skill of communication.

"The only way you gain confidence is by having little victories all the time," he said.

Several students were able to take his challenge and ask the Governor questions designed by them along with Grass Hemmert and speech professor Nate Brown.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor, actor, body builder and Californian, demonstrates the power of effective communication in multiple contexts and with multiple and diverse audiences," said Grass Hemmert.

Before retreating, Schwarzenegger assured the crowd that despite the current economic condition, the opportunity to succeed is still at reach.  "I'm a big believer in community colleges. It's a great springboard for wherever you want to go."