Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the graduates of Saint Mary's College's School of Extended Education for earning their degrees "against all odds" while juggling job and family responsibilities.
"You made a choice, set a goal and no matter how hard it got, you did not quit," Schwarzenegger told the nearly 300 graduates at the June 2 SEED Commencement. "You are the great life stories that make America what it is today."
The governor compared their achievements to his own, recalling his dreams to come to the United States from Austria, to become a bodybuilding champion and a Hollywood actor, and "to make millions and millions of dollars."
"Everything that I've ever done in my life, there were always people there saying 'it can't be done,'" Schwarzenegger said, eliciting bursts of laughter when he recounted the challenges he faced along the way because of his accent and unusual name.
During his commencement address, the governor singled out one of the graduates, his chief of staff Susan Kennedy, for "an extraordinary accomplishment" of earning a bachelor's degree in management while putting in 16 to 18-hour days in his office. Later, as Kennedy walked on stage to receive her diploma, the governor gave her a high-five and a hug.
In her welcoming remarks to the governor, Penelope Washbourn, academic coordinator of the management program, quipped that the program Kennedy was enrolled in "might take some credit for your success and to the dramatic rise in your approval ratings since she joined your staff."
Washbourn also noted that the governor's "capacity for lifelong learning and openness to change" exemplified the values of the School of Extended Education.
Schwarzenegger attributed his own academic success to an adult education program just like SEED at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a degree in business administration in 1978 after nine years of studying while working in construction and on movie sets.
"So I know what it takes and I know what it took for you all to be here today," said the governor. "The passion that you had to have, the commitment, the determination and the guts to stick it out and you did it."
The governor urged the graduates to follow his example by using their degrees to find something they feel passionate about and to help others. He said that he made the decision 3 1/2 years ago "to jump in and run for governor even though I turned my back on $30 million for Terminator 4," referring to the sequel of the action film series. "I did that because I wanted to give something back to this great country and to this great state that has given me absolutely everything."
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brother Ronald GallagherBrother Ronald Gallagher, president of Saint Mary's College, acknowledged that the commencement ceremony was "a bittersweet moment" for the faculty and staff of the School of Extended Education, which is closing after 30 years. He congratulated the graduates for their hard work, persistence and dedication.
"We trust that your degree from Saint Mary's will not only enhance your capabilities, but also heighten your sense of responsibility to your fellow citizens," said Brother Ronald. "The world has a great need for you."
For the full text and video of Schwarzenegger's speech, go to:
--Debra Holtz, Office of College Communications