There are no shortcuts to success, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian-born bodybuilder, actor and former governor of California told a pumped-up crowd Thursday in UB's Alumni Arena.
The speaking engagement on the University at Buffalo's North Campus was Schwarzenegger's first since completing his second term as California governor earlier this month.
This year's "students' choice" for the school's 24th annual Distinguished Speaker series, the seven-time Mr. Olympia and Hollywood icon shared the secrets of his phenomenal success in a wide array of endeavors, from bodybuilding to acting, public service and politics.
"I was asked, specifically, not to give you a political speech. I was asked to talk about my life to give you some insight of what it takes to be successful," said Schwarzenegger, before launching into a winning mix of winking braggadocio and self-deprecating humor to tell his unique story.
"So many people always ask me: 'What is the secret of your success?' And I always tell them, well, there's a short version. You come to America. Work hard and marry a Kennedy," he said.
Since 1996, Schwarzenegger has been married Maria Shriver, a TV journalist and niece of President John F. Kennedy. While Schwarzenegger is a Republican, his wife is from a famous Democratic political dynasty.
"Just like Bill Clinton, I also get bossed around by a Democratic woman," Schwarzenegger said.
He credited his late father-in-law, Sargent Shriver, the founder of the Peace Corps and the architect of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, who died Jan. 18. Schwarzenegger described Shriver as his hero, the man who first stoked his interest in public service and who first encouraged him to run for governor of California in 2003. Of his many endeavors, from being the youngest Mr. Universe in 1967 to the highest-paid movie box-office star after the 1991 release of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," Schwarzenegger said "probably the most joy was being governor."
Wearing a blue blazer over a white, open-collar shirt and jeans, Schwarzenegger looked extremely fit at age 63.
"The first thing I was asked at the Buffalo airport is: 'Arnold, do you still work out?' " Schwarzenegger said.
Of course, he replied. "Last week I still lifted 400 pounds. I helped Rush Limbaugh out of his chair," Schwarzenegger said.
Schwarzenegger also said he always had a clear vision of the trajectory he set for himself, even back when he first took a serious interest in bodybuilding at age 15.
"It's what gave me the energy to train five hours a day," he said.
His focus and determination enabled him to overcome many obstacles in becoming an actor, using lessons that he learned as an athlete: "Never give up."
He also learned to turn seeming deficits into assets. Schwarzenegger also was undeterred by those who criticized his difficult-to-pronounce surname.
"If it's difficult to pronounce or spell someone's name, it's also difficult to forget that name," Schwarzenegger said.
"When you're in America, no one holds you back," he added. "The only one holding you back from achieving success is you."