Stockton News

Schwarzenegger works to terminate hate at Stockton University

Written for The Argo by Jared Keane

On Monday, March 6, Stockton Students eagerly lined up as early as 6:30 a.m. to see esteemed actor, former California governor, and philanthropist Arnold Schwarzenegger speak about the importance of fighting back against antisemitism and other forms of hatred.

Schwarzenegger addresses the crowd gathered at Stockton University. Photo courtesy of Rachel Rolle.

After moving to the United States, Schwarzenegger became an established actor, businessman, bodybuilder, and philanthropist, and served as the governor of California for eight years. Now, he is a leader in spreading awareness of anti-semitic issues globally. 

During his visit to Stockton University, Schwarzenegger discussed his personal experience with the Holocaust and warned audience members of the dangers of subscribing to hateful ideologies.

After touring Auschwitz, Schwarzenegger decided that combating the issue of rising anti-Semitic hate all over the world would become his top priority. He described in detail the remnants of horror he witnessed, mentioning “The shoes, the gold teeth, and the hair, taken from the murdered innocents by the murderers to fund their evil. The gas chambers with scratches on the wall from the fingernails of people who tried to hold on to life.”

He further emphasized that “When you walk through a place like Auschwitz, you feel a tremendous weight that reminds you of the horrors that happened there and it never goes away. It’s the feeling of history… of the millions of voices that were silenced decades ago; begging you not to just look at their shoes, but to spend a few hours in them.”

Schwarzenegger made it clear that this speech is not only for those who fight to prevent further atrocities, it is especially relevant for those who “might have stumbled on the wrong path”; it is for those who have found themselves thinking that anyone is inferior or out to get them because of their religion, the color of their skin, or their gender. 

Schwarzenegger shows off his honorary Stockton diploma. Photo courtesy of Rachel Rolle.

“I want to speak to you before you find the regrets at the end of your path. I’ve talked a lot about my father and the broken men I was surrounded by. Besides the guilt and the injuries, they [former Nazis] felt like losers not only because they lost the war, but also because they fell for a horrible loser ideology. They believed the only way to make their lives better was to make others’ lives worse.”

Schwarzenegger hoped to inspire those who might still have hate in their hearts to turn their lives around before they discover where that road ends. He urged the audience to embrace discomfort and to take the path of resistance so that they may grow.

“If you find yourself at the crossroads wondering if the path of hate may make sense to you, I want you to know where that path ends. Throughout history, hate has always been an easy path. It is easier to find scapegoats for problems than it is to find solutions to problems ourselves. It is the path of the weak,” said Schwarzenegger.

He stressed that he has spent most of his life helping people find their strength, harkening back to his early bodybuilding career by telling the audience that “easier isn’t always better.” He stated that his growth was not easy, but it was worth the pain. 

Closing the speech, Schwarzenegger offered his leadership advice to the students of the Stockton community. “Communication is one of the most important things you do in life. It doesn’t make any difference what you do, you have to communicate. Within my own experience of business or politics, leading is about having a clear vision for what you want and communicating that vision with others,” he said.

President Harvey Kessleman awarded Schwarzenegger with an honorary Doctorate of Public Service for his extensive philanthropy and public work, in addition to gifting him a bottle of Stockton Maple Syrup.