Guests at Thursday night’s Points of Light gala congregated in the lobby of the French Embassy, casting glances around the hallway eagerly anticipating the arrival of the last of the evening’s honorees. When he finally showed up, the tanned, hulky frame of Arnold Schwarzenegger was not easy to miss. Everyone from fellow honoree and Pittsburgh Steeler’s cornerback Coty Sensabaugh to Points of Light chairman Neil Bush, aka son of the first President Bush, swooped in for a picture with the bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-governor. Schwarzenegger was honored for his charity work along with Ambassador C. Boyden Gray, Jack and Suzi Hanna of “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild,” and Sensabaugh and his wife Dominique.
Bush noted the many advocacy roles Schwarzengger has taken on throughout his life as the reason Points of Light decided to designate him an award recipient.
“Arnold’s done a lot for the United States, for humanity,” Bush said. “He’s proven in his own life that he can become successful in movies and then take on a life of service to others. He served in my dad’s presidency leading a health movement, served as governor of the state of California and he does a lot of good for others.”
We caught up with The Terminator in between fan photos to pick his brain.
You’re being honored tonight by George H.W. Bush’s foundation. What’s your connection to the former president?
It is a great honor to receive this award and be here today. I think what’s really interesting is it’s Neil and Doro’s [Dorothy Bush’s] father who got me into service, and he was kind of my point of light. He let me serve as the chairman to the President’s Council for Physical Fitness and Sports and sent me to all 50 states to promote health and fitness. He he also taught me how to include everybody, not just the kids, but the elderly, poor people, senior citizens. . . He wanted everyone to be included and get off the couch and exercise and be healthy and fit and all those things. But he always talked about inclusion and he inspired me to serve — to give something back to the community. So this is why I feel delighted to come here today, and I told Neil, “Your father really inspired me to eventually become governor and all of this stuff happened because of George H.W. Bush so I will never forget that.”
What are you being honored for tonight?
My work for why I get this award is because I continued on with the work after I left the president’s council. I started after-school programs nationwide which is now all over the United States serving almost 100,000 kids. I continued my work with the special Olympics. And I continued my work when I become governor with political reform — we created open primaries in California and got rid of gerrymandering and fight for the environment through the R20 [Schwarzenegger’s environmental foundation] and as governor also. I think all of this work as a public servant and giving something back to the community. . . I think that’s what this is all about. I have to listen to what Wolf Blitzer says as MC because I have no idea what this is for specifically I just know that they wanted to give me this award [laughs].
You’ve been to D.C. many times before. What’s your favorite way to explore the city?
No matter where I go I love going on the bike and seeing the city on the bike. Even though it’s dangerous to do, it’s fun to do, and there really is no city that’s more interesting and historic to bike around than Washington. To go from monument to monument. . . it’s absolute heaven, and to bike up to Capitol Hill and find some of those congressional people to let you in the back door and to cruise around in there with your biking shorts on and stuff. . . We have a good time always here.
You were kind of the modern-day pioneer for the Hollywood star-turned-politician model. Which of the celebrities who have flirted with running in 2020, such as Kanye West and The Rock, do you think would be best?
I’m not going to comment on that, who’s fit and who’s not, but I will say that that’s the great thing about our system that people like myself were able to jump in the race and run for governor and become governor of the great state of California. . . so you never know. I think people are looking now more than ever for outsiders. Outsiders obviously don’t have the experience, but they do have the heart and they have the vision. I had the vision, I had the heart, I was willing to fight like hell to get things done. It took me a while to get into it and get experience, so that’s the disadvantage of it, but I think people are smart enough to make the right choices.
Your son Patrick is an actor. Does he have the desire to transition into politics eventually as well?
I don’t know, that’s something you have to ask him, I have no idea. He’s very interested in acting and both of the other sons are in university studying and my daughters are out working and doing their thing, so they’re good kids.