The Canadian Press
CALGARY — Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger largely stayed away from politics during his first public speech since leaving office, but he did acknowledge that he would have liked to run for president if the American Constitution had allowed it.
Schwarzenegger recently completed the maximum two terms allowed state leaders in the United States, but can’t run for the country’s top job because he wasn’t born in the U.S.
He told more than 2,000 people who paid $400 to hear him speak in Calgary on Tuesday that the constitutional stricture saw his longtime publicist on the phone with him even before he stepped down.
“You have nothing to do after you retire from the governorship, she said. I am going to book you some speeches,” he joked.
The Austrian-born bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician admitted during a question-and-answer session with a moderator that he feels the presidential provision is outdated.
“It’s too late for me because of how long it would take, but I think the constitution should be changed.”
Schwarzenegger, a fit 63, clearly answered “yes” when asked: “Would you run if you could?”
He also lamented the fact that a president can only serve for two terms no matter how good a job he has done.
Schwarzenegger was also asked about Alberta’s oilsands. He replied that he would like to have an opportunity to tour them — much as several high-profile Americans have done, including three senators and blockbuster Hollywood director James Cameron.
“I love to explore different areas and things I don’t know about, and that’s one area I don’t know much about,” he said.
He did express a desire to see the United States less reliant on foreign oil, especially from the Middle East, saying “it doesn’t make any sense to rely on people who hate us.”
Schwarzenegger said previous presidents have suggested that it would be a security risk if the United States relied on foreign oil more than 20 per cent. That figure right now, he said, is 60 per cent.
Under Schwarzenegger’s watch, California enacted the strictest climate-related regulations in the U.S., including renewable energy mandates for utilities, tighter fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles and low-carbon fuel standards. His legislation was often suggested as a model for Canadian jurisdictions.
But he stuck mainly to a motivational script during his official 40-minute speech, telling the audience not to be afraid to work hard or take chances because “if you are afraid to fail you are a girly man.”
It’s an expression first coined in a “Saturday Night Live” skit parodying Schwarzenegger and repeated by him in a speech in 2004 aimed at pressuring the state legislature to pass his budget.
He also joked that he has something over other high-profile politicians who have come to speak in Canada — he is the only one to have appeared naked in a movie and is the only one who can say he “has slept with a Kennedy.”
He is married to Maria Shriver, whose mother was a Kennedy.
“I do have one thing in common with Bill Clinton,” said Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican. “I also get bossed around by a Democratic woman.”
The former governor, who was named Mr. Universe when he was 20, said he was lucky that he ignored all the naysayers who made fun of his accent and oversized body when he was trying to become an actor.
He would go on to appear in a series of blockbusters including the “Terminator” series, “Conan the Barbarian,” “Total Recall” and other action movies.
“I spent my time in acting classes, speech classes, accent-removing classes, walking up and down the street repeating, ‘Fine wine grows on a vine.’
“All of a sudden I started getting movie parts. All the things they said were an obstacle became an asset.”