It’s the time of year when inspirational commencement addresses abound. But let’s face it, some are better than others. Take Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2020 Snapchat Commencement Address on Overcoming—it’s certainly personal, powerful, and definitely worth a listen. 

Graduates who spent the winter holidays feeling hopeful about their prospects, knowing they’d soon be entering the workforce during a robust economy, have suddenly been blindsided by a tragic twist of fate: the coronavirus pandemic. 

Enter the Terminator. There’s nothing Schwarzenegger can say to make their situation any better, but he does offer a strategy to see the graduates through the challenges before them. “I can promise you that this virus won’t be the last obstacle that you face. But it can help you prepare for the next one,” he starts. “That’s what life is all about—overcoming obstacles.”

From there, the Austian-American star shares a frightening medical experience he endured two years ago. Ironically, four months before he was set to shoot Terminator 6: Dark Fate, Schwarzengger’s own destiny took a turn for the worse; in fact, he says it was the “biggest obstacle that I faced.”

Upon discovering the actor’s heart valve was leaking blood, Schwarzenegger’s doctor recommended a heart valve replacement to be performed with a noninvasive procedure. While concerned about his health, the muscleman didn’t want the procedure to interfere with his readiness to perform in his physically rigorous upcoming role. Still, the actor agreed to have the valve replaced with the understanding that the recovery time was extremely short—just a day or two. He revealed:

“I woke up 16 hours later instead of four hours [later]. And there was a tube sticking out of my mouth. And then the doctor moved forward, and he took the tube and ripped it out of my throat. And I was coughing violently, and he says, ‘Just keep coughing.’ And then let us tell you what happened. So then he told me that they had to do an emergency surgery, that something went wrong during this kind of noninvasive procedure. And then it became very invasive. They said that they broke through the heart wall and there was internal bleeding, and I could have died if they didn’t open up my sternum and do open-heart surgery.”

Alarmed he was now at high risk of coming down with pneumonia, Schwarzenegger needed to remain in the hospital and take baby steps to gradually advance his healing via breathing exercises and the use of a walker. “I did the first ten steps like an old man,” he recalls. 

At this point, Arnold could have dropped out of his upcoming film, or at least try to have it postponed so he could take his time recovering. But he’s lived his life setting goals and working to achieve them whether he was resolved to become Mr. Universe, a superstar, or the governor of California.

“But I’ll tell you one thing. My usual principles worked because I was visualizing right away that I’m going to be on the date, August first, I will be on the set, and I will be shooting ‘Terminator.’ And I will be doing my fight scenes and everything that it requires,” the 72-year-old actor explained. 

With dedication, Schwarzenegger indeed reached his goal of making it to the set of Terminator 6 ready to go in both body and mind. 

As nobody in this world gets by without facing difficulties, Schwarzenegger urges graduates to take the time and really visualize their future and, once they are clear on that vision, to really zero in on achieving it. “If you know your vision, working will be fun. When you have a vision, then it’s not a grind anymore to go towards your vision in the work that you’re doing,” he insists.

And upon concluding the speech, Schwarzenegger asks his audience to “Ask yourself, who do you want to be? Not ‘what,’ but ‘who.’ You see, a disaster can change what you are—it can steal your job and force you inside—but it is who you are that rises in the face of adversity.”