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by Jennie S. Bev

I was invited to attend an annual presentation by the 38th governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as organized by The Commonwealth Club, a public affairs forum, at the historical Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco last month.

Beyond my expectations, which later turned my skepticism upside down, this former Terminator and Kindergarten Cop is more than a celebrity hunk, but also a brainy politician, an intelligent speaker and an inspiring leader who is not only charming but also mind-set changing.

Many lessons can be learned from the substance, the presentation style and the speaker's character as conveyed to the public in a mesmerizing way. Indonesian celebrities who are considering or already in the world of politics can definitely learn from Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger talked about California being an international leader in the "green movement" with the accomplishment of AB 32 California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 and what his position is on the chant "Drill, Baby Drill,” which was made popular in the recent Republican Convention.

Schwarzenegger opened the speech with appreciation of Teddy Roosevelt –a strong advocate and a visionary of environment stewardship who spoke in the same forum in 1911– and how he is grateful for materializing a life that is way beyond his wildest dreams.

I agree with this former Mr. Universe's notion that California might be a small spot on the world map, but it has the power and influence of a continent. And it is backed by strong economic power. According to the 2007 CIA World Factbook, if California were an independent nation, it would have been the 10th largest economy in the world, alongside the United States, China, Japan, India, Germany, the UK, Russia, France, and Brazil.

Under Schwarzenegger's tenure, genuine concerns about environmental conservation by reducing greenhouse gases and carbon footprints are a strong internal motor that have made California a leader.

"We've reached a tipping point on the environment, and two years after I signed our ambitious global warming law, California is now at the forefront of the fight against climate change," Schwarzenegger said. "We are not waiting for the federal government to get going but are working to lay the groundwork for an eventual national climate change program. The truth is there is far more economic opportunity in fighting global warming than there is economic risk.”

While Al Gore aims to implement completely renewable energy sources within 10 years, which will not be possible as scientists and activists have shown reservations, Schwarzenegger realistically aims for 20 percent renewable energy sources by 2010, which is doable. After all, as he quoted Bismarck, "Politics is the art of possible rather than the art of perfection.”

On "Drill, Baby Drill,” he recalled that in 1968, when he had just arrived in California, there was an oil spillage that overran Moss Beach in Los Angeles with tar. At that point, he made a pact to protect the environment. He clearly confirmed his stance that he would oppose any offshore drilling in California –and the whole of the United States for that matter– regardless of the two presidential candidates' softening position on this issue.

He added that he would explore other renewable energy opportunities, such as nuclear, solar, wind and clean coal. In addition, he said he believed that if all states of the United States used California's standards, it would be much more efficient as the guidelines are readily available for execution.

Overall, the substance of this speech might sound a bit typical in terms of its green messages, but the presentation itself was one of the most powerful I have ever seen. Such an impeccable, humorous and confident facade cannot be learned in a few days or even months. Schwarzenegger, apparently, has mastered the art of being an inspiring leader, which is about much more than being a celebrity politician. He has morphed into The Great Inspirer; as he put it bluntly, "We need to inspire people to act."

In Indonesia, we have seen many celebrities trying to get lucky by plunging into the world of politics. We have seen how their celebrity status is the key to being elected to a position in parliament or another executive position. And Indonesians might possess a far different mentality than Americans, but all humans prefer to be inspired and to inspire others, especially in this trying time when Mother Nature needs our protection and care much more than before.

After all, the start of autumn might mean we are facing the inevitable winter, but we can flip it over into the dawn of spring. And one of the keys to success is having strong and inspiring leaders whose vision is in alignment with the world's greatest contemporary need: a sustainable environment where mankind, civilization, flora, fauna and the planet are in balance.

And for this, we can learn from the one who ended his speech with "I'll be back!"[]

The Jakarta Post, October 20, 2008


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