Transcript of Gov. Remarks at San Joaquin Valley Recognition Ceremony

FRESNO, Calif.


Well, thank you very much for this wonderful gift, I really appreciate that and for this great honor. It is -- you know something, I was so shocked hearing all those speeches and it feels unbelievable. I was so excited coming up here, I have to tell you, because it's sometimes fun to get away from home especially, you know, when I told my wife this morning, I said, "Isn't that exciting? I'm going to go to Fresno and they're going to give me an award and they're going to give me a gift and they're going to say all kinds of very nice things about me."

She says, "OK, take out the trash and take the dog for a walk." (Laughter) So you know, you can't win at home, so this is why I'm very happy to be up here today.

But anyway, I think that what this basically means is that the Valley has really appreciated the kind of work that I've done. And also, finally, you probably have forgiven me for my movie "Jingle All the Way." (Laughter) So I think that's definitely a sign here today, that's very clear.

But you know, let me just tell you something, that people always wonder why I have been so excited about the Valley and about Fresno and about the San Joaquin Valley and all of this here. And they came up with all kinds of different ideas. It is maybe because they have the best-looking mayor in the country, Mayor Swearengin. (Laughter) Or it is because he's such good friends with Mayor Autry and they have so many things in common. Or maybe it is because he comes from a farm town in Austria and he grew up on a farm.

Whatever the reason is, the bottom line really is that I, as Mayor Autry has explained, that I always have been very intrigued about the valley, always appreciated very much what the valley contributes to California. I'm very much aware of the amount, the huge kind of agriculture business and the kind of foods that the Valley produces and so it's very clear that I wanted to pay a lot of attention to the Valley.

I think that Mayor Autry probably inspired me to actually go and be more involved with the Valley, as you have heard, because I think of Proposition 49. When I came up here for Proposition 49 -- I went on a state tour to talk about after school programs and the importance of having a program for kids that don't have parents to supervise them -- he really clicked into that right away when I called him and when I asked him for his help. And he immediately said, you know, "I'm in, I want to go and help you with this thing."

So he put a rally together here in Fresno of 3,000 people. Do you remember that huge rally? Three thousand people. I've never had, on any of this after -- because after school programs is not an exciting subject so, you know, people were kind of so-so, so it was really tough to get this initiative going. But when I came up here it really kicked off the campaign. It was extraordinary, the kind of publicity we got for this proposition. And it won in the end with 57 percent of the votes, so that was really terrific.

But I think a lot of people know about that and I think the mayor has referred to it. But the thing that he didn't talk about was what happened afterwards. After we did the rally he took me back to City Hall, to the mayor's office and then he put his hand on my shoulder and he said, "Brother, let's pray."

I said, "OK." (Laughter) And we started praying together and I was saying to myself as I was praying, "This is wild." (Laughter) "What's going on here?"

And then he said to me, he said, "Brother, let's kneel down and talk to the Lord. Halleluiah, talk to the Lord. Let's kneel down." And so there I was, kneeling in front of his desk with him. I just met the guy. (Laughter) I just met the guy and there we were kneeling. I mean, think about this.

When I went back to Los Angeles and I told this to my family, they couldn't believe it. They said, "What did you do today?"

I said, "You wouldn't believe it. We had a rally for 3,000 people and I was kneeling in front of the mayor's desk praying."

"What? You praying?"

I said, "Yes." So that's how we started our relationship. We were praying together and we were hugging each other. (Applause) Right?

So I just want to say, you know, thank you to him for this wonderful, wonderful kind of idea of coming up here and trying to say thank you to me and have all the people rally around and say thank you and all of the great speeches.

I want to thank Mayor Swearengin for the great, great things that you have said here about me. I also want to thank you for your great leadership, because I know very much what it was like for you to become mayor and to step into those kind of footsteps, a man with this kind of personality and force. He was a force for so many years and did such an extraordinary job. It was very tough.

But let me tell you, I just saw you the other day on a national television show and saw an interview. I mean, you are one of the smartest people. It was extraordinary to listen to you, how articulate you are, the creative leadership that you are showing here in this city. So thank you for being part of this great celebration. Let's give her a big, big hand. (Applause)

And Mayor Autry, like I said, we have -- and people were right -- it is because we have so many things in common. I mean, let's be honest, that's why we clicked right away. I mean, we like to work out -- we always talk about it on the phone. "How was your pump today? How was your workout?" And he's talking about his triceps, I'm talking about my intercostals and we're all talking this professional talk.

So we have that, we have the body thing. And then, of course, we both come from show business backgrounds, so we have that in common. Political philosophy, we have that in common. And also, neither one of us got ever an Oscar, so we have that in common, right? (Laughter) I mean, we are really known for our acting. Anyway -- (Laughter)

But he is a terrific guy. And I just want to say to you that this man has visited me more often in Sacramento than any mayor, that I can guarantee you. He was on it. As a matter of fact, I started calling him an "Alabama tick." (Laughter) I said, "It's amazing." And even -- not just for the infrastructure. I mean, you have to understand that this guy was there, you know, pushing to make sure that it doesn't just become a debate between Perata and Nunez when it comes to infrastructure, that it doesn't just become a fight between Newsom and Villaraigosa -- the two mayors, one from San Francisco and one from Los Angeles -- but that it is also a battle that he can bring to the table and say hey, wait a minute, it's not between the north and the south, that I am here, I am representing the Valley.

And so he was there every step of the way with the infrastructure battle that we had and he rallied together -- and let me tell you, I just want to say, David Cogdill, Senator Cogdill, Nicole Parra, Chuck Poochigian and people like that -- Democrats and Republicans he brought together. And we all fought together this battle to make sure there's enough money, so when they put $10 billion aside for building schools there's also a lot of money for the Central Valley to build schools, so when they put together money for affordable housing there's enough money there also for affordable housing in the Central Valley, when they talk about rebuilding the levees that the levees are being rebuilt in the Valley.

So all of those things, we made sure that there was enough money and that everyone is aware of the Valley. Because, as I said, that the only way you can do that is by just continuously pounding away and talking to them about the Valley. And to stop talking about just the south versus the north but to make sure they understand there's a south, there's a southern part, there's the middle part and there's the northern part. The Central Valley and Fresno is a very important component and I think they've got it now. Now there is no more debate over there.

And the key thing is and I just want you to know -- and we just talked about it at the table -- the important thing is that the new governor understands that also. As a matter of fact, one of my first conversations I had with Governor-elect Brown was to talk about the Central Valley and I mentioned how important the Central Valley is and how we need to continue on in the future with paying attention to the Central Valley. (Applause) But it all started right here.

I want to thank also very much DeWayne Zinkin for coming out here and saying these wonderful words, because as you said -- and I don't need to say much more -- that our relationship goes back to 42 years ago when I met your father down on Muscle Beach and when he was, out of nowhere -- just when I was watching them doing all those acrobatics and holding people in their hands and putting them on the shoulder and then balancing and doing all kinds of things, jumping and all, pyramids that went eight people high -- it was just extraordinary. And he was one of those great, great gymnasts and acrobats and he came up to me and he said, "Why don't you participate?" And I started participating and I was fascinated by the whole thing.

Then he invited me up here to Fresno and he said, "I'm going to help you create a comic book, because you've got to do a comic book and you've got to go and do a TV series and then go on the big screen." That's the kind of plans he had for me already in 1970; that's how far back it goes. So this is why -- he invited me up here many times to the Valley, to Fresno, to go waterskiing, hanging out with his family and all this. He treated me like a jewel, so I will never forget that. And it makes me so happy and I know he's smiling down from heaven, because after he passed away we have continued on my relationship with the Zinkin family. It's so important to me because it started, like I said, in 1968 when I first came over here to this country. So it's great. Thank you so much for being here today and to also say those nice words. (Applause)

And it's great to see also Chief Dyer back there. Where is he? Get up, Chief. There he is. Look at his deltoids, look at his chest; it's all pumped up. (Applause) And there's another thing, even though you were not up here but I just want you to know how much I loved working with you these last few years since I have come into office, because you are the top law enforcement person -- not here, not just in California but in the nation -- in the nation. You are the number one in the nation, the creative leadership that you have shown and the great work that you have done. (Applause)

And I just want you all to know that this is very special, just not only because he's Dyer but because he's in law enforcement. Those guys -- we just lost another man in Riverside and just last week I was down in San Diego at a funeral where we lost another man. I mean, the danger that they're exposed to every single day -- we don't think about it. But I tell you, that when you go to those funerals or when you meet with them and when you talk about those issues, you think about it all the time.

Because just remember one thing; that when you and I have a bad day we go home and we're depressed, or we go home and we complain, or we go home and we cry. But when they have a bad day they're dead. That's the difference. Think about that. So this is why those are my heroes. These are the true action heroes. We play action heroes, right? But those are the true action heroes, so let's give him a hand again. (Applause)

Pastor Alquist, (Phonetic) I just wanted to -- where is the pastor? He was around here. Oh yeah, right there, OK. Thank you so much for coming up here and saying the prayer. I feel already much more strong and pumped up, just from that prayer, so that was really terrific.

And I want to thank also Pete Weber and Fitz and Supervisor Oliveira for the wonderful contributions here today. And Assemblywoman Galgiani said some wonderful things there on the screen; I just appreciated that. It was really terrific working with her and also having someone that is so enthusiastic about high-speed rail.

I tell you, that's what we need, because let me tell you, every single time I go out there and talk about high-speed rail, I show them the map and the map always shows that the high-speed rail goes through Fresno. So there's not even a different idea out there. We want to make sure that the high-speed rail is here and that we're building it here and that we're creating those hundreds of thousands of jobs right here. And it's going to be extraordinary. It's going to be fantastic. (Applause)

I also want to say thank you to the Latino Water Coalition that was so important to get our water deal done. I want to thank the Chamber of Commerce; I want to thank Congressman Radanovich for the wonderful energy that he has continued bringing and was such a great, great partner, so we appreciate that also very much.

And I, of course, want to say also thank you to my wife, because let me tell you something, the work that I do and the sacrifices that you have to make -- not just personally but, I mean, the family. I always mention the family because, remember, this is a partnership. We don't do those things alone. I think anyone that is in here knows that the spouses also have to kick in and especially when you're in this kind of a situation where you work sometimes 14, 15 hours a day, the family is missing you. I have had my scenes at home, let me tell you, of children crying at the table at dinner, saying, "Daddy, why aren't you home more? We miss you. Why aren't you home more?" and all of those things. So that's the thing, that's why it's so important, because Maria is picking up the slack every single day and she takes the kids to school, she spends the time with the kids, with the various different programs and also doing the homework and so on and so forth.

But, I mean, I think it is very important that we continue now with this thing. And I'm very fortunate and I tell you, that I would not be here today and I would not have been able to do the kind of things for the Valley that I have done if it wouldn't have been for the great working relationship that we had.

Pete Mehas, for instance -- he's a perfect example of that. Think about the amount of years that he has helped me. Pete, one of the first people I remember when I came into office and I needed help with education, to be part of our group that forms the education future for California -- Pete came there and he was there every step of the way. He was over there and he talked about his experience, because there's no one that's more experienced about education than this man. He has been involved in education for 400 years, let me just make it very simple. (Applause) But that guy is just extraordinary. But he helped us and now, after he retired from that job, we put him right back to work again at the CSU, to become one of the leaders of our university system and he has done an extraordinary job also there. Let's give him a big hand for the great job that he has done. (Applause)

But I just want to tell you that the person that I always give credit to is my mother-in-law. She's also up there in heaven, probably smiling right now because I mentioned her name. She had an ego as big as mine. (Laughter) But let me tell you something, that when I met Maria in 1977 and I was only concerned about how big my bicep is, how much money I'm going to make, how I'm going to be the leading man in movies -- about I, I, I. And I heard Eunice always talk about "we," and how "we" are going to help the people and how "we" are going to move things forward in America. And how "we" are going to help the retarded people, the people that are intellectually challenged and how "we" are going to go around the world and we're going to go and build Special Olympics and stuff. And it was always about what they do for other people rather than I, I, I.

And it was really important to get that lesson. You're a young guy that comes over to America and you want to go and conquer the world and you want to go and make money and be the best bodybuilder and be the most successful actor and all of those things. And then, all of a sudden, you're kind of being taken off that track, in a way and you hear always about what can you do for other people, not just what can you do for yourself. And that had a really extraordinary impact on me, a profound impact.

That conversation at that family -- her father -- Eunice Kennedy Shriver didn't just create the Special Olympics in 181 countries but Maria's father created the Peace Corps, the Job Corps, Legal Aid to the Poor, Vista, all of those programs. So I was fortunate. It's almost like God has sent me into this family and said look, you have a lot of energy and a lot of passion. We want to channel it in the right direction.

And so I got involved in Special Olympics and in no time started developing programs and worked my way up to become the international coach of Special Olympics. We started including also weight training and all of those things. And that led to becoming the chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, traveling through all 50 states.

So I, all of a sudden, developed this desire that I want to give back. I realized that this country has embraced me with open arms. It has given me everything that I have, if it is the bodybuilding career, the acting career, if it was the money that I have made, everything -- the family that I have, the four beautiful children, the best wife that anyone could ever dream of -- that I got all of this. It's time to give back. That's why I got involved with the President's Council on Fitness, I got involved in After School Programs and then the initiative, Proposition 49 and all of those things. And I had so much energy and I was so excited that I want to do something for America, I wanted to do something for my state. But it all started from my mother-in-law.

Then eventually -- now, think about this -- when I told my mother-in-law I'm going to run for governor -- here's a Republican, right? This is a Democratic family -- you would say she's not enthusiastic about that. But she didn't care about that. She just said, "That is fantastic, because that's when you can do your ultimate job, which is to serve all of the people, not just the Special Olympians, not just the kids for After School programs, not just the kids that do fitness but all of the people of California."

And she came out and campaigned with me. It was the first time she stood next to any Republican, let me tell you and campaigned. (Laughter) And on top of it -- and she always told me, "Never tell Teddy." (Laughter) Because she gave me, she wrote a check for $22,000 towards my campaign. And she said, "You know, I never gave Teddy that kind of money." (Laughter, applause) So now, since Teddy has passed away, I can go public with that story, that she gave money to a Republican. Anyway, so that's the kind of enthusiasm there was. And she came to the Capitol and all of this and she kept pushing me and pushing me and inspiring me and inspiring me.

So, you know, we all have somebody that we remember, if it is a teacher, if it is your father, if it's your mother, if it's a coach, if it's a mentor, whoever it is that makes us tick, that makes us go and go out there and work and get motivated -- well, that was my kind of a motivation. The discipline I got from my parents back in Austria but to go and reach out and to not think about -- and this is why when Mayor Autry just said earlier that I didn't take a penny for my work -- I wouldn't dare take a penny. I wouldn't dare take a penny. I made millions and millions of dollars in California here doing my movies in America. Why would I take all of a sudden $175,000? That's petty cash. What are we talking about here? (Laughter) That would be ludicrous for me to take that money so, of course I didn't take it. I said, you know, "Put it back and use it for something else, because we have so many people in this state that need help."

And let me tell you, with all of the things that we have accomplished here in these last seven years -- if it is Workers' Compensation reform or the infrastructure, rebuilding California and the political reforms of creating open primaries, or redistricting reform and including now the congressional districts and all of this and health care reform and all of this stuff -- I'm only going to be happy with all of the work when I see people again, all people, back to work and all people getting an equal education, all of our children get equal education and when our economy comes back. Because you can't go around and declare victory about all of the things that we have done when, in fact, there are still too many people out of work and too many people are suffering and too many people have no homes or are losing their homes. (Applause)

So I'm proud and I'm happy of what we have done but there's a lot, a lot of work ahead of us. And so, as this new administration comes in, it never mattered to me if it would be a Democrat or a Republican when it comes to helping them with the transition. We are going to work with Brown now, with the transition. We want to make sure that we continue on with the state. I think the state sees slowly signs of coming back. We have seen $1.6 billion more in revenues coming in since last July than was anticipated. So there are good signs there, even though there is struggle out there.

But we hope that the economy comes back and that we rebuild California again as quickly as possible, because no matter where you go in the world there are problems right now but this is still the number one place in the world. It's the greatest state in the greatest country in the world.

Thank you very much. Thank you all for the great, great honor. Thank you. (Applause)

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.