Lessons From My Father

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Katherine Schwarzenegger 250x200
Katherine Schwarzenegger




By Katherine Schwarzenegger

You know him as a world champion bodybuilder, an international movie star, and the California Governor.  But to me, he’s Daddy -- and I want to honor him this Father’s Day by writing about what he means to me.

Of course, being the daughter of such an iconic, intelligent, stereotype-busting, risk-taking, high-achieving man as my Arnold Schwarzenegger means I’ve been privileged to have many extraordinary adventures and experiences in my life.    But to tell you the truth, it’s the lessons I’ve learned from him that I hold even more precious.

In so many ways, he’s like every other Dad: loving, supportive, and sometimes challenging.  That’s today.  But when I was younger and he was away on movie sets so much of the time, I didn’t feel close to him.  Instead, I regarded him as a superhuman kind of guy out there, doing great things.  After all, none of the other kids had a father who had all the people screaming out his name when we went out for ice cream.  That was fun, but there was a downside:  When I was little and he’d come home from the studio still in full Terminator makeup, I’d be terrified and would run away.

Since my father became governor, though, we’ve grown much closer, and it’s not just because he’s home more.  I’ve been amazed to watch him handle his new career, the new relationships he’s forged, and the new expectations the public has of him.  Watching my father, talking to him these past seven years has brought me closer to him and has provided me with many bonding and learning opportunities.

The truth is, I didn’t really understand why he wanted to run for office in the first place.  I wondered why he’d choose to leave a life of luxury and ease to put himself into one of the toughest jobs in the country.  But he told me that was exactly why he wanted to do it.  For him, going after the impossible gives him joy.   He taught me that while you might not like challenges at the time, it’s through hard work and determination that you learn lessons and build character.  He said if you want to feel good about yourself – if you want to never be bored -- don’t just do the things that come easily to you.  The thing that requires effort, will, and discipline is the accomplishment you’ll be proudest of. 

Since he’s been in office, my dad has received both positive and negative comments about his actions and choices as governor.  Now this is way more serious than good and bad movie reviews!  Seeing my father get beat up on TV and in the newspapers and online makes me angry.  And hearing and seeing the haters he sometimes encounters as he goes around the state is overwhelming to me at times. 

But when I look for his own reaction to the criticism and nastiness, he always seems to have on the same face he does when he gets gushing compliments.   It just doesn’t bother him.  He always keeps his head up and a smile on.  When I’ve asked him how he processes the mean things people can throw at him, he says, “I hear what they’re saying, but it doesn’t matter to me.”  He keeps doing what he loves to do – taking on daily challenges and doing what he thinks is right.  That doesn’t mean he doesn’t learn.  He’s the quickest and smartest learner I’ve ever known.  The trick is that he listens to criticism, but he never takes it too personally or lets it affect his self-esteem -- a great lesson for me as I move out into the real world myself.  

Throughout this past year, as I’ve taken on extracurricular projects like this blog, my father has always been there supporting me.  He never sugarcoats his reactions, always making sure to tell it to me like it is – but he adds a little side of love to each order.  Sometimes I might not want to hear it, because it requires me to start over and work harder, but in the end I know it makes my work better, and I am prouder of what I’ve accomplished.  That’s exactly how my dad goes about improving, too.  He’s an incredible role model for working hard until you get it right.

I want to thank my dad for teaching me these crucial life lessons:  to always work my hardest at everything, to treat those who criticize you just as you would those who praise you, to always do what you love, not what someone tells you to do, and finally not to worry about what others say or let it affect how you think about yourself.  He has taught me that there will always be people who criticize your choices, your views, and your actions.  He always tells me he would never have accomplished what he has in his amazing life, had he listened to what others thought he should do and say.  My dad believes in doing what you love and doing it well – maybe the greatest life lesson of all.

So I want to wish my dad a Happy Father’s Day.  Daddy, I love you -- and I can’t wait to learn more!

P.S.  I almost forgot.  It was my dad who taught me how to do laundry when I was 8 years old.  He said, “Everyone should know how to do their own laundry.”  I thought he was nuts, but when I got to college, I found out that one more time, Father Knows Best!





Katherine Schwarzenegger is a sophomore at the University of Southern California and is majoring in communications with a minor in gender studies. She created VIDA Bags last fall to promote the awareness of maternal mortality. Her book on body image -- Rock What You’ve Got!: Secrets to Loving Your Inner and Outer Beauty from Someone Who’s Been There and Back -- will be released in the fall. You can follow Katherine Schwarzenegger on Twitter @KSchwarzenegger.

Katherine Schwarzenegger will be speaking at The Women's Conference 2010.

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  • The one and only!

    Posted by RobAahi, 23 June 2010.

  • Katherine keep smiling plz... and stay always with your Father. Remember always he is your father, don't hurt him any time. As a Father he always guides you. And Happy Father's Day to you. I also respect your father.

    Posted by Tathagata, 20 June 2010.

  • to JennH -- I'm the third daughter (out of four) of a single parent who was making not much more than $10,000 a year. Guess what? I went to USC. I got tons of loans and grants. Scholarships also exist. USC being expensive doesn't mean only wealthy people go there. Actually, I was the poorest out of all my friends from high school and ironically I went to the most expensive school. I really wish the stereotype of USC having only rich kids would go away...

    To Katherine -- thanks so much for this post. GO TROJANS!

    Posted by lookitschloe, 20 June 2010.

  • Just beautifully written! I truthfully wish I could have had a good father - you have an amazing father - and the lessons he taught you took me decades to figure out on my own. God bless you, you're parents must be so proud! Excellent essay!!!!! Best of luck to you and keep up the terrific writing!!!!!!

    Posted by cocolicquot, 20 June 2010.

  • Its really nice writing. Inspirational. You are very happy and your parents must be very proud. Wish you best of luck.

    Fahim Murshed
    Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    Posted by Fahim Murshed, 19 June 2010.

  • This is trully inspirational. I can't get my kids to pick up their toys and your dad got you to do laundry. How did he do that exactly? Half Joking. Seriously-I hope I do half as good of a job with my children as your parents have done with you. I agree with Kathy-your parents must be proud! And rightly so.

    Posted by zippy, 19 June 2010.

  • your parents must be very proud!

    Posted by Kathy Greene, 19 June 2010.

  • awesome blog katherine!,your dad has always been someone i saw as a wise person,ive always believed in him,im glad he is in office but i must say i do miss seeing him do the movies .....

    Posted by veritas, 19 June 2010.