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A Big Dream

By Fireflies for the Heart

Arnold was born on July 30, 1947 in a small second floor apartment of a large house in an isolated village in Austria. Growing up the second of two sons, his abusive father made it clear that he favored the older brother and beat and taunted Arnold often calling him "Cinderella." Following their father's lead, Arnold's older brother constantly picked on him.

Because of the verbal, emotional and physical abuse, young Arnold dreamed of getting away from his family and becoming strong, rich and famous. His dream revolved around leaving not only his family, but his country as well. "I love Austria and love the Austrian people. But I always knew that America was the place for me. In school, when the teacher would talk about America. . . I would daydream about living there. I would sit. . . and watch for hours American movies, transfixed by my heroes like John Wayne. Everything about America seemed so big to me, so open, so possible."

His dream was beginning to take shape.

Arnold enjoyed sports but was a scrawny guy. To gain strength for high school sports, he began lifting weights. "I was always interested in proportion and perfection. When I was 15, I took off my clothes and looked in the mirror. . . I realized that to be perfectly proportioned, I would need 20-inch arms to match the rest of me."

As Arnold progressed in his body building efforts, he noticed his shoulders, chest and arms were developing nicely, but his thighs and calves weren't doing as well. To motivate himself to work harder on his legs, Arnold cut his trousers off at the knees and walked around with his "chicken legs" showing. The challenge worked - comments from people passing by pushed him to keep working on building up his leg muscles. Arnold's goal was to become "the best built man in the world."

By the time he was 18 years old, Arnold was physically "pumped up." He easily became the 1965 Junior Mr. Europe. The legend was born...

Arnold Schwarzenegger went on to claim many professional titles including the International Power Lifting Championship before making his long-dreamed-of move to the United States. He went on to garner the Mr. Universe title as the youngest-ever winner at the age of 20. He won the title four more times. At age 23 he captured his first of seven Mr. Olympia titles.

Driven by his passion to be taken seriously and to become wealthy, Arnold obtained a correspondence degree in business and international economics from the University of Wisconsin. Along with some well-invested business money, Arnold worked his goal toward riches. He became a millionaire in business long before his success in movies.

Arnold's big dream of becoming a movie star like his hero, John Wayne, proved more elusive. Because of his strong Austrian accent, he had difficulty landing roles. He got his first role in Hercules Goes to New York in 1970, but Schwarzenegger's career- launching role came with The Terminator in 1984. The rest is movie history.

Being truly famous was also part of his goal list. After marrying the niece of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Maria Shriver, Arnold found himself the only Republican in a very famous and influential United States Democrat family! He then served as Chairman of the President's Council on Sports and Fitness for President George Bush, and now serves as governor of the State of California.

Arnold has a great sense of humor and a huge heart for the welfare of children (he and Maria have four of their own). He has participated in the Special Olympics (started by Maria's mother) for over 25 years and supports children's programs both in and out of school.

Reflecting over the years, Arnold says, "In the beginning I was selfish. It was all about, 'How do I build Arnold? How can I win the most Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympic contests? How can I get into the movies and get into business?' I was thinking about myself... As I've grown up, got older, maybe wiser, I think your life is judged not by how much you have taken, but by how much you give back."

From his difficult beginnings as a beaten, abused child in a remote European village, to the fulfillment of huge dreams in his adopted country, Arnold Schwarzenegger did what it took to move beyond his circumstances. It took hard work and dogged determination. None of it came easily. And Arnold now understands that life is not about how much you get - it's about how much you give back.

As you move forward in the pursuit of your dreams, never forget that it truly is in giving that you will receive!

Ginny Dye, Sandi Valentine and Suess Karlsson of Fireflies for the Heart are a team of writers who all share a passion to empower and motivate everyone who they touch through their writing.

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