There’s a good chance by now that someone you know has shared the Arnold Schwarzenegger video with you. In it, the former Terminator, Governor, and Barbarian pontificates about his disgust with the Capitol Riots, President Trump’s corruption, and why he believes that despite the events of January 6, 2021, American democracy is strong. But, in addition to all of that, Arnold also, perhaps without knowing it, created two teachable moments for parents and educators. Yes, his overall message was one about civics, but the foundation for it all is history and science.
Schwarzenegger begins his speech by reminding everyone of “Kristallnacht,” the moment from November 9 through 10 in 1938, that Nazis began arresting and killing Jewish people for no other reason than they were Jewish. Schwarzenegger equates Kristallnacht — “the night of broken glass” — with the Capitol Riots, not because it’s the same thing exactly, but because as he puts it, “being from Europe, I can see first hand how things can spin out of control.”
Schwarzenegger points out the historical fact that Kristallnacht was carried out by “the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys.” School-aged children, and some adults, probably forget this. Nazis didn’t just sweep in with soldiers and start rounding-up people based on state-sponsored bigotry. That intolerance was home-grown and fueled, as Arnold puts it, by “the people next door…who went along…step by step.”
Throughout the entire video, Arnold is holding his sword from the film Conan: The Barbarian on his desk. It’s not apparent at first, but at the end of the video, he busts it out to make a metaphorical point about how swords are strengthened by being tempered in flame. This is a nice analogy for the idea that ideas can endure even the worst of times, but it’s also a nice little lesson in how metallurgy actually works. Come on, be honest, when is the last time you actually talked to your kids about how strong metal alloys are forged and created? Arnold didn’t intend for this video to be a quick lesson in metallurgy, but it’s an amazing side-effect of his powerful speech.
In an age where viral videos tend to focus on the absurd, it’s nice that the takeaways of this viral speech from the Terminator were more than just a speech. If you paid attention, you learned something, too.