Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took some shots at President Trump today during a national after-school summit in Los Angeles.
“President Trump promised us that he wants to make America great again,” Schwarzenegger said of his fellow Republican. “That’s not how you make America great—by taking $1.2 billion away from the children and robbing them blind. Why would you want to balance the budget on the backs of those kids? Kids are the most vulnerable citizens. Kids are our future. We need them. That’s why I say every time that you spend money on those kids wisely you get it back 10 times over.”
Schwarzenegger was referring to the president’s proposed federal budget, which would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. The program supports after-school and summer programs for students in low-income communities. Cutting it would save $1.2 billion.
Schwarzenegger, who starred in such films as “The Terminator” and “Total Recall” before entering politics, also vowed to lobby to keep those funds in the budget. He called the crowd of advocates for after-school programs, “crusaders, warriors, and terminators.”
“We’re going to go to Washington,” Schwarzenegger said. “We’re not going to take this lying down. We’re going to talk to the Democrats and the Republicans because this is not a party issue.”
Schwarzenegger was speaking during the “Ready to Work: How After-school Programs Prepare Students for the Challenges of the 21st Century Workforce” summit, which was hosted by the USC (University of Southern California) Schwarzenegger Institute in partnership with Afterschool Alliance and the After-School All-Stars. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation supported the event.
During a conversation with Van Jones, the host of CNN’s “The Messy Truth,” Schwarzenegger discussed his upbringing in Austria where he grew up with a stay-at-home mom and a dad who spent time with him playing sports in the evenings.
Schwarzenegger said he became interested in after-school programs when he served as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under former President George H.W. Bush.
Through that job, he said he travelled to all 50 states and was dismayed to see students with nothing to do after school ended.
“At 3 o’clock I always saw hundreds of kids being sent outside,” said Schwarzenegger. “They were just standing around.”
He said he would always ask the principals who was coming to pick up those kids, and the answer was always no one because their parents were working.
“I started thinking about that,” said Schwarzenegger. “I felt sorry for those kids that they don’t have someone there helping them with homework. I felt sorry for those kids that there was no one there that picks them up and takes them to the sports field. There’s no one there helping them play a guitar or do something musical, arts or painting.”
That’s when Schwarzenegger said he decided one way he could give back to this country would be to start after-school programs. In 2002, he founded the Los Angeles branch of the After-School All-Stars.
During his conversation with Jones, Schwarzenegger also encouraged the crowd not to just complain about things they don’t like in the government.
“Instead of complaining about something, it is better to go and have a solution and do something about it,” said Schwarzenegger. “Congress has a 15 percent approval rating, which is worse than herpes or colonoscopies. But 98 percent of them got re-elected in this last election, so you are the problem. Instead of complaining in front of the television set, do something about it. Listen more carefully [to] what they say, and think about redistricting reform because the whole political system is fixed in the first place.”
The summit also featured panels on how sports help students succeed later in life, how after-school programs keep students on track and in school, and how these programs prepare students for life after graduation and encourage an entrepreneurial spirit.
Guests included local school officials, government leaders, and celebrities such as Mario Lopez.
Schwarzenegger will continue his conversation with Jones tonight during a town hall conversation that will be broadcast live at 9 eastern time.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.