Dave Benett/G80/Getty Arnold Schwarzenegger with Mikhail Gorbachev (right) and his daughter, Irina Virganskaya (left)
"There's an old saying, 'Never meet your heroes.' I think that's some of the worst advice I've ever heard," Schwarzenegger wrote on Instagram Tuesday. "Mikhail Gorbachev was one of my heroes, and it was an honor and a joy to meet him."
The actor-turned-politician continued by saying that everyone can learn from Gorbachev, who instilled democratic values into the Soviet Union's government and helped bring an end to the Cold War by working to repair international relations.
Ultimately, Gorbachev's plan to reform the USSR unintentionally brought an end to the communist nation and forced him to step down as a world leader.
"Imagine rising to the very top of any organization, and then having the wisdom AND the courage to look around and say, 'This doesn't work for the people, someone has to fix it. If not me, who? If not now, when?'" Schwarzenegger said.
He continued: "Mikhail Gorbachev did exactly that in the old Soviet Union. He will be remembered for all time as a hero who dismantled the communist system despite what it meant for his own power."
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The former governor noted that "he belongs to history now," and offered an optimistic outlook that Gorbachev is likely "overjoyed" to be reunited with his late wife, Raisa Gorbachev, who died in 1999.
Schwarzenegger's tribute ended with a call for others to live like Gorbachev: "When you see a chance to make an impact, to leave a better world for the next generation, I hope you'll think about Gorbachev and ask yourself, 'If not me, who? If not now, when?' I know I will."