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Angel Cabrera

Angel Cabrera is president of the Thunderbird School of Global Management and denior adviser to the United Nations Global Compact on academic affairs. He blogs at Global Leaders Can Be Made.
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Do good!

Question: You’ve been asked to give a commencement speech to this year’s college graduates about their role as future leaders. Give us the two or three key paragraphs from your address.

In one of my favorite short stories by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, an elderly Ivan Ivanovitch, lamenting the banality of life, cries out, as if for all of us to hear:

“Don’t be calm and contented, don’t let yourself be put to sleep! While you are young, strong, confident, be not weary in well-doing! If there is a meaning and an object in life, that meaning and object is not our happiness, but something greater and more rational. Do good!”

Chekhov wrote those lines to you. To each of you. When your time arrives to look back at your life, his wish (my wish) for you is that you can look back and smile thinking about how much good you did.

Here is the good news. You are young, strong and confident. You have invested in your education, in acquiring the knowledge and skills to build and grow businesses around the world. At no time in history has there been a greater need for men and women like you who have the business skills, the enterprising spirit, the cultural awareness, the global mindset to manage hazards and seize opportunities. You are uniquely positioned to take advantage of these opportunities and to have successful global careers and all the comforts in life you aspire to.

But I hope the most important thing you take away from your education is an understanding of your ultimate responsibility to use those skills to have a positive impact. To do good! 

And I’m not talking about what you do with the money you earn, but about how you earn your money.  The beauty of business, the magic of being a manager is that you get to bring people and resources together to make valuable things, to serve others, to create value, to provide opportunities, to drive progress, to bring about prosperity to those around you.

I can think of no profession with greater nobility nor that can have a greater impact on society than that of the manager. The choices you make day in and day out as a manager can and will affect dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people and communities in which you operate. And with that comes great responsibility.

I would like to give you your first professional assignment: Help us who are educators deliver on our mission. Use the knowledge you’ve received to create sustainable prosperity worldwide. We have done our work, and now the responsibility lies with you to be the living embodiment of what we stand for as a community. You will be in good company with the many people around the world already leaving their mark on making the world a better place.

The journey won’t always be easy. Very soon you will face tough decisions that will have implications over the lives of many human beings: clients, employees, communities around the world. When that time comes, I want you to remember what you learned -- not just the finance formulas and marketing concepts, but also the values that we cherish and that define us as a community. 

View all panel responses to our discussion about the best words of wisdom to give this year’s graduates. Here are some of them:

Alan Webber: Do everything on purpose

Marie Wilson: Help a country hungry for its heart

Angel Cabrera: Do good!

Juana Bordas: Transform your community

John Baldoni: Believe in what you can achieve

George Reed: Care enough to lead

Amy Fraher: Commit to ethical thinking

Carol Goman: Rewire your brain

Angel Cabrera  | May 2, 2011 6:15 PM

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