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Loyola University Chicago


J.C. Gonzalez-Mendez

Keynote address: Quinlan School of Business

Good morning to the Class of 2013!

I want to extend thanks to Reverend Michael Garanzini, President of Loyola University … Kathleen Getz, Dean of the Quinlan School of Business… Board members, esteemed faculty and staff… and all other dignitaries joining us today.

I also want to extend congratulations to each of you graduate—and your proud families who have supported you along the journey you have taken to get here today. It is an honor and privilege to stand before you.

Little could I have known when I was raised in Mexico City, one of seven children from a close-knit family that worked hard to make ends meet, that I would one day have this opportunity of a lifetime to speak before you today. And to be humbled to receive an honorary degree from an institution as distinguished as Loyola University Chicago.

It also fills me with tremendous pride to have my beloved wife Deborah and my wonderful family—daughters Denise and Melissa and my son, Carlos—in attendance today to share this special occasion with me.

I’d like to share a few thoughts with you on the importance of leadership as you continue your life’s journey, specifically your unique ability to be a leader of tomorrow—and our society’s increasingly strong need for you to fill that role.

Look around you. What do you see?

You see the leaders of tomorrow.

But keep in mind that you are at the core of that leadership potential, because you control your destiny to be such a leader, and to contribute to our world in a meaningful way. It’s similar to how I felt when I graduated from college “just a few years ago.” 

Like you, I sat in a commencement ceremony wondering what lies ahead—and what I could contribute to society. Little did I know it would include a now 29-year career that began as the first employee for McDonald’s Mexico, leadership roles in such areas as operations, supply chain, corporate social responsibility and sustainability, Ronald McDonald House Charities, and world travel to every corner of the globe.

My career with McDonald’s has helped make that possible, and sometimes I was in the right place at the right time. But I also learned I needed to be prepared. We live in a global society that thirsts for great leadership, for those who not only strive to make a difference, but have the ability and drive to make “vision” a “reality.”

Each of you sitting before me today has the ability to be such a leader. Think about our world as it stands today:  

But you offer us hope—hope for a brighter future.

It starts with the outstanding education that you have received at Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business. And because of this you have an advantage over your contemporaries, because as John F. Kennedy sagely noted, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

You have wisely followed our 35th president’s advice and armed yourself with the tools and resources needed to be a leader. The question is: Have you fully prepared yourselves for both the opportunities—and the challenges—that lie ahead?

The challenge before you will be to hone the skills you have learned at Loyola, and to complement them with the personal values and principles that define you as a person.

As any good student would, I did some research to identify the best values and principles for ensuring future success. Now, in my day, you turned to the Encyclopedia Britannica or the World Book for such information. Yes, actual books! But I have learned along the way that today’s answers to life’s questions are just a click away.

So I did some browsing and found that if you Google the term “values,” you obtain 721 million hits; if you narrow your search to “values and principles,” you get only 106 million options! And if you further refine it to “values and principles of leadership,” you still have to go through 20 million pieces of information!

Who says technology has expanded our ability to answer these life-affirming questions?  In fact, even for bright students like yourselves, this is not a search you want to undertake in your free time. So what’s one to do?

I’d offer that the answer can actually best come from within—especially if part of your success will ultimately come from without.

So what do I mean by this?  Well I think Jack Welch sums it up well when he notes that, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.  When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

This is aligned with an enduring characteristic of Jesuit education—and therefore Loyola—which is an emphasis on ethics and values for fostering professional and personal growth. Both your own and that of others. With this in mind, today I’d like to share with you the three key characteristics that I personally believe distinguish great leaders.

Now it’s important to keep in mind that this is my personal list of most important values and traits. You may agree or disagree. However, I think that you will find them to be universal in nature. 

The first is integrity: 

Second is courage: 

And third is persistence: 

In closing, today marks the beginning of an incredible journey that can take you wherever you would like, as a leader of tomorrow. But for that to happen, you need to have a plan and then execute it.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that this journey will include unexpected detours. But you will ultimately follow the right path if you… 

I’ll close with a quote by Abraham Lincoln that I think sums it up well. As depicted in the history books—and the recent movie about his life—Lincoln was about keeping it simple. And it was seven simple words he shared that we should all carry with us as we strive for excellence in leading … and living.

Lincoln simply said: “Whatever you are, be a good one.”

Do so and I am confident you will be a success.

Thank you for your time today. Congratulations again on this incredible achievement. And now go out and CHANGE THE WORLD!!


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