Mrs. Pratte, esteemed Board members, Mr. Price, Mrs. Mackenzie-Wright, International School of Monaco faculty and staff, mesdames et messieurs … and most of all, ISM middle school students.
… what a great honor to join you for your first Career Day.
There are many reasons why I am so happy to be here. But let me tell you about three in particular.
The obvious one, of course, is that I get to stand up here and single out my daughter, Giulia, who is an ISM student sitting right here in this room. Ciao, Giulia.
Another reason is the fact that we are all here to talk about different ideas that may help you determine your own future … and help set you on the path towards finding your passion.
And you might not yet realize it, but the cornerstone for making this all possible is already in place.
All you have to do is look around you … right here at ISM, where you are studying hard … or, at least, I hope you are …
… where you are learning new things, feeding your curiosity and maybe dreaming up different ideas that we will all hear about one day.
You see, an excellent education is a real gift.
It teaches you the skills you need to be successful in the career … or careers … that you will ultimately choose for yourselves.
But above all else, an excellent education sets you up to make informed decisions … to be creative, independent thinkers … to be compassionate doers … to be aware of the great, big world that you are a part of.
Now, I say all of these things not because I want to lecture you on the importance of doing your homework. You know that already, right?
Instead, I say these things because, like you, I was very fortunate.
Growing up in Naples on the Italian seaside, my parents made sure that my brothers and I had an excellent education. We might not have realized it at the time, but it was one of the greatest gifts they could have ever given us.
And they did it because they wanted to give us the best chance to live meaningful lives … lives that fulfilled the full definition of success.
But like most things that are worthwhile, it took a lot of hard work to get there.
My father, Domenico, had an incredible work ethic, which influenced me to study hard while I was a middle school student at the Liceo Classico … and later at the University of Naples … and the University of Lecce.
But the more I learned, the more I wanted to feed my curiosity, which was why I continued my studies abroad at Schwäbisch Hall in Germany … at Cambridge and Oxford in the United Kingdom … and at INSEAD, the Institut Catholique de Paris and La Sorbonne in France.
One of my favorite plays by Eduardo De Filippo, an Italian actor and author from my hometown, is Gli esami non finiscono mai … “The Exams Never End.” It certainly felt that way during that time in my life.
But aside from marrying my wife, Brunella, investing all that time and energy in learning was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
And because of my education, doors were opened to new, exciting career opportunities that otherwise would have been well out of reach for me.
After graduation, I was lucky to experience living in different parts of the world and working with talented people … in global consulting and investment firms … in the banking industry … and later at Fineco, where I was part of a team responsible for turning it into one of world’s largest online banks.
Since then, I have run businesses, banks and investment firms … and advised families and governments on their financing and investments.
If you look at it from a certain perspective, I was living a successful life.
But this brings me to my third reason why I am so happy to speak with you today.
I can tell you honestly that though I was grateful for my success, I could feel in my bones that I wasn’t living the fullest possible life.
It wasn’t until a serious illness became an unwanted guest in my home that I finally got the reality check I needed to start charting a new, more meaningful course for my life.
There is a passage in the Gospel of Luke that reads “to whom much is given, of him much will be required.”
I took this to heart.
My new life course had me devoting more time to those who weren’t nearly as fortunate as I was … and to the Jesuit Missionary Foundation in Italy, where I was surrounded by smart people motivated to do good.
It started taking me to Burkina Faso … a landlocked country in West Africa that is the third poorest in the world according to the United Nations … where only the fortunate few get a formal education.
In addition to building a dam and several water wells designed to stop the spread of infectious diseases … we built the Domenico Mennillo Agricultural School, named after my dad.
I think he would have been pleased by the work we are doing at his school. After all, it was because of him that I was able to see that education is a precious and powerful privilege … that parents everywhere in the world aspire to give to their children.
This is one of the reasons why we created our Mennillo family scholarships … to make sure that smart students from modest means can still get a top education.
With the privilege that you and I are so fortunate to have, comes great responsibility … at all ages in our lives.
Goethe, the great German writer, artist and politician, said that “if we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”
You see, you are part of a changing world where sharp thinkers and compassionate doers are needed more than ever before.
The ripple effects of the global economic crisis that we read about cut deep and are inherently changing how people and their families live … oftentimes not for the better.
As you chart the course of your own lives, you also have the responsibility to think beyond yourself, beyond ISM, beyond your accustomed comforts … to draw on your education and determine how you will help others become what they are capable of becoming.
You have the responsibility to filter out the noise and drill down to the heart of our modern challenges to influence responsible change.
Because the truth is, your actions are driven by how you think, the values you hold true and your readiness for responsibility.
One of my greatest hopes for all of you is that you keep this truth close as you start down your own path towards finding your passion.
This afternoon, talented people will be talking about what it’s like to work in journalism, law and medicine … IT, business and renewable energy … science, government, fashion and the arts.
I hope that you make the most of this opportunity.
I hope that you really listen.
I hope that you ask questions, no matter how big or small.
But most of all, I hope that the energy surrounding you today spills over into your genuine excitement in charting your own future … all the while, holding on to that truth, that responsibility to live out your lives with goodness, grace and guts. Because with those, you cannot fail.
Thank you and have fun today.