Andrea Mennillo’s speech at International School of Monaco (ISM) 2014

Mrs. Pratte, Mr. Price, Mrs. Mackenzie-Wright … International School of Monaco board of trustees, teachers and staff, fellow ISM parents, mesdames et messieurs … and above all, ISM middle school students … good morning.

I can’t tell you how honored and delighted I am to be with you today at your second annual Career Day. I had so much fun being here this time last year, so thank you for inviting me back!

As any proud parent in this room will likely feel, sending our daughter Giulia to a school like ISM is the closest my wife and I will ever know what it feels like to win the Monaco Grand Prix.

ISM teachers and staff, we parents hold you dear.

Not only do you instill the love of learning in our children … but by hosting this career day, you are showing us that it is never too early … or, for some of us, too late … to create ourselves.

And I’m using the word “create” here for an important reason.

Oftentimes we hear people talk about going to great lengths to find themselves … to give them purpose or direction. This might involve going on epic journeys, ticking off items from their so-called bucket lists, or doing things that scare them to make them feel more alive.

But I would argue there’s no need to find yourself … because you are sitting in this very room, sitting on those very chairs in this very special place. You are here, you are safe and, by the grace of a good God, you are very much alive.

We are here for your career day because we want to help you … whatever way we can … to discover something new or unexpected. To spark your interests in a field of study or in a line of work, be it in arts or culture, design or engineering, business or science, law or medicine, journalism, government, or any other field.

And hopefully, from this discovery, your imagination will let you see the many different possibilities that await you … and the paths that you can take to realize your dreams. Because it is through these discoveries that you will create your true self.

Maybe some of you are still unconvinced that there’s a need to talk about careers at this point in your young lives.

After all, you are busy studying hard and doing your homework … right? You are focused on going to sports practice, learning how to play an instrument or creating your own works of art. You are probably prioritizing spending time with your friends in school, around town, at home, on the weekends.
But the thing is, by doing all of these things, you are already creating a career for yourself.
And we can look to the past to explain why. The word “career” ultimately comes from the Latin word carrus, which was a type of Gallic wagon that was used to collect and transport goods.
It is rather poetic if you think about it.
A career is indeed a collection of sorts … of education, of experiences and relationships, of failures and successes.
You have already begun to collect some of these things. And I guarantee you that hindsight will eventually show you just how much they influence your choices, actions and pursuits. They will guide you as you navigate the circuitous, joyful, inevitably bumpy roads of life.

But as you make that journey, I want to ask something very important of you. I understand that Class 7 has been studying the history of Ancient Rome recently, so I hope they will back me up on this.

The ancient Romans are known for many things. Building roads that have withstood the tests of time. Developing a body of law that has influenced legal systems in Europe, the Americas and around the world.
But it is the Romans’ moral doctrine that I want you to remember most.

Julius Caesar and Cicero often wrote about the Roman virtue dignitas … which loosely translates to meaning one’s standing in a community. Dignitas was earned by achieving something, but, more importantly, by the way a person embodied virtues like duty, courage and gravitas … to serve the state.

Dignitas was an estimation of a person’s character.

This is a special time in your young lives. By going to a school like ISM, you are fortunate to receive an unparalleled education that equips you to make informed decisions … to be creative, independent thinkers … to be compassionate doers … to be aware of the enormity of this wonderful world that you are a part of.
But if you want to influence and inspire others during the course of your career … if you want others to sit up and take notice of you and your ideas … but, above all, if you want to do something meaningful in this world, you must first create and hold on to your dignitas, to your character.

If I could travel back in time, I would tell my middle school self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life isn’t simply a checklist of accomplishments and acquisitions. Instead, life is a joyful collection of friendships, experiences and discoveries, successes and failures … and it is about leaving something good in your wake.

The Roman philosopher Seneca wrote, “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”

My hopes for you are honest:

– That you make the most of your time here at ISM to nurture and feed your dignitas.

– That you are fearless in creating your true self rather than fulfilling someone else’s unrealized ambitions.

– That you put your education to good use and be bold in your career pursuits, wherever they may take you.

– That you welcome life’s many discoveries, experiences, successes and inevitable failures with grace and humility.

– And above all else, that you take Seneca’s words to heart and imbue your own life’s tale with goodness and guts.

Thank you all very much, and have fun today.

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