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“Where others see obstacles, I see opportunity” –Ralph de la Vega

It must have been a terrifying time in the late ’50s — Cuba was in the middle of a revolution and Ralph de la Vega was just a boy when his parents decided to flee to the United States. How bleak the future must have seemed at that time to even consider this as an option.

Few of us can imagine leaving everything behind forever and getting on an airplane with only the shirt on our backs. Yet, that was the plan for his family of four. Ralph and his family arrived at the airport terminal only to hear the words that would change his life forever: “Only the boy can go.” Tears were shed and his father furiously got on the phone to make plans for his only son.

It would be four long years before he would speak to his family again. He was living in a new land, living with strangers and didn’t speak the language. Regardless, he was in the land of opportunity and made the conscious decision to make the most of it.

Today, he is the CEO of ATT Wireless. It is an impressive career so far for someone that started with the cards stacked against him. He tells factual stories of how he negotiated the multibillion dollar business deal with Steve Jobs to bring the iPhone to market. He built the largest wireless network in the world spanning across third world nations and hundreds of cultures. Today he manages operations that produce over $35 billion in revenue and has over 70,000 employees.

Yet he still says, “That was easy; having my family torn apart was hard.”

Dr. de la Vega’s words really resonated with me because I have heard this similar story of adversity many times, except the stories were from my father. Escaping from Cuba and coming to this country as a teenager, he thought the move was temporary. Not so. He, too, made the choices to not take any opportunity for granted.

These were some of the lessons I learned recently when I attended the Jacksonville University Davis College of Business Leadership series luncheon. It proved to be an unexpected inspiring talk for me because it reminded me of my own family history and the sacrifices they made. It reminded me that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

I thank JU for having me and hope to continue to participate in more events. This was a great event in an intimate setting.

If you are interested in being notified of future speakers and programs, visit www.Dcob.ju.edu


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