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Another Feather in JH Lhuillier’s Cap

(Article Published in the May 16,2013 issue of Business Mirror)

       In the afternoon of May 10, 2013, Jean Henri D. Lhuillier, President and CEO of PJLhuillier Group of Companies and Honorary Consul General to the Philippines of the Republic of San Marino, was awarded the degree of Doctor of Humanities Honoris Causa by the Board of Regents of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. Already famous for his unstinting support for sports, his inspirational management style, and his unqualified devotion to family and generosity with friends, the conferment of the exalted academic degree was but icing on the cake.

       Here follows his commencement address to the graduates, unexpurgated and edited sparingly so as to fit the space available:

       “Congratulations, PUP class of 2013!

       I would like to thank the Polytechnic University of the Philippines for giving me the Honorary Doctorate of Humanities degree. I am very honored to be recognized as one of PUP’s Doctors of Humanities together with other notable individuals who have excelled in their own fields. Indeed, I am motivated to do more to better serve our fellow Filipinos and our country.

       But this day is not about me. Today is your day. It is time for you to celebrate as each one of you embarks on a new chapter in life…the real world.

       I am very grateful to have been given this chance to speak at your commencement exercise. It feels good to talk in front of the future leaders of our country. The atmosphere here is really different as I am surrounded by people who have just achieved another milestone in their lives. Your smiles tell me that you had a wonderful college life, and it seems that you are more than ready and eager to venture into the real world.

       I studied in a high school run by Benedictine monks. One of the brothers in my school, Brother Timothy, told me that college is four years of doing nothing. I thought to myself, what was this man saying?

       To the contrary, I realized that college is four years of learning, adjusting, understanding, and contributing. And it has been one of the most meaningful years in my life.

       In college, you learn communication theories, or the values of x and y, or perhaps a deeper understanding of statistics. What is great about learning these things is that we are also able to apply them in our daily lives.

       One thing I learned in college that I apply in my life is the law of action and reaction which states that for every action; there would always be a reaction. What you do today will definitely affect what happens in the future. So goes the saying, you reap what you sow. So if you want to be successful in the future, you better start working now.

       College is also four years of never-ending adjustments. Every semester is different. Every year is a challenge. And as we proceed, the challenges become harder. After four or five years, your ships are all set to sail into the real world.

       I envy the graduates of this generation. Twenty years ago when I was just like you sitting there and waiting to throw my graduation cap, we don’t have much technology like what you have now. Technology makes you very powerful but it also gives you greater responsibility.

       I studied in the US and one of my biggest concerns before was how to keep in touch with my family and friends. The only way to communicate back then was through phone or a letter. We didn’t have emails or Yahoo Messenger or Facebook. You are very fortunate to have these social networking tools; now you have constant communication with your friends practically anywhere in the world.

       Back then, when we did research for our thesis, we had to use this ancient library tool called card catalogs where thousands of index cards are placed in shelves. These cards contain the information of the book you need and where exactly in the library the book is located. I bet that to most of you, it sounds foreign. But I see your professors here smiling and nodding their heads. They can so relate.

       With the technology now, it is very easy to learn or do research as information is just a click away. There’s an abundance of instructional videos in YouTube. Downloadable e-books are by the thousands if not millions. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are downloadable theses as well.

       This is the very main reason why one should never stop learning.

       CEOs of companies become younger and younger. Mark Zuckerberg was only 21 when he founded Facebook. David Karp, founder of Tumblr, was only 25 years old. Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of Twitter was 34. Larry Page, co-founder of Google was 38 years old.

       Here in the Philippines, we have architect-turned-entrepreneur Edgar Sia, the man behind Mang Inasal who is only 35 years old. Yours truly was appointed as president and CEO when I was 29. And I know for a fact that your very own President, President Emmanuel de Guzman, is the second youngest PUP president at 48.

       This only proves that ambition should never be bounded by age. Never stop dreaming; make sure you work hard to reach those dreams.

       Please allow me to share some life tips, these have been my guiding principles in my 44 years of existence.

       First, always be hungry for knowledge. Never ever stop learning, knowledge will definitely set you apart from the rest.

       Second, always remember that success comes from failure. You must never be afraid to fail and commit mistakes. If you fail today, keep in mind that there will always be tomorrow to try again. Failing is never the end of the road but an opportunity to do well and be better. When you hear Albert Einstein, the first word that comes to mind is genius. Did you know that Einstein did not speak until he was four and did not read until he was seven? His parents and teachers thought he was mentally handicapped. He was even once expelled from school.

       Abraham Lincoln, 16th US president, had numerous failed businesses, was bankrupt twice, and defeated in 26 political campaigns.

       And who doesn’t know Walt Disney? He was fired by his newspaper editor for lacking imagination and good ideas.

       Bill Gates, a Harvard drop-out, eventually founded the worldwide empire Microsoft.

       They were once labeled as failure, but with sheer determination and willpower, look at what they have achieved.

       My last tip is…believe in yourself and choose to be happy.

       Do not be afraid to face life’s challenges and be ready to take risks. Be brave enough to conquer the world and create your own legacy. Continue dreaming and believe that you will reach your dreams, no matter how…no matter when. Remember that nothing should ever be a barrier in fulfilling your goals and ambitions, not even your age.

       Last year, I have had the honor to meet Rommel Arellano, the winner of Cebuana Lhuillier’s 2012 Search for the Happiest Pinoy. He was diagnosed with polio at the age of one and had to learn how to walk with tsinelas on his hands. Discrimination is an understatement to describe what he experienced in school and even in getting employment. But he never let his condition dampen his spirit. It became his personal crusade to inspire and counsel people who are losing hope in life. One great thing about him is that he has always been happy despite his physical condition.

       Numerous researches worldwide have proven that the Philippines is a nation of happy people. And through Rommel, we learn that happiness is one of the keys to success.

       I am so glad to hear that the Philippines is now considered a global power in the field of outsourcing. This opens a lot opportunities to Filipinos here. We now have an option to stay and not leave the country; as we are now exporting our minds rather than our physical bodies.

       Also, we are now a rising star for global travelers, and of course, the rising Tiger of Asia. Just recently, Standard & Poor’s rating services, an international research and analysis institution, handed the country its second investment-grade rating, following Fitch’s upgrade to the same level in March. And a few days ago, the Japanese Credit Rating Ltd hiked its credit score on the Philippines to two notches above junk status. These upgrades mean that the country is reflecting a strong external profile and that the government now has declining reliance on foreign currency debt.

       The Philippine economy is developing and there’s a lot more to achieve and to look forward to in the future. With your help, it is not impossible to make the country one of the richest countries in the world.

       Our dear graduates, you are now ready to sail. Find your own way to success. Help our country to be a better place by inspiring change and making a difference, one step at a time.

       Always remember that whatever comes your way, choose what is right, choose to be the best, and choose to be happy.

       I would also like to congratulate all the parents here for a job well done, and again, congratulations to the graduates and mabuhay kayong lahat!

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