Shape New World and Your Place In It - But Don't Forget Others

Published on June 14, 2009

Two keynote speakers challenged graduating Chicago Booth students to use their education to reshape a broken world and make a positive impact on everything they touch. Raghuram Rajan, Eric J. Gleacher Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, urged students to “make the world a better and more stable place” during his convocation address on June 14.

Striking a similar note, Joseph Eazor, ’90, senior vice president and general manager of EDS, told graduates “there are no limits” to the significant difference they can make to their “employer, family, community, country—and beyond.”

Rajan suggested students take on the “enormous challenges” of reforming education and health care, which he believes are the political roots of the current financial crisis.

“You here today are blessed, but much of the middle class is being left behind because of the increasing cost of higher education.”

Rajan said studies have shown there is an increased demand for the highly educated in the United States, but the supply falls short.

“As higher education becomes more needed, the ability of the middle class and lower middle class to obtain it is more difficult,” said Rajan, who served as chief economist at the International Monetary Fund between 2003 and 2008.

Rajan said the current financial crisis also spells opportunity for young, innovative minds.

“With your education you will be able to shape this new world and your place in it. By all means, you should set yourself ambitious goals. But remember, the achievement of narrow, personal goals—greater wealth and rapid promotion—rarely bring you other than brief pleasure. The most enjoyable journeys are when you take others with you—especially others who cannot make it without your help. In doing so, you will make the world a better and more stable place.”

During his address, Eazor acknowledged that while there may not be as many jobs for graduates that offer instant multi-million dollar returns, opportunities are still available in post-restructured corporations, including banks, government organizations, NGOs and start-ups.

They are in great need of immensely talented people like you, and they need you to make a positive difference. But wherever you go, you need to make whatever you touch and whatever you’re responsible for, better than it was before you got there.”

Eazor, offered suggestions for long-term success.

“Put accomplishments before attention or reward,” was his first piece of advice. “Unfortunately I’ve run into too many people—employees and recruits—who want to discuss rewards and recognition before they’ve even accomplished anything. I see this at the senior executive level as well. I’ve learned the most effective employees and leaders are those who focus on delivering a positive outcome and accomplishing a key objective before looking for attention or reward.”

Eazor also urged students to continually develop their own brand of leadership and not become “a karaoke leader.”

“Don’t copy someone else,” he said. “Develop your own leadership style.”

                                                                                                                — Mary J. Paleologos