Produced by the Department of Media Relations & Publications

2006 Commencement Speaker: Myrna Rivera: May the Force Be With You

March 15, 2011

Myrna Rivera, the principal speaker at Lehman's 2006 Commencement Ceremony, graduated from the College with a master's degree in mathematics and has become a leading figure in the world of investment consulting and management. She is the founder, president, and chief executive officer of Consultiva Internacional, one of the first Hispanic investment consulting firms in the United States.

11 Minutes 57 Seconds

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"Commencement" collects the speeches given by the luminaries who have spoken at Lehman College's annual spring ceremony.

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This is Karstina Wong, a student at Lehman College.

Myrna Rivera, the principal speaker at Lehman's 2006 Commencement Ceremony, graduated from the College with a master's degree in mathematics and has become a leading figure in the world of investment consulting and management. She is the founder, president, and chief executive officer of Consultiva Internacional, one of the first Hispanic investment consulting firms in the United States.

Ms. Rivera urged the graduates to remember the heroes in their lives. She also encouraged them to understand the world better by reading outside their own discipline and by becoming involved in a variety of activities, from the arts to social issues.



Mr. President, members of the faculty and administration, honored guests, proud families and friends and distinguished class of 2006. Good morning, and I bring you greetings from the Caribbean. I want to thank Lehman College for this honor of inviting me to this commencement today. I stand before you humbled and grateful.

Many years ago I walked these grounds, past Shuster Hall, having completed the last exam that will grant me my master's degree. And I, too, faced the future before me. I'd like to share some of my story with you today, but more importantly some lessons that I've learned that you might also see many possibilities ahead of you as you step into the next phase of your life.

I was born in a small town in Puerto Rico, the southern part of Puerto Rico. I'm a child of the Puerto Rican Diaspora. My parents brought me to Eagle Avenue in the Bronx as a baby. And my brother, Frank, was born at Lincoln Hospital. My parents worked in the factories in the Bronx for over a decade before we returned to Puerto Rico.


I'm a product of public schools, scholarships and student loans. When I was 21, I returned to the Bronx, a recent graduate of the University of Puerto Rico, to attend the graduate program in mathematics here at Lehman. Graduate school was unheard of in my family since I had already accomplished a first. Because, like many of you, I was the first in my family to graduate from college. After graduation, I would have wanted to remain at Lehman, teaching at the math department, working at Gillet Hall for the rest of my life in which case some of you might have been my students. But, circumstances guided me in another direction.

I developed a career in financial services. And after working for over two decades with some of the largest firms in the world, learning all about the capital markets and about investing, I decided to step out on my own and create Consultiva Internacional. I wanted to provide a model and a legacy for my community, that anything is possible if you dream the dream, you listen to your angels and you stay focused.

And I also wanted to set an example of leadership in entrepreneurial excellence. I teach people and institutions how to save and invest for the future. I work with individuals and families with university endowments, with retirement plans. And this is where I've arrived. I had no idea what corporations were and much less what investments were while I was here.


So how did this all come about and how did Lehman prepare me for this? It's an awesome chain of events involving many people, dating back many years, which we don't have time for today. But, let me share some of the lessons of this extraordinary journey. Hopefully, your path to success will be equally exciting and perhaps I can save you some time and trouble.

Lesson number one: trust me when I tell you that life is short. There's no time for you to not enjoy what you're doing, so live it passionately and do what you love to do. When you blend your talent and skills with a sense of wonder, passion and good will, magic happens. You attract people and circumstances that support you in doing what you love to do. You invoke the gods. The planets align. And your life works. But you are not alone.

Lesson number two: you are not alone. You are the product of great people with great stories. Like me, your parents and grandparents made incredible, brave choices that resulted among other things in that you're sitting in your seat today. My parents left their country and family behind, traveled to a place that didn't necessarily expect them or like them, that spoke a language they were not familiar with.


A place where people lived on top of each other in buildings with small windows. When they had come from a land of countrysides. A place of cold weather when they had grown up in the comfort of the tropics. But they believed this to be a place of hope and opportunity, where hard work was compensated with the wellbeing and safety of their families.

And I don't know that I'm that brave, but these are my heroes. You, too, have heroes in your families. Ask your parents for the stories. They will fill your heart with pride and with courage. And you need them, because in your darkest moments you will go back to those stories and remember those in your life who can point the way for you.

I talk to my ancestors all the time. These folks didn't stand around thinking about whether they were having a bad day. They did what they had to do with such passion and drive and sense of responsibility as to put some of us to shame. So be proud of that heritage and the courage of those who came before you. It's in you. It's your inheritance.


And today, more than ever, your country needs you to restore the pride in its diversity and in its immigrant stories. You are not alone because you and I are lucky that we found Lehman, or that Lehman found us. Nothing could have prepared me better for listening and understanding and serving others than the successes and failures and the people I met in this great place.

I learned that the only way to understand anything better is to learn the world better. The opportunity to criss-cross the human disciplines while specializing in one has added dimension to who you are and depth to how you will serve your society.

I'm an investment adviser. I can't advise anyone if I don't understand and support their dreams, whatever those dreams might be, and if I don't understand the current events that drive economies and politics in the world because they put my clients assets at risk. So, yes, I read Business Week but I also read Parade magazine, Vanity Fair. I read the Economist.


I'm involved in social issues of my community and in the arts because it helps me and it will help you to develop a thinking system of mental models. And in getting to know how others think who are very different from you, who come from a world that's not your world, you develop knowledge. But, you also develop solidarity, empathy and compassion. And I think we need more of that today.

And that's what being in a place like Lehman has done for you, whether you know it or not. It did that for me. You got to meet people from all corners of the world who are involved in disciplines that are entirely different from yours. It will serve you well to remember them and the conversations you had with them, because you were stretched.

And although you may not believe, you may not see many of these people again, these people will be with you for the rest of your lives. They will be in your memories. When you least expect it, you'll remember a joke or a comment or a presentation of a classmate or a professor or someone who worked at the library or the cafeteria, especially the people who pushed you, the people who saw in you what you didn't see in yourself and who gave you hope and encouragement and provided the guidance.


I call those people the angels. Remember them and how they touched you because that's part of the gifts for your moving ahead. So you and I are not alone, my friends. We have family stories and heritage. We're draped in the richness of the liberal arts, and we have people in our lives, who know us and who love us, and who will be us forever.

So as you leave today, I leave with you one last consideration. Nurture your soul. Watch others execute peak performance. Go to the opera, to the dance. Read great pose and poetry. Listen to great classical music, or jazz or salsa or reggaeton. Go to the circus and the ball games. Things that seemingly have nothing to do with you, but that can help you to realize the impact of focus and drive in magnifying human abilities.

Get involved in community affairs and exercise compassion and solidarity. Study the lives of those who have accomplished great things. Some stories will surprise you. Leonardo DaVinci was a bastard child, denied a formal education. Yet, he represents all that is great of the renaissance.


George Washington Carver was born into slavery, yet he found his way to a higher education to become an awesome, pivotal figure in the application of agriculture to industry. Dr. Mae Jemison was born to a maintenance worker and a teacher and grew up to become a chemical engineer, a scientist and the first black woman astronaut.

Dolores Huerta was raised in a broken home of migrant workers. She married and divorced three times and bore and raised eleven children. Dolores Huerta co-founded the United Farm Worker's union and led one of the most important social movements in America. Why watch these performances and study these great masters, ordinary people doing extraordinary things?

Because, they will inspire you. They will titillate your soul. And you will hear the angels flap their wings and it will fill you with ganas. It's a combination of inspiration, desire, drive and thrill of anticipation. And you will realize that you, too, are a child of the divine. That you, too, were born with a purpose and a talent, and that the world by design is a better place because you are here and because what you bring is essential to the mosaic of humankind, the world as it was meant to be.


We all need you to do what you love to do and to be happy. So pay attention to the angels and you will be guided. In honor of those before you, go out into the world. Learn. Work. And go on to even more academic success. And make us all proud. Congratulations. Enhorabuena. And may the force be with you. And have fun along the way. (APPLAUSE)



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