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Ideas Made to Matter


At MBA convocation, Empresas Polar CEO on the spirit of resistance


When MIT Sloan Dean David Schmittlein introduced alumnus speaker Lorenzo A. Mendoza Giménez, SM ’93, at the June 7 MBA convocation, he underscored Mendoza’s status as a business and civic hero in Venezuela. Mendoza is the CEO of Empresas Polar, the country’s largest food and beverage company. The company is one of Venezuela's major employers and is seen as a symbol of resilience in a country rocked by political and economic turmoil.

“Lorenzo is a symbol of resistance and of hope,” Schmittlein said. “Most of you in this room aren’t called on to be the hero to millions — but almost every one of you is a hero for some people, people who look up to you and want to follow in your footsteps. In the presence of Lorenzo today, I hope this is an opportunity for us to reflect on the ways we choose to serve those people who look up to us.”

Mendoza discussed his devotion to Venezuela and to providing food and beverages to disadvantaged communities, despite what he called a “relentless and ongoing” media campaign to discredit him.

“My convictions about my country are above everything else. Never abandon your passion, never abandon what you have fought for, don’t be afraid, and never give up,” Mendoza said. “Never walk away from fights, however small. Keep the spirit of resistance alive. And resilience: Nothing defines a business leader better than resilience in difficult times. Doing good with passion is what drives us. Defend justice. Defend freedom. … Do not betray your conscience.”

He also urged graduates to nurture their spiritual and personal lives.

“Don’t ever neglect your dimensions as a human being. Take care of your spiritual life. Don’t cast this inherently human aspect aside. Connect with your own beliefs — nobody should live isolated from their own spiritual world,” he said. “Go and have joy.”

More than 400 graduates gathered for the convocation at Boston’s Wang Theatre. The afternoon mixed humor with reflection. Speeches touched on self-awareness and honesty against a backdrop of worldwide economic and political uncertainty.

The afternoon began with remarks from student speaker Andrew Scott, MBA '18, a former active-duty Army officer in the JAG Corps and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“When crises happen, failed leaders make the mistake of asking: ‘What can I do?’ before asking, ‘What kind of person am I?’ Authenticity has to come first. When we remember who we are, we will always remember what to do,” Scott said.

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