Use Your Roots and Wings
I now. Have the great pleasure of, welcoming Rebecca. Messina is our, 2019. Guest speaker. A member. Of the College of Arts and Science alumni advisory, board Rebecca. Is a 1994. Of Miami, graduate with, BA degrees, in both Spanish, and diplomacy. In foreign affairs. She. Joined Ober technologies. Last, September, is a company's, first ever global. Chief marketing, officer, where she brings together, Uber's marketing, teams from, around the world, prior. To this Rebecca was senior vice president, and global, chief marketing, officer, for, beam Centauri, the world's, third-largest premium. Spirits company he probably had some of their products, before. Coming here. She. Also spent, 22, years at the coca-cola company, in marketing, leadership, roles across Europe South. America and, ultimately, becoming, coca-cola, senior, vice president, of marketing. Innovation. Venturing. And emerging, brands. Along. The way Rebecca has lived in Chile Australia and. France, and speaks. English, Spanish, French, and, Italian, with. A mystery, fifth language, currently, in progress. She. Says that she considers, learning, languages, and living a global life as two of her greatest passions. Rebecca. Set the stage for, her success, during her time at Miami as a Miami student taking. On leadership roles in the Miami University student. Foundation organization. And the. Campus Activities Council. She was also president, of her sorority Alpha, del, Delta Phi and was named outstanding Greek. Woman of the year and. Miami, Rebecca says she learned how to build the kind of work ethic that, has sustained, her, throughout. Her professional life now. As a top executive at, one of the world's most exciting, technology companies. Rebecca, frequently. Finds herself in, various. Team meetings and. Strategizing. Sessions, around the world focusing. On building, the uber brand being. A powerful female leader in a tradition, traditionally. Male-dominated, industry. She. Says her approach is to embrace, empathy. Vulnerability. As she learns from those around her while, also believing, in herself well. Now it's time to let Rebecca share more, about how her liberal arts education at Miami has, helped to propel her incredible, career success, it. Is my great honor to introduce Rebecca. Messina, as our, guest speaker please, join me in welcoming her. To the podium. Well. Done Jacob yeah you're a tough act to follow, and thank, you Chris and good, evening, good evening to.
Everyone All of the faculty all the family and friends of all these graduates, my, own family, and dear friends, my sister my parents it. Is an honor to be here today and of course in front, of all of you the 2019, graduates, of, the, College of Arts and Sciences, I am. Truly, so, honored to be here it was 25. Years ago almost, exactly to the day May. 14. 1994. That I was in your shoes and, I. Have a confession to make I have. Absolutely, no idea who. My commencement speaker was and. It's. True so, as I prepared for today largely haunted. By the fact that I'm destined to be forgotten I, hope. You might find this marginally. Memorable, and the, best I can do for you is at least brief so, I hope for that I'm sure you do too. Continuing. With the theme of, confessions. I have another one to make, Miami. Was not my first choice school. My. First choice school didn't want me. And. I thought about often the movie pretty woman if. Anybody's seen it when Julia Roberts, takes her shopping bags she. Goes back into the humor, art she goes back into the stores that rejected, her and she goes big mistake. Well. Honestly, it, was no mistake as the. Rolling stones vest said you know you can't always get what you want sometimes you get what you need I got. Exactly what, I needed here at Miami University and, so, much more. I was. Raised in western New York in a really, small town called Batavia, and in. Coming to Miami, I went from one small town to another as. A matter of fact by the time I was in your shoes and I was twenty-one years old I'd only ever lived in very, small towns. But. I can tell you twenty-five years later that. Small towns can lead to pretty big worlds, it's. Not where you come from that defines you it's. What you think and how, you believe I never. Thought, about standing. Here one day is the global, chief marketing, officer, at uber or frankly any other, company for that matter, instead. I thought about being a global citizen I, never. Really, used those words when I was super young but. I sure did wander in Rome and I always had a bag in tow, I was. Curious, about my family's, Italian heritage I took, to the Italian language I played. Any sport, a boy, could play and I. Had an innate curiosity that, left me believing, I could do, and be absolutely. Anything, and. They are something you have now a degree. From the colleges of Arts and Science and I, bet your parents have asked you a thousand, times what, does one do with that degree I, know mine certainly, did but they. Let me pursue, it nonetheless. But. They gave me two other critical, gifts, let. Me bring you back for a minute to that first small town, we. Had a small round, kitchen. Table and I. Eat breakfast at it every morning and. I remember, one, day finally. Asking, about a picture that was on the wall it. Was a black frame, and a, blue paper in it and, a whole bunch of writing on it and. The writing said may, the road rise up, to meet you may the, wind be always at your back may. The Sun Shine warm upon, your face and, the. Rains fall soft upon, your fields and, until. We meet again may. He hold you in the palm of his hands, and. That was fairly young and I finally asked my mother what, this was all about and, I. Remember her telling me it's. There because I love the idea of it, this idea, of the road rising, up and the, wind at your back and she. Went on to explain the greatest gifts parents give their kids don't come in boxes. At. All she, talked about first this idea of roots and she. Says these. Roots give you something to draw farm and she used this metaphor of trees where.
You Get your strength, they nourish you they ground you but. The other gift is, much, harder and many. Parents have a harder time doing it but. As parents we have to give our children wings. That's. The wind in your backs the. Belief in themselves that they can fly be. Anything and go anywhere and, they. Can, because. Those because, of those roots they. Have them to fall back on and they, have a place to come home to well. I know those roots and those wings are my superpowers, I promise. You that they. Have caught me more times they. Have helped me sort than, the number of times I could count the phone calls home the, rejection, letter the. Breakups, even. Today I found myself relying, on those groups for some support and now, Miami comes, becomes, for you another. Source of those roots and wings so. When they became time for me to graduate from Miami I did what every kid who wants to be a global citizen does I started. To apply to global, companies. And. I set my eyes on the city of Atlanta really. Just because some other friends were moving there in any, global company in that city at, 21, years old I honestly had no real, skills, that set me apart from others a degree. A couple, of languages and, those. Roots and those. Wings and a. Few key people that really, believed. In me short. Of my dear friend Scott McCune and my grandparents, all of, those folks who. Matter to me and that decision are here with me today. For. Four years I worked. For a family here in Oxford the ruble family I found. Them because during my move-in, day to Porter Hall there. Was a sign on a tree and it, said babysitter, needed it, was eloquently, written and it, was like Mary Poppins like looking for babysitter to do this and do that it was stunning, I called. Them immediately and for. The next four years I found, some new roots I'd, found a second, home and a family here, lucky. Enough to play a role in raising their well. It started as two it ended as 4 by the time I graduated, there, were four children. They. Were, the first people to support, me in those. Crazy, ambitions, when, I said, I want to move to Atlanta and work, for the coca-cola company. It. Was it, was Rhonda, and JC they, never doubted, my credentials, they, said how can we help and, actually. Our brother-in-law, just moved there let. Me make a phone call and see if he can help sure. Enough that. Belief, and my, desire to not let them down, got. Me in the door and what, started as a three-month internship, turned. Into 22, years at the coca-cola company, in, my realizing, my dream of becoming a global citizen from. Living in Atlanta, to Santiago, to, Sydney to Paris to, see more countries, than I can count to being hospitalized, in tons of them but. Schooled, in countless. Cultures and, life. Lessons I moved. To Santiago, Chile in 1999. With a coca-cola company. Every. Day for months I went, to work. Past. The same doorman spoke, to the same doorman and one. Day this doorman said to me in Spanish where. Do you go every day I. Said. I'd go to work, and. He said you do well, when. Does your husband arrive, and. I. Said what husband, I, said. I have to meet him first and. He, said, well I actually thought, you went, to the country club every day. Now. Mind you this was 1999.
In The Southern Cone of Chile, in Latin, America and. He, said that, is all, the, woman I know do, and. He. Went on to say with, a little tear in his eye he, said I'm sorry, but, I've never met a female, executive. I. Never. Thought of myself I was 27, years old I never thought of myself as an executive, but. I found myself my hand on his shoulder so, thankful, that he'd actually said this to me because I never realized, in that moment that maybe I was doing something more than just going to work. Maybe. I was, helping to start something maybe. I was the little seed for the next generation, maybe. He actually might raise his own daughter to believe there were some different possibilities. We. Can't be what we can't see a couple. Of years later I moved to Australia, a stunning. Country, and I, had a killer, dream, job I was, leading sports, and entertainment marketing. In a sports crazed country, and. It was almost a year into my assignment, and the, day was September, 11th. 2001. I. Went. To bed at the end of the day and. A few hours into the night the phone rang like. Constantly, ringing I had, to, answer it he. Was about 2:00 a.m. I answered, the call and it was my assistant and she said you have to turn on the television, they're. Attacking your country, at. This. Point when I turn on the TV all. The attacks, are over and I'm, catching all over the replays, and. I sat on my couch alone. Scared. I wanted, to go home, crying. Desperate. And it, struck me I chose, this I chose. To be this far away, this. Is the price of being a global citizen, so. In that moment I thought what does the world most need of me, well. I was, in charge of running marketing, communications, as I said for, coca-cola in Australia, in New Zealand and. We had an advertisement, on the air at the time called life tastes good, life. Wasn't tasting, so good in that moment so, the first thing I did was called an advertising agency, pulled all of our out-of-home and advertising. Indefinitely. And then they went to the US Embassy was, all I knew, how to do was. To find a way to participate, in the services that were happening that day or.
That Week really and I remember all of the Australians, coming to pay their respects to the Americans at the Embassy and, a little girl about five years old had, made pictures for all of us and the, pictures she handed me said at the top. So-sorry mean people knocked your building down. And. In that moment on the other side of the world was. A moment, a little less about being a global citizen and, a little less about those wings it, was a lot about, those roots I was, a proud, and heartbroken. American, I. Then. Got the call to move to France now. If you've ever been to France and. Don't speak French you're gonna have a lot of empathy for this situation because I didn't. Speak French and I, mean not at all pas de - not a word so. To illustrate just how little French I know it. Was I knew at the time it was day two I walk. Into a store I buy a pack of gum the, woman says to me merci, and I, answered beaucoup. And. She. Cracked. Up, okay. And it. Took me a minute to realize I think I just told her very much to her thank you so. That. Was literally the beginning of a, little, bit of living hell for me and it was going to be a very long five, years and. I have tons, of stories I could tell you over. A few glasses of those beam Centauri drinks about. What I went through but, I realized learn, it or leave Mussina it wasn't going to work so, I buckled down, learning. Languages as many of you know requires, two things. Vulnerability. And confidence. In equal, doses, and. My French wasn't progressing progressing, fast, enough, so. I was desperate so. I invented a system and, this is a true story I invented. A system where I could actually do absolutely anything, I, wanted because I made the French people participate, with me so. I only knew the present tense for about the first year and a half so, I would walk up to someone and say I'm gonna speak to you in the present tense and I'm going to tell you tomorrow or, yesterday and you're gonna know that you have to conjugate in your head yesterday. Or took our future tenses and this, ironically. Took, a long time and was a bit childlike, and, once you engaged in the conversation, with me you usually sorry, you did it but, it, worked and I. Got kitchens, built and work done and you name it and. It was all fine and dandy until, I. Was the sole, this to a hit-and-run accident. Okay. So picture. That so I'm the only person on the scene I have. A phone I call 1 1 2 now 1 1 2 is the equivalent, of 911.
Ok And. Now, imagine there's a man lying on the ground with blood coming out of his head and. I'm on the phone doing what I do this, whole thing now, if you're him I'm not sure if he was unconscious or not but he was maybe, was listening who knows can, you imagine what, he must have been thinking all the, French speakers, in France and I found this lady to help save my life, like, how is this humanly, possible, right. Needless. To say I got on the call I muddled through on this whole you know imagine you're talking to a woman who can't speak good French but could you please get here quickly sure. Enough they, arrived he. Survived, and I, got the heck out of there um. But, the list goes on but I never learned more than, I did in those, 5 years I am. Now a French speaker stronger. Smarter, wiser, more, nuanced I ultimately, met my Dutch husband, when, I was living there and I will forever, loved that country and those people. Thank. You but I have another confession I speak. Four languages and I've, been married to that Dutchman, for 13 years, we, have Dutch speaking children they hold Dutch passports, but, I don't speak Dutch. So. This, isn't going down very well now 13, years in so and, the. Truth is you all know this language. Is more than just about getting by it's, a window into a culture and I have done a disservice to our, husband and my children's culture by, not learning, Dutch, so I've recommitted. Restarted. My lessons and it almost 47, I am learning Dutch you, are never done. So. After. Coke I left, four spirits, yes the envy of a job probably from any of you and it. Was great, indeed and last. October I ended up at uber in a, way again learning, a truly new language Tech. Is literally. A new language you all, tech. Natives I'm. An immigrant, to, the tech world I did. Not grow up in it I was not born the way you were with it but. Being vulnerable to what I didn't know being. Confident, of what I bought it, could bring open. To the store and we are now living in San Francisco, together. With that Dutchman we're raising our own two little global citizens we, won't cure cancer, but we will and we won't solve some of the world's biggest problems but. We have shown, them how to show up in the world and hopefully. Leaving businesses, more meaningful and our children can order a beer in many languages, for, actually. You. Were, born of a very cool time actually, a defining, one but. You can no longer count on religion, or, politics, to, give you the leadership or the moral compass you may have had in the past and, business.
Survival, Is not. Any longer hierarchical. Or upward. It is, inward. Your. Own drive your ability, to navigate those, waters will. Require you to dig, deep and it. Doesn't come free, remember. Those late nights with your computers on your lap I'm still. Find myself there, many a night. You are never exempt, from hard work and on. The one hand I stand here as a successful, leader, but. The world is still pretty uneven for. Me to win in some ways my husband would tell you he had to lose. And. We are not better off if men and women simply trade, places but. We are getting better and the, world is opening up and one day I am confident, gender, race religion sexuality, will not be qualifiers, or dividers, and thanks. To folks like you you. Can accelerate this because you have chosen to spend four years. You. Have chosen to spend four years opening, your minds and dare I say your hearts with. An Arts and Sciences degree you, have the tools to make this world better. Before. I finish I feel compelled to say one last thing I've worked at coca-cola, at. Bheem Centauri with, a beautiful portfolio, of spirits and now it over and the, last two are best used together I. Take. I take, the responsibility of. These, roles very. Seriously, as you. Head into this graduation, season I hope you take things seriously to. Drink. Moderately and, when, you do always. Use uber and importantly. And. Importantly. Always. Please, check. Your ride we. Learned a very hard lesson this year when. You're over arrives check, your license plate check, the photo please. Check. The. Drivers name. The. Car make its. All there on the technology, to help you let. The technology keep, you safe because we need you. We. Need you a new, generation, of amazing. Global citizens, to, shape what this century, will look like I know. One thing today I walked, around here proudly I am Miami, you. Are, a Miami and it, will always now, be part of your roots remember. That lean, on them dig, deep when the going gets rough use. Those wings to fly please. Find some work that you love and that is important, to you and you. Will never be lonely if you know how to be vulnerable and open your mind and your heart, to. This fabulous world and as, you go may. That road rise up to meet you and may, that wind be always at, your back, congratulations. And thank you so much. Thank. You Rebecca, you are a wonderful example, of what can be accomplished, with the Miami liberal, arts education as your foundation.