George Mason University

News at Mason

Speaker Urges Grads to Make an Impact

December 19, 2013

Following is the text of Winter Graduation Speaker Shari Arison at George Mason University on Dec. 19, 2013


I am so excited to be here with you today, and receive this academic award.

Thank you so much George Mason University. Thank you to the board of directors, to the Arison Professor of Doing Good Values Dr. Greg Unruh, thank you to my Arison Group team, and a special thanks to President Dr. Ángel Cabrera.

Looking at this amazing crowd gathered here today, I feel that a bird’s eye view is necessary. From above, it’s amazing to see the connectivity, one humanity, seeking a future, playing the game of life.

President Ángel Cabrera, graduation speaker Shari Arison,  and Board of Visitor Karen Alcalde on stage at the 2013 Winter Graduation. Photo by Alexis Glenn

President Ángel Cabrera, graduation speaker Shari Arison, and Board of Visitor Karen Alcalde on stage at the 2013 Winter Graduation. Photo by Alexis Glenn

But have you asked yourself what kind of future you want as an individual? As a collective?

All of you graduates here today have worked very hard to set the foundations of your future. But is it enough to be successful? And is it enough to yield only financial results?

I think not. How we get there is just as important, if not even more. I find, that the responsibility one takes for their actions, and the impact we have on others, is what makes each of us the kind of people we are.

Traveling through life, I have always searched for new opportunities to do my part in making a positive impact, and I have an overall vision, the vision of Doing Good.

As I see it, we all share a common stake in our collective future, and each and every one of us can take active part in making a difference.

A social consciousness is developing, where people realize it is important to look at the long term effects of our actions. The world is now seeking sustainable solutions, and finding that business is a powerful platform for positive action, impacting people, society and the planet.

In order to create a beneficial effect on all levels, the Arison Group worldwide, places values at the core of each of our business entities and philanthropic endeavors.

How do we do this? Let me first share with you a short story from my early years.

Shifting from tourism to finance, I remember myself sitting in a huge board room, among other directors. I was surrounded by people that loved the numbers, facts and methods, people who are crucial for a successful business, and yet I felt quite out of place.

For me, it was about vision and making a difference in the world, being creative and understanding that our business is part of our community. As I see it, everyone is an important part of a greater picture.

So, I stopped comparing myself, understanding that each individual has their own unique part to play, and I connected to my own individual uniqueness with passion and intuition.

Today, I am very clear with my vision, knowing that business and philanthropy are platforms for creating positive change in the world.

But how do we bring about positive change? How do we go about realizing positive leadership?

First of all, may I suggest to look deep inside yourself, and see what you are most passionate about.

If you look towards the future, imagine how you want this future to be. Can you envision it? If you can, see what it looks like, what steps do you need to take to make it happen?

From this perspective, it is possible to not only bring about change, but a real transformation.

In my journey over the last two decades, I have been creating vision after vision for each of my business companies and philanthropic organizations at the Arison Group. But as important as it is to have vision, that isn’t enough.

You have to have the right people to create the right teams, outlining long-term strategies, and finding practical ways to implement values and goals that are way ahead of their time.

Now I stand here, honored by this acknowledgement, for a joint vision, a mutual partnership put to work here at George Mason University.

Based on our shared values, we established a professorship that promotes the Doing Good Values Model. At the core of this model stands the vision of Doing Good, and it deals with how we think, how we speak, and how we act.

The 13 values at the heart of this model can be beneficial for individuals, in all circles of life.

This Doing Good Values model is a compass that gives practical tools for implementation, understanding that each individual has the moral responsibility to do their part for our collective future, whether that collective is a business, an organization, a country, or the planet.

Our collaboration with George Mason University takes the Arison Doing Good vision a step further.

Through active engagement in values, research, curriculum, innovative teaching practices, and focusing on worldwide case-studies of value-based businesses and organizations, we are expanding the circles of positive impact.

See a video of Shari Arison speaking:

Researching and implementing values such as Financial Freedom, Sustainability, Abundance, and Purity, give students, employees, individuals and organizations the opportunity for thinking, discussing and finding ways to implement high elated values in our everyday life, as an individual and as a collective, whether it is in our businesses, or any other field one chooses to be in.

When all of you here today go out into the world, you might ask yourself “How can I implement values?” I’m happy to share with you some examples.

In our bank, Bank Hapoalim, Financial Freedom is implemented effectively in real life situations, by providing our employees and customers the knowledge and tools to make educated choices regarding their finances, helping them grow and prosper.

At a volunteering conference that I spoke at, a social worker came up to me and said, “Wow, what you said really works. Just recently, my friend told me that she was at the bank with her husband, when he had to step out for a phone call. The teller asked her some questions about the account, which she knew nothing about. And then the teller told her ‘It is just as important for you to understand your finances, as it is for your husband. Let me teach you.’”

Another value is Sustainability. Shikun & Binui, our global infrastructure and real-estate company builds its projects 100% sustainable, while educating their employees worldwide.

How do we apply Abundance? Our water efficiency company Miya brings millions of people water that didn’t have access to fresh water before.

Imagine people from all backgrounds, ages and cultures uniting together around doing good. This is one of the ways we implement the value of Volunteering. On Good Deeds Day, every year in March globally, hundreds of thousands in more than 50 countries go out to do a good deed for the benefit of others.

I always say, that even a smile that brightens someone else’s day is a good deed, because that is the energy that is spread.

Good Deeds Day shows that given the opportunity, people want to do good. And it’s always amazing to see the outpour of goodwill on Good Deeds Day.

Just last year in an area nearby, thousands of people went out on Good Deeds Day. I was recently at a dinner party in Israel with people from the U.S., when a man I was talking with, said that he saw thousands of people wearing Good Deeds Day t-shirts. “I didn’t know you initiated it,” he said. My response was: How great is that. They own it. Good Deeds Day has gone way beyond me. And that is what true change is all about.

2014 March 9th is International Good Deeds Day. I invite you all to be a part of our global family, doing a good deed in any way your heart desires. Spread the word, tell your fellow students in all the campuses across the country. Amplify the goodness.

I also invite you to join our digital platform, sharing ideas, receiving inspiration, and connecting people worldwide to doing good.

While talking, contemplating, and finding ways to do good, I believe we can elevate ourselves and our communities to the understanding that we are all one. If we want to see a future that is pure, honest, peaceful, with growth and prosperity, we each need to take individual responsibility for our collective future.

Values-based leadership is beyond business. It is based on being mindful to your own values that are at the heart of your own vision and actions. Your values make you the type of person you are, the type of leader you want to be, and everyone can be a leader, each one in their own unique way.

Leaders inspire with their vision. They bring elevated ideas and transform them into reality.

We all want the same things, we all want to grow and be fulfilled, live our dreams and passions and at the same time be happy, healthy, and at peace.

So I challenge you to think not only of your future success, but to think of succeeding with a moral compass in your heart, and a state of mind of win-win, where everyone becomes winners.

Some may say this is not possible, but I am here today to tell you that it is possible. Anything is possible when you put your mind and heart to it, and do it in a positive way.

Thank you.