As valedictorian for the Class of 2017D in Singapore, Daniela delivered the following speech at the graduation ceremony on 20 December 2017 at The Ritz Carlton in Singapore.
Good afternoon, distinguished guests, family and friends, esteemed faculty and administration. Thank you to the Student Council for their wonderful words. A warm welcome to loved ones watching from around the world. And hello to the legendary class of ’17D.
My name is Daniela Mordetzki. Today, you’ve asked me to inspire you. You have placed your trust and your memories of this day in my hands, and I carry this gift with the greatest honour and with all my heart. As you set sail back into the unknown, I’d like to remind you of how you’ve inspired me and how I believe the things that you unite us will carry us forward. In a final act of farewell, I hope to give you a few moments of gratitude to take on your voyage and lift your spirits as you embrace the winds of change.
I was born and raised in Uruguay. My childhood is filled with memories of the ocean and reading books, but also dreaming of faraway worlds and waiting to grow up and explore. I wanted to be a writer and then an engineer and help change the way the world works. I never saw my future in my country. I never understood what made me this way, what makes people know they belong somewhere. Finally, when I was 19 years old, fate led me to Israel for university. I did become an engineer, fell in love and learned to ask myself who I was in a foreign country, adding more and more layers to my identity as I went along.
After 10 years, I came to INSEAD because I was ready to feel uncomfortable again and found so many others with similar stories. My journey began with an acceptance call during a client meeting, changing my life in the span of a few minutes. I was honoured with a Diversity Fund Scholarship, the first taste of the generosity of spirit that defines our community, for which I’m deeply grateful.
“INSEAD pulled me in with open arms and launched a year of intense discovery of myself and the world around me.”
Some time ago, a wise professor shared a metaphor by Ronald Heifetz that I found profound in its simplicity. “Great leaders must simultaneously dance the dance while observing it as a whole, going to the balcony to watch from above.”
What’s true for leadership was true for my MBA experience. I worked on assignments while constantly stepping back, reflecting on what kinds of things gave me energy and what my study group taught me about my own leadership style. I came to class every day and wondered what exactly made section nine so spectacular. I spent this year learning the steps and how to watch them from above, moving back and forth between altitudes.
Today, we celebrate our journeys, our values, and the strength of the ties that bind us. We also say goodbye to people we’ve loved spending our days with, who will now be living oceans away from us. We all have different stories to tell and different moments that define our experiences, but there are three things that I know are true for all of us and that I believe will last long beyond this afternoon.
The first is that we spent this year doing things that scared us.
“We took chances. We looked at the name cards in front of us day after day and dared to question the labels that define us. We raised our hands to ask questions, answered cold calls and asked for advice. We feared missing out and were curious and brave and open.”
In the years to come, they say our most compelling stories will be those of overcoming terrifying obstacles and that we’ll have no stronger enemy than the fear of fear itself, so I hope you stay strong and keep chasing goals that scare you.
The second thing I know about the class of ’17D is that we built memories of trust, even before we knew we each other well. Behind lists of accomplishments and nationalities, I found brave people who were willing to share their dreams and fears with those around them. We opened up in PIM about our deepest wishes for our futures and waited before interviews together, wishing each other luck. As you move forward, I hope you surround yourself with people that you can trust like this, who are better than you, who will push back and challenge you, and who won’t let you fall in love with your thoughts, that you keep them close by respecting them and trusting yourself to listen.
Finally, I know we’ve tried and failed to decipher time. We’ve laughed about the INSEAD bubble, striving to be present as we watched the weeks fly by. We obsessed about what to choose when time has been so scarce, painfully aware of things we’ve turned down. Those of us with partners asked for so much patience. I know I did. If some of the most valuable lessons in life are about embracing the loss inherent in our choices, I hope you decide what you stand for and make decisions that will stand the test of time.
This is what I learned, that it’s not about this one year and that that things that unite us are precisely the ones that will allow us to make a difference in the world as impactful business leaders with long, fulfilling careers, if we’re confident to venture beyond our comfort zones, humble to listen to those who will challenge us, and have the courage to defend our time.
So this is my challenge to you. I dare you to make this just the beginning and fight for what you learned and loved. Let’s stay close. Let’s be less polite. Let’s do more for each other.
“I don’t want to look back 10 years from now and say, ‘This was the best year of my life’. I want to make every year the best of my life and celebrate time and time again.”
We’ve been given so much, and now it’s up to all of us to keep the magic alive, to understand that there is a powerful bond that connects us together, this generation, those that came before us, and those that will follow, and it’s our duty and privilege to ensure it lasts.
“There will always be barriers to keep us from doing things we want to do, so my wish for all of us is that we give it everything we’ve got, every year.”
My dear ’17Ds, I have big dreams. I know in my heart that I will have the privilege to speak again in a beautiful venue like this one before exceptional people, but there are two things that make today so special, and this is my final message.
The first is that the true gift that I have been granted is not about the huge honour of giving this speech, but the time I spent thinking of all of you as I wrote these words. And the second is that this moment, right here and now, with all of you, comes just once in a lifetime. Thank you for everything and congratulations.