Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Fellows Journal: Words from the Wise

This post marks the fourth installment of a series of accounts by the 2011 Roots of Hope Summer Fellows, focusing on their experiences, thoughts, and musings over the course of the coming months! To see previous posts, click: "An Exciting Beginning," "Amazed by Raíces" or "An Unexpected Surprise."

Words from the Wise

By Ben Tyler

As part of the Roots Fellowship, we the Fellows have the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the most well respected business and thought leaders in our community. The “Leadership Discussion Series” as it is so aptly titled, is an opportunity for us to grow as leaders by exposing us to some of the most successful people South Florida has to offer. So far this year we have had the opportunity to meet with leaders such as Carlos Alberto Montaner, Ricky Arriola, Alfredo Mesa, Nestor Carbonell, and Carlos Saladrigas. The diverse backgrounds, experiences, and opinions of the speakers has truly given us an incredibly well rounded take on everything from business to life to issues facing Cuba.

While each speaker has someway or another risen to the forefront of their respective fields, some of the most profound thoughts that they shared with us had nothing to do with business. I found it interesting that almost every speaker stressed the importance of balancing all aspects of life. Carlos Alberto Montaner spoke about the different lives we all lead (business, family, social, and personal) and how a happy person is one who can best distribute their time to develop each life. From Ricky Arriola we learned that sometimes family and business can be one and the same and compliment each other in a very positive way. The consensus seems to be that no matter what we choose to do in life, we should do it to the best of our abilities taking our own personal growth into account.

Although each speaker has had his own unique take on Cuba, what was adamantly clear in all of the discussions is that Roots of Hope’s goal of empowering Cuban youth to become author’s of their own future eclipses the monotonous political rhetoric that we often find surrounding the issues facing the island. Alfredo Mesa told us that what Roots of Hope has effectively done is create a “healthy space” for people to discuss Cuba without the shackles of typical political motivations. Both Nestor Carbonell and Carlos Saladrigas spoke about the importance of our work not only as a thought leader, but as an agent for tangible change on the island. The fact that leaders from complete opposite sides of the political spectrum have been able to find common ground in the Roots network is a testament to the potential of our endeavors. If the Leadership Discussion Series has taught me one thing, it is that no matter how deep political tensions may become, there is always a way to advance the debate.

Ben Tyler is a rising sophomore in the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service and a Roots of Hope 2011 Summer Fellow. To contact Ben, email

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