Before a “who’s who in the New Jersey business world” audience – which also included 60 Junior Achievement of New Jersey (JANJ) student ambassadors – three esteemed state business leaders last night regaled attendees with words of leadership wisdom. It was all part of their induction into the New Jersey Business Hall of Fame – an annual JANJ event which has spanned six decades and honored a total of 61 leaders – and was this year held at the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick.
Inductee Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), spoke about the “power of partnerships,” ranging from NJBIA’s work with Junior Achievement and, separately, NJBIA’s partnerships with the business community. Siekerka also spotlighted her long-time husband, Niel, whom she met while both of them were in high school.
She concluded, “My parting words to the students who are here, today – our future workforce of the state of New Jersey – is: You are going to stay here [in New Jersey]. That is what I am working for, every day. You all know how they are talking about millennial outmigration, and how we have to stop it. We are creating an environment [in New Jersey] so you can be here, so that you can get a job here, and afford to live here. We are going to do it.”
When inductee Kevin Cummings, president and CEO of Investors Bank, spoke at the podium, he said, “I am often asked, ‘What does it take to be a great leader?’” He said leaders have five key attributes, including: having character; engaging in hard work; having humility (“It is not about you; be a giver and not a taker. Put others first. Be a servant leader – a leader who serves – and not a self-serving leader); and listening. He added, “Finally – never forget – continue to give back, be a good corporate citizen, and give back to your community.”
Cummings concluded, “Asked once about his thoughts on success, Henry Ford responded: ‘Do more for the world than the world does for you.’ That is success. So, together, let’s make a commitment to work, and to leave this world, this wonderful state of New Jersey, a better place than we found it.”
Merck & Co.’s Chairman and CEO Kenneth Frazier, another inductee, told the audience, “The person who stands before you tonight carries the title of CEO of Merck. But, not that long ago, I was a kid like many of the ones that you have seen tonight in this room. I came from a modest background in the inner city of Philadelphia. I was very fortunate in that I had demanding parents and other caring adults in my community who helped guide me. They encouraged me to be my best self, and to learn how to be different, how to be self-sufficient, and how to chart my own course, rather than following the crowd.”
He added, “Sometimes that was difficult, because studying hard and aspiring to succeed didn’t always make me popular with my peers. But, when I look back, I realize it was those lessons and experiences that helped enable me to be the business leader I am, today.
“Young people need adults who will see and nourish their potential. I believe that kids will live up to – or live down to – the standards that we set for them. They are not necessarily constrained by the circumstances in which they are born and raised. I feel like I am living proof of that.
“That’s why Junior Achievement of New Jersey is so important, because it helps connect young people with businesspeople, and others who can help empower them to fully participate in society, and to achieve their full potential.
“Given the gaps that exist in our society today, Junior Achievement’s mission is, if anything, even more important today than it was nearly 100 years ago. I am so glad to be here tonight, and joined by so many in the business community, and beyond.”
Junior Achievement is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary, and beyond last night’s Business Hall of Fame Event, it now benefits more than 73,000 Garden State children with its wide array of success-minded programs.
Junior Achievement says its mission is to “inspire and prepare young people in grades K-12 to succeed in a global economy through real world relationships with business, government, and education partners that can help them develop the employability and financial literacy skills needed to succeed in the 21st century.”
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