We welcomed Rajeev Rathi ’84, P’15, ’17, ’18 to speak to Upper School students at our celebration of National College Decision Day on May 3, 2021.
Rathi served on Morgan Park Academy’s Board of Trustees from 2008-2018, including four years as Board Chair. Three years ago, he received the school’s highest alumni honor, the Richard L. Duchossois ’40 Integrity and Values Alumni Award.
Rathi is a founder and leader of the Rathi Singh Group within Merrill Private Wealth Management. He has worked in financial services since 1988, serving in senior roles with J.P. Morgan, Lehman Brothers, and UBS Financial Services before moving with his team to Merrill.
Rathi holds an M.B.A. from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and a B.A. in Economics with Honors from the University of Chicago.
I am going to start by giving the Class of 2021 a really heartfelt congratulations. This is a major accomplishment — and you may not appreciate how big of an accomplishment it is. This is one of the finest academic institutions in Illinois. You’ve gotten through four years of it — some of you have gone through 12 or more years of it — and you are much better for it. Not just because of the academic pedigree, but also because of the diversity in this room and what you’ve learned from each other.
So congratulations. But here’s what I also know: The bigger steps are ahead of you.
You’re going to continue to hear that because it’s true. Your life doesn’t end right here with graduation and a degree from Morgan Park Academy. It’s just the beginning. But it’s up to you to take those steps and do something with it. Your parents have invested a tremendous amount of money, resources, and time into your education. Starting in the fall, you’re going to be on your own, and now it’s going to be up to you to show what you want to do and to work hard and to really optimize what you can bring to the table.
The way I like to look at it is: Leave the world a better place because you’ve been here. Do something good with it and do something that you can be proud of.
Which leads me to my lessons for consideration. One is there’s no substitute for hard work. I’ve not met one person in my life who’s gotten ahead — and you can define that however you want — without working hard. And you could look at your classmates and see who works hard and who doesn’t, and you can see who’s gotten ahead and who hasn’t.
You could look at it on the basketball court, on the soccer field — working hard gets you places. You’re going to have to work hard. There’s no shortcuts to working hard. If you want the right outcome, you’re going to have to work hard.
But the second part of that is: You need to find something that you’re going to be passionate about, because working hard in something that you don’t like is not fun. You’re not going to do it for a long time and you’re not going to be passionate about it. You’re not going to do it well. Over time, you’re going to need to find something you’re passionate about and that’s going to make you work hard and be the best that you can be.
So as you go through this experience in college, you’re going to have to work hard, but you’re going to go through a self-evolutionary process of learning more about yourself to find out what you like actually working hard in. That’s going to be the challenge ahead of you. Some of you may go in as an economics major, come out as a bio major, but you’re going to find out what you like and what you don’t like.
That leads me to another item: Don’t be afraid of failure. I’ve never met anyone that’s been successful in life who hasn’t failed in life in some capacity.
If you don’t fail somewhere, you probably haven’t taken the risk to get the reward and you haven’t pushed yourself. If you haven’t pushed yourself, trust me, a few years later, you’ll look back, thinking, “I probably could have done X and I didn’t do it. And I didn’t do it because I was afraid to do it.”
Push yourself. And trust me, you will find out more about yourself and it’ll make you only stronger. And I believe that wholeheartedly here, which gets me to the last point that I want to share with you here.
When I look at my experience at Morgan Park Academy, what I think all of you need to look at and reflect upon, is that this is the perfect school at the perfect time. And I’ll tell you exactly what I mean by that.
I don’t mean just the education you’ve received. You think about all the troubles we’re having in the world today and one good thing about this school is everyone is viewed based on their character, not because of anything else. The world is a lot better place when people look at things that way.
Here, each of you have experienced that. You have friends that are Hindu, that are Muslim, that are Christian, that are Catholic. They’re Irish, they’re Indian, they’re all over the map. Yet people don’t look at them as all over the map. They look at them as part of this community, part of our DNA.
One of the best things I’ve ever received from this institution didn’t have to do with where I graduated in the class and my academic standing. It was that I got to be associated with so many different people from so many different backgrounds. That allowed me to understand who people really are.
You have such a head start on your future classmates, and you’ll realize that next year, when you’re in the fall, when you’re in college. You’ll realize you guys look at things differently. And I’m going to tell you, you look at it better than what most of the world does, and that is a big advantage. Take advantage of that.
You know that diversity is a good thing. Be nurturing of your classmates, of your fellow students, and know that the world is a better place because of what you guys can do to make a difference.
So I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity to chat with you guys. Congratulations. I’m really looking forward to hearing great, great stories about how you guys have achieved your goals. Thank you.
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.