Sandals Resorts leader urges young grads to focus on “main event”
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Adam Stewart, Executive Chairman, Sandals Resorts International
Illustration by Abdul Wahid, MPE
Adam Stewart receives honorary doctorate, encourages graduates to aim high
The Executive Chairman of Sandals Resorts International called on the young people of the Caribbean to tap into their creative genius, never to settle for mediocrity, and to keep betting on the future of Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Delivering remarks after being conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) degree at the 2022 graduation ceremony of The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus over the weekend, Adam Stewart encouraged the graduating to be the generation that competes on the world stage and outperforms any society in the world.
“We are a fascinating people. We are a people rich in culture. The way we walk, the way we talk, the respect that we demand, the pride that we have. Ladies and gentlemen, do not settle. Do not bet against this country and this region,” he said, noting that “a solution for Jamaica and a solution for the Caribbean is not overseas. It is right here in your backyard.”
Stewart said the Caribbean ought to encourage and embrace an entrepreneurial mindset. “What we are looking for is that individual who shows up every single day giving 110 percent. What we are looking for in this region is the future and everything that we can become,” he commented, imploring graduates to not get caught up in idle banter.
“In life, there are main events and there are sideshows. Make sure you, after doing everything that you have done on this educational journey, focus on the main event. The main event needs to be what it is that makes you tick and focus and drive every day,” he advised.
An ardent champion of possibility in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean, Stewart leads businesses, including a hospitality organization that is the region’s largest private employer with about 18,000 team members across 10 Caribbean countries. Beyond Sandals Resorts, Stewart directs his family’s extensive media, automotive and appliance business holdings, and is the force behind international brands AC by Marriott and Starbucks entering the Caribbean market. And while his business enterprises and acumen are highly regarded, his tireless work on some of the region’s most pressing issues – from access to health care and protection of natural resources to investment in education – is where Stewart shines.
“My advice to you, for those of you who are in your early 20s, try things. Step out of your comfort zone. Ask a lot of questions. Work with fascinating companies that give you opportunities. When you start to get to the end of your 20s into your 30s, you need to start to form your mind and find your superpower,” he advised.
“The man above gave each and every one of you a superpower. Some of you may not have studied in the field that is your superpower, and that’s absolutely okay. But when you get up in the morning and you’re taking a shower and you’re preparing for your day, be truthful with yourself. Find the thing inside of you that makes you tick,” Stewart continued, encouraging graduates to explore what makes them want to get up every day so that they can outperform anybody else in that lane.
“So when you get to your 30s, you need to start to specialize. You need to figure out exactly who it is that you want to be. Align to your superpower, try to find a field that is rewarding,” he advised, paying homage to longtime company stalwarts who found their superpower.
“They stayed in a lane after time. They showed up every day, gave it what they got. And ladies and gentlemen, there is no hotel company in the world that can stand beside Sandals, born right here in Jamaica,” Stewart stated before receiving enthusiastic applause.
“So the next time anyone says to you it can’t happen here, prove them wrong. Show them, yes it will. Yes it can. And show them that you will be the generation that will make it happen. I love each and every one of you … this region … is God’s country. Never forget that,” he concluded.
Prior to becoming Executive Chairman of Sandals Resorts International, Stewart spent more than a decade as Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the organization, leading the brand’s transition to its now “Luxury Included” signature and overseeing a period of great expansion that also introduced the region’s first over-the-water accommodations. His efforts have been recognized by numerous hospitality industry awards, including being named the 2015 Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Hotelier of the Year.