Andres Lara, better known as “The Cuban Guy,” shared the motivational story of his road from hardship to success to a packed, eager crowd last night.
As the Hispanic Heritage Month Keynote speaker, Lara gave detailed intimate moments of his life in order to inspire CMU students to move forward to create the life they’ve imagined.
Lara left his home country of Cuba at the young age of 16 without his parents, money, knowledge of the English language or permission from the Cuban government. The boat he boarded held a mere 30 passengers, and he considers himself lucky be one of those 30.
“We took a boat of 30 people from the Cuban border, and the Cuban National Guard threatened us with machine guns and other things, but the people commanding the boat were so focused on moving forward that they were willing to take the risk,” Lara said.
A short 10 years after he made it to United States, Lara would find himself the CEO of A. Success Training, Inc. and a renowned public speaker. He spends his days traveling around the country speaking to groups about how to persevere in the face of obstacles and be successful.
Lara explains that one word, given to him by a college professor, changed his life for the better. The word, which is more of acronym, is OYA, and encourages students to get Off Your Anatomy and take Action.
“Want all you want to – wanting isn’t enough,” Lara said, “you have get off of your anatomy and take action in order to be successful.”
Lara identifies many obstacles students might have to overcome during college, but encourages students to move forward despite these obstacles.
“The pain of moving forward is temporary, (but) the pain of quitting is forever,” Lara said, “Right now, you are being tested by friends, family, circumstances – by everything. Life is testing you to see how serious you are about moving forward.”
After attending a motivational speech while in college, Lara realized his dream was to be a speaker, even though the challenge of overcoming his language barrier would be difficult.
“When I laid down to sleep that night (I saw the speaker), the last thought I had before I went to sleep was, ‘I’m going to be a speaker,” he said. “I look out at audiences now and I think – ‘I am a speaker.’”
According to Assistant Director of Cultural Programming, D’Wayne Jenkins, the speech was made possible by the a co-sponsorship between the Central Michigan University Program Board and Multicultural Academic Student Services. The cost of Lara’s appearance was $5,000.
“After doing research, we came across (Lara’s) name and contacted him. He seemed very interested in speaking and we’ve been working with him since the beginning of summer to have him come here to speak to the students,” Jenkins said.
Saginaw senior Sparkle Jackson was appreciative of the work done by the university in arranging the speech.
“The speech was very thought-provoking, and the fact that he came (to the U.S.) at the age of 16 shows how the little things in life are what matter,” Jackson said. “His speech was very inspirational.”