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Personal references

Personal references can be quite effective if they serve the speaker's purpose. Care must be taken, though, that such a reference does not make the speaker sound as if he is on an ego trip. The late Roberto Goizueta had more reason than most of us to be egotistical. He was a Cuban who escaped the Castro regime and came to the United States as a young man with only $20 in his pocket. He rose to become chairman, president, and chief executive of The Coca-Cola Company. In a speech delivered on the campus of Yale University, his alma mater, he used a powerful personal reference:

Returning to Yale is always a thought-provoking experience for me. I have often emphasized the importance of education by telling the story of how my family left Cuba when the Castro regime took control. I always point out that the only property I was allowed to bring with me into this country was my education. And that property, I carried in my head. It is a powerful and uniquely American idea that a young immigrant could come to this country with nothing but a good education and eventually have the opportunity to lead one of the world's best enterprises.


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