Moments of Gratitude
A holiday message from the Boy Scouts of America.
One of the best gifts of the holiday season is the chance to reflect on all the blessings we enjoy. Ralph de la Vega’s story reminds us that, as Americans, we have many reasons to be grateful.
De la Vega was born in Cuba; the years after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 hit his family hard. His father’s business was confiscated. People were imprisoned on the slightest provocation or suspicion.
His parents made the agonizing decision to go to America, even though it meant leaving Cuba with little more than the clothes on their backs. But when the family arrived at the airport, a militiaman looked over their exit papers and told them: “Only the boy can go.”
The boy was de la Vega. He was only 10 years old.
The family sent him on, thinking they’d follow within a few days. As it turned out, they weren’t able to reach America to join de la Vega for another four years. During those years, another immigrant family cared for him as he adjusted to a new country, a new language, and no money.
“Those early days without my family were so difficult that everything else since then has been relatively easy,” he recalls. So when de la Vega became president of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets and helped steer the $41 billion merger of Cingular Wireless and AT&T Wireless, he jokes that that, too, was “relatively easy.”
De la Vega is thankful for the country that provided him so many incredible opportunities. “I am living proof that the American dream is still very much alive,” he says. He’s also grateful for the mentorship of his grandmother, who urged him not to accept the limitations others placed on him.
“The advice that my grandmother gave me—like the advice that our Scoutmasters give to our young people—can have an immeasurable positive impact on their lives,” he says.
That’s why de la Vega is passionate about the Scouts, and that’s why he’s heading up the BSA’s Hispanic initiatives. He believes that Scouting is the best way to share American values with Hispanic young people and their families, so that they, too, can fully participate in the American experience. “No other institution has a bigger opportunity to forge the American soul of today’s youth than the Boy Scouts of America,” he says.
As we gather with our friends and families this holiday season, let’s all take a moment to reflect on de la Vega’s amazing journey—to recall with gratitude the opportunities and freedom we enjoy as Americans, to remember all the people in our lives who gave of themselves to help shape and guide us.
And please accept our deepest gratitude for all that you do as volunteers in shaping the lives of young people and the future of this nation. You may touch the life of a struggling young person who will one day become an extraordinary leader like Ralph de la Vega. In this, the BSA’s centennial year, your service matters more than you may ever know.
Our very best wishes for a wonderful holiday season to you and your family.