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Studio CEO offers direction for JROTC cadets
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Maj. (ret.) Danny Burgstiner, Air Force JROTC instructor at Effingham County High School, presents an American flag to Medient Studios CEO Manu Kumaran in appreciation of his talk at the JROTCs annual dining out. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

Having faith and faith in yourself are essential to success, the chief executive officer of Medient Studios told members of the Effingham County High School Air Force JROTC on Thursday night.

The featured speaker at the JROTC’s annual “dining out,” Manu Kumaran, the CEO of the company that is building a massive film studio complex in Effingham, said he’s made his share of mistakes in life. But his steadfast belief in himself and in God has carried him through, he explained.

“I’ve been very blessed by God in my life,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes and at most points on the verge of giving up hope, the universe has found a way to solve problems that seemed absolutely insurmountable.”

Kumaran said there are a handful of central tenets he uses to guide his life, and one of the keys is “realizing the limitless potential that every human being has to achieve anything he or she wants to achieve.

“There is nothing holding us back, except our fears, except our own lack of belief,” he added.

Kumaran also said it is important to have faith and to have faith in faith.

“We have to believe in ourselves,” he said, “and we have to believe we have the potential to achieve whatever we want. Without faith, everything else is meaningless. And that faith includes a deep and abiding faith in whatever God you believe in, whatever Higher Power you ascribe to.”

He also asked those in attendance if they are focused on their goal or if they also are focused on the joy, beauty and people they’ll encounter along the way to their aims.

“It is my personal belief, and my personal experience, that living every moment, finding happiness in that moment, while keeping our dream in perspective, that’s the attitude of the living faith,” Kumaran said.

He also said the power of forgiveness — including forgiving yourself — is vital.

“I’ve made more mistakes than most people,” Kumaran admitted.

Kumaran also said there are a handful of things heard or read throughout a life that will stay with someone, and one of the first things he thinks about when he meets someone for the first time is “how can I help this person?”

“That made such a dramatic impact in my mind,” he said.

Kumaran also said that a person’s worth shouldn’t be measured by the riches he accumulates but rather in the number of people affected when that person passes away.

“It is what you give back, not in what you take,” he said of how a person’s life is judged. “But to give, you must have.”

Even with his experiences across the globe as a filmmaker and in other endeavors, Kumaran acknowledged he doesn’t have the answers to life.

“I don’t have a solution,” he said. “I don’t have a formula.”

Yet he asked the cadets and the others in attendance to be aware of themselves and the people and things around them in their lives. Kumaran noted that many of his friends back in India have become extremely successful and now have homes of their own and multiple vehicles. But none of them seem to be significantly happier, either.

“Be aware that you are part of a larger whole,” he advised, “and these man-made boundaries of nationalities, cultures, none of these are really relevant when the Maker makes a judgment on how you have lived.”

Kumaran was joined by the newest member of his board of directors, New York entrepreneur Matthew Mellon. He also said that America and the nation’s story are still relevant and have meaning to the rest of the world.

“I think the reason America is important to the world is that America taught the world that you can take responsibility for yourself,” he said. “America taught the world that if you want to do something, you can do it. It taught that you are the master of your destiny.”

Kumaran also said that it doesn’t matter what someone does for a living but they should approach it with pride and do it well. He also said he was “amazed” at the opportunities young people have today.

“I hope this group will hold fast to the fundamental ethic that created this great country,” he said, “of personal responsibility, of commitment and of the dignity of labor. The future is open to you. The essential requirement of all of you is to remain dedicated to yourself and in contributing to the advancement of this community. Each and every one of you can be whatever you want to be. All that is stopping you is yourself.”