Gustavo Cisneros’ list of accomplishments is long and storied: Legendary chairman of one of the largest privately held media, entertainment, telecommunications and consumer products organizations in the world. Visionary of Latin-American programming and pioneer of the telenovela. Introducer of many global consumer products into the Latin-American market. Innovator for corporate social responsibility. These are the kinds of accomplishments that befit Lifetime Achievement.
But if there is one area where Cisneros would like to be remembered for making his mark, it is in education. Through both the Cisneros Group and the Cisneros Foundation, the non-profit he established with his family, he has worked tirelessly to improve education in Latin America. “Education,” he says, “is the best catalyst for development, competitiveness and leadership.”
This commitment began in the 1970s, when the Cisneros Group introduced a new teaching method for adult literacy. It eventually reached nearly 300,000 people and became one of the most important educational initiatives in Venezuela. This formed the basis for the Cisneros Foundation, and for more than three decades the Foundation funded and managed a wide range of initiatives to improve education and teaching skills in the region.
“Teachers play a key role in improving the quality of education,” Cisneros notes. “Therefore we believe in empowering them through our initiatives to become agents of change.”
Gustavo Cisneros is one of South America’s most prominent businessmen. He became chairman and CEO of Cisneros Group in 1968 in his native Venezuela. Today, the Cisneros Group of Companies owns or holds interests in more than 30 companies that serve millions of customers in more than 100 countries.
In honoring Cisneros with its Lifetime Achievement Award, the AEF is, for the first time, celebrating someone who made his mark primarily outside the U.S. But with Hispanics now accounting for one in six Americans, Cisneros’ influence extends well inside America’s borders. “Not only is he a huge success in the Latin American market,” says Alex of the AEF, “but also they have addressed non-Spanish speaking people with their programming innovation.”
Cisneros now splits his time between his company, his foundation and serving the public. Central to his efforts will be using education to help Latin America gain as an economic and cultural power. “Through education, we will make this the decade for Latin America,” he says.