I have been seriously discussing with myself, a very tough interlocutor, for about three hours what could be the best way of welcoming and saluting the last glorious January Cohort in HBS history: the one of Class 2002. After having written two versions of this article I decided I had better reviewing what I wrote to welcome your fellows from the September cohort,,, surprisingly, I liked it ten times more than whatever I had written tonight. So, with the proper disclaimer to avoid being accused of self-plagiarism, let me quote myself and bid you the warmest “Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!”
Those amongst you, who have seen the film or the musical play Cabaret, will probably recognize immediately this greeting. For those who have not, I recommend you both, especially if you are gay. But it is not necessary to see any of them or even to be gay to enjoy Section Q, the weekly contribution to Harbus from the GLSA.
What the GLSA stands for? It is the Gay and Lesbian Student Association, a student organization that has as its goals to work to improve the HBS experience for the gay and lesbian students. We work to bring to our members, to the school community, and to the society in general the message that “It is OK to be gay at HBS”, as it should actually be everywhere. What about the bisexual, transsexual and heterosexual students? Of course we love, welcome and care for all you too. We have discussed many times whether or not we should change the acronym GLSA to reflect our “all welcome” policy but… well… GLSA logo looks so cute in our web site in its current form that our consensus has been to keep it as it is.
By the way, have you visited our web site? If you have not yet, it is something we strongly recommend you to do as soon as possible. The site is very interesting and full of good advices that you can actually use, even if you are not gay, particularly if you are starting your HBS experience. In addition, it is visually really very nice, a masterpiece from Art Nava (MBA Class 1999). The address is http://sa.hbs.edu/glsa/
Where was I before I got lost writing this column? Mmm, … I certainly hope that nothing like this happens ever to you when you are writing a final exam… Ah, yes! Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome! Let me tell you why we decided to give this title to our first column of the season. Of course the most obvious reason is that Cabaret is for many a gay icon, above all in its film incarnation with Liza Minnelli. But there are other, more important reasons.
First of all, we wanted to insist in the international and culturally diverse environment of HBS community. Here you will meet, know and establish lifetime friendships with people coming from all corners of the world; with the most varied possible set of cultural, social and work experience backgrounds. This is a unique opportunity that we strongly want to encourage you to profit at the maximum by helping others understand your own culture at the same time you share with them the values of theirs.
Secondly, to emphasize that here at HBS, as the song from Cabaret says, “life is beautiful”, or at least it can be. But it is important to you to notice that, as everything in life, there is not such a thing as a free lunch. You will have to do some homework to make life beautiful.
A word of advice for the newcomers: continue to be yourself! You are a very valuable person who already has an interesting set of personal and professional experiences and who, above all, has an extraordinary potential. Believe us, you are not here by accident; you were chosen after a very careful and professional selection process. There is no need to change yourself to try to fit in what you may believe is the expected behavior or profile for an HBS MBA student. Actually there is no such a thing as “expected behavior” beyond what is stated in the Community Standards. Regarding the “expected profile” it can be described in a single word: diversity. In brief, you are here precisely because you are who you are. There is no benefit for you or the others in trying to mimic someone else’s conduct, no matter how appealing it may seem to be.
Those reflections bring us inevitably to the ancient Shakespearean dilemma: “to be or not to be” or, better yet, “to be or not to be OUT.” Our best recommendation is to follow your own instinct. If you have been out before HBS, there is no need to hide now, please continue to be out. If, on the contrary, you don’t feel comfortable being out, there is no need or obligation to come out now. Actually, we even provide you the means so that you can choose to belong to the GLSA without being out. Lastly, if you, like many, would like to be out but have been waiting for the appropriate opportunity and context to come out, be sure that there is no better time and place to try that than here and now; within the low risk and friendly community of Harvard Business School.
To finish I want to invite you all to start or continue to work with us to improve this column with your articles, comments, and critiques. Please remember, it is not necessary either to have a great style or to prepare a whole novel the size of Les Mis‚rables to contribute; this is not a literary contest but a forum open to all. Of course if you do not feel like writing you can always contribute on the demand side, by suggesting us the themes you would like to see here or at least reading it assiduously every week. And once again, Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!