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Class Day Speech of Rayford Davis

Am I really a Harvard MBA? Do I know what that truly means? What will the world expect from me? President? CEO? I bet they are gonna expect me to start acting responsible? Will they expect me NOT to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of a meeting? Will I get frowned at if I come back with a Fruit Punch? Heck, maybe they play the alphabet game, too? I mean, doesn’t work get boring sometimes?
Man, should I even be thinking about this now? Instead, shouldn’t I be thinking about what I’ll do with my summer? Maybe I should I travel? What about Europe, …or Asia, …or Africa? Hey, isn’t there somebody organizing a Trek around here or something? How much would a trip like that even cost? Can’t I just add it to my student loans? I mean, why should I ever pay it off? Didn’t we learn that using debt lowers your WACC? Or am I just WACKO for even asking such a stupid question?
Maybe instead of questioning my summer, I should be questioning my life? Are these the questions of Meg Whitman and Stanley O’Neal, …or even Shaquille O’Neal? Or are they the questions of Erik Petersen and Jeff Skilling? Isn’t that what we learned in LVDM…how to ask the right questions? But didn’t Ajay Ahuja say there is nothing nutritionally different between Apple Juice and sugar water? And isn’t he a doctor? Would you really take ALL of the Tylenol off of the shelf? But what about the Tylenol in schools or hotels, would I be responsible for that too?
Now that you mention hotels, have you seen the Dean’s house? Is it more like the Ritz or the Four Seasons? I hear the rooms are bigger than my dorm? And MY GOD, can I finally move into a real apartment? But will my 150 square foot “efficiency” on the upper eastside even qualify as a real apartment?

All that said, won’t it be great to get back to expense accounts? What do you mean no more expense accounts? What do you mean the financial environment has changed? When we entered in 2001, didn’t they say this would be a short economic “slowdown?” It’s a full-fledged RECESSION? Or do you mean…correction? Speaking of corrections, can I see my last exam? What? We never see our exams, just our grades? Didn’t Dean Kester say grades don’t matter? Then why grade us at all? Oh, you need to select Baker Scholars. Do the Baker Scholars really think they are smart? Or do they know that they just talk a lot? Could I even be a Baker Scholar? Or could I be … a Baker? Yeah, now wouldn’t that beat consulting…a Baker?

What really is the job of a newly minted Harvard MBA? After 4 years in undergrad, 1 semester abroad, 2 years as an analyst, 2 years at an Internet start-up, and 2 years at THE HARVARD business school, are they telling me that I still need to be in an “apprenticeship” program? I mean, what else do they want me to apprentice? Does IBM want me to learn how to create magic server healing pixie dust? Will Reebok want me to learn to work with Allen Iverson, Jay-Z and all the rappers to find the Questions and the Answers to the new basketball shoes? Will Microsoft teach me how to create an agile business? Or maybe Coors Light will show me how to find more Twins?

No matter what I do or where I go, will I forever think in cases now? Will I view every life situation like a business? How much wood…would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck…could chuck…wood? And how much would that wood cost? What brand of wood would that woodchuck chuck? Can you scale only one woodchuck? Could one woodchuck even chuck enough wood to compete with Butler Lumber? I mean, even if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Does the world expect us to be greedy and out for self? Are they right? Are we just greedy? If this were 1987, would you expect to see us sitting in Hamilton Lounge watching Wall Street reciting Gordon Gecko’s Greed speech like the stockbrokers in Boiler Room? If not…then what? Chicago, for our ambition for stardom? Training Day, for all the hours we’ll spend …in training? Or maybe as a sign of the times, it’s more like Bowling for Columbine or Black Hawk Down? Or better yet, with all of this section love going around, how about Honeymoon in Vegas? Or possibly Casino? After all, didn’t we make more than a few midnight runs down to Foxwoods?

You know, why don’t we just decide what we expect of ourselves? I mean, what if I could sing Etta James’s “At Last” like Careina Williams? Did you hear the She-E-O’s harmonize in that chapel? Or maybe I’d decide to educate the masses like Kelly Garret? Now wouldn’t that be a Project to Achieve? Or if I could write a script like Yael Taqqu and Travis Rundlet to create Network Effects all around the world? Or if I could cook like Michael Koffler and Callie Merritt, who make Emeril look like he’s burning toast in Spangler? Or what if I could rock the drums like Amanda Krantz? Naaaawwww, that’s not what they expect from a Harvard MBA, is it?

Should our expectations even change at all now that we’re Harvard MBA’s? Aren’t we the same people we were before we got here…just two years older and fifteen hundred cases wiser? Won’t our actions show how much higher our own expectations are for ourselves? Yes, yes they will. And our actions won’t be because of what our bosses will expect.

They won’t be because of what our friends will expect. They won’t even be because of what our parents will expect. They will be because of what WE will expect of ourselves…and not just because we got a Harvard MBA.

June 2, 2003
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