“It is a great pleasure for me to stand in front of you today and welcome you to the Harvard Business School. Welcome, Class of 2005!
Look around you. The people in this room are the leaders of tomorrow.
They are the CEOs, the entrepreneurs and the diplomats of the future.
There may even be a future President of the United States sitting among us today.
For this reason, I must insist that you not leave class to use the bathroom. In many ways, leadership starts with bladder control. What if I left the podium right now to go drain the lizard? That’s not the way a leader behaves.
Why do we set our standards higher? Because the Harvard Business School is the most prestigious institution of higher learning in the world.
Our mission is not to teach accounting and finance. Our mission is to improve society, to change the world. We cannot rest until there is no more hunger. We cannot tire until there is no more disease.
And, friends, we cannot relax until we rid the world of unexcused classroom absences. Maybe you think there are “good reasons” for you to miss class. If that’s what you think, maybe you also think there are “good reasons” for children to go hungry. Well, I say to you: No sir, no madam, there are not. I am here to tell you that the only good reason for a child to go hungry is if she missed a class.
Sitting in this auditorium are the world’s elite few. Almost 10,000 people applied this year, and all of them were bright, capable people. And yet you made the cut. You may ask, “Why me?” It is an excellent question, and I admit that the answer is not obvious. But let me say this forcefully: There are no admissions mistakes. You deserve to be here.
I’ll say it again: There are no admissions mistakes. However, there are applicant mistakes. For instance, if you have already managed to lock yourself out of your dorm room, you are an applicant mistake. You mistakenly applied to HBS when you intended to apply to the Sally Struthers Correspondence School of Not Being an Idiot. Please gather your things and leave.
As those folks make their way out, I’d like to point out the breathtaking diversity of the people remaining in this room. I look around this hall and I see people from every corner of the world, from every walk of life.
There are investment bankers from Poland, entrepreneurs from Chile, plumbers from Easter Island and rich kids from New England. The diversity is staggering!
But one trait that we share at HBS is our belief in Community Standards. Every community has standards, core principles that make it unique. In our community, we choose to post these standards in paragraph form on wall plaques. This is what makes us who we are. These wall plaques serve as a reminder of our commitment to each other – to treat each other with respect, to learn from each other, to be honest with each other.
There are things we do not tolerate in our community: racism, sexism, Communism. Also, quiet people.
I see that my time with you is running short. I have been looking forward to this day for some time. Giving this speech is one of the highlights of my role as dean. It will be a pleasure to see you assembled again at graduation day in May of 2005. You’ll walk across this stage proudly, and I’ll shake your hand and offer you a diploma in exchange for a large donation to our grounds-keeping endowment.
In closing, please make the most of your time here. There are so many resources here on the HBS campus that you should not hesitate not to speak to me. Thank you, God bless and if you get caught with a microwave in your dorm, I will have you killed.” [Applause.]
Editor’s note: This That Guy is NOT that That Guy from last year, and don’t be that guy who asks who That Guy is cause that’s for That Guy and That Guy alone to know. And that’s that.