The day we received our admissions letters, I wrote on two index cards some reflection notes for myself.
One card was entitled, “Yes HBS,” the other, “No HBS.” I listed the benefits of getting into our great school on one and the benefits to not getting in (yes, there are some!) on the other. I did the “No” side first. At the end of the card, I thought and wrote: “This does not change my value as a person,” because I knew no matter the decision, I had a bright future and certainly could (and would) make the world a better place without an MBA.
“It is one road, but it’s not the only road,” I told myself. When I did the “Yes” side, I realized that not only could I write the same quote, I NEEDED to…for my admission here didn’t change my value, good or bad. Moreover, if I did get in, I should never forget that I am no better of a person because I happened to have earned this wonderful opportunity.
I think about this today because I know that there are times I have acted in ways that I think others would define as wrong, and sometimes in ways I define as wrong, too. I am here having made errors in moral judgment, trying to not make them again and trying to learn from my mistakes on the journey of life, not just the journey of a Harvard Business School graduate, while trying to make a difference in the world.
I think what these prospective students did was wrong and they received adequate and fair punishment. However, I hesitate to judge them any further than on this event, and I feel we as a community are going there. In the hallways and classrooms, we are sometimes condescending to them in their unfortunate, character flawed, non-HBS lives as if no one amongst us has ever made a moral judgment that they later reflected upon as wrong.
The journey for these non-admits begins now. What they do with this lesson will be more reveling of their character than this action as a data point. I am thankful and humbled that I have had opportunities to learn from my mistakes because in many ways it was the sum of my mistakes that led me down the road that brought me to HBS.
Certainly I hope that in every word and deed I bring honor to this University and never cause her disparagement. But in the end, I know that coming to HBS doesn’t change my value as a person and I hope someone lets these non-admits know that, too.