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Wealthy, Capitalist, and Progressive

On a rainy Saturday in early April, an enthusiastic, if sleepy, group of HBS students gathered at 8:30am for a series of sold-out workshops on political leadership. The day-long program was sponsored, organized and run by the HBS Democrats, but was open to all students. The event included presentations on fundraising, running for office, and an insider’s scoops on campaign management from the perspectives of media, policy and operations.

All the workshops were interesting, but the one that seemed to resonate most with the crowd was led by Chris Gabrieli.

Gabrieli, a 2002 Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, is currently involved with a local non-profit and is politically active throughout the state. Before entering the public arena, Gabrieli established himself as a successful businessman. He started GMIS, Inc., a company he later sold for approximately $250 million, and is a Partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, a billion dollar venture capital firm.

Gabrieli is a prominent example of a new breed of Democrats: wealthy, capitalist, and progressive. A spark plug of energy, Gabrieli spoke eloquently about his position as a pro-growth Democrat with liberal social views. Gabrieli unapologetically highlighted his entrepreneurial and venture capital career, while proudly proclaiming his support of stem cell research and gay marriage.

Regardless of whether or not one agrees with Gabrieli’s politics, he represents an interesting possibility for HBS students – obtaining professional achievement, while making a difference in the world. We are all searching for ways to have an impact, both in business and in other areas. Many of us, especially ECs speeding fast towards graduation and the immediate future, feel like we are faced with a choice between professional success and contributing to the community, whether through political involvement or through other means.

In many ways, Gabrieli’s story is an inspiration – he has combined tremendous achievement (and financial success!) with meaningful involvement in the public sphere. Listening to him, I could only hope for a fraction of his accomplishment.

In any case, I was glad to have woken up early on a Saturday to hear his message.

April 11, 2005
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