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Student Perspective – Avni Patel (OI)

Happy Birthday Harvard Business School. On this, your 100th birthday, I wish for you the audacity of youth, the confidence of experience and the humility of age. Your 100 years have seen many changes – enterprises grown and faded, technologies come and gone, theories built, torn down and rebuilt again.
But one thing has remained constant. The world’s need for inspirational and informed leadership. And you have stepped up to this challenge at every turn, changing with the times, creating the very context that is so vital to the development of these leaders.

And in doing so, you have accomplished what few could. Fortunately, you have not been alone and have many blessings to be thankful for. Joining you in your mission have been the leading faculty that grace your classrooms with their thought provoking research, the tireless staff that transform this place of learning into a thriving place of living, and the students that challenge the status quo with their questions, their debates, their beliefs – they have all worked to ensure your rightful place as a leading institution of business thinking.

But will this be enough for the challenges of tomorrow? Because there are many. Your diverse students thrive on a divisionless campus but face societies that still divide them. Corporations are seen with growing distrust and cynicism even as their prominence in society continues to increase. The burdens of a progressively fragile environment beg for accountability and action. And nations worldwide promise greater wealth but give no assurance of improved distribution.
Citizens globally are demanding businesses to find solutions to these problems that inspire shareholders and stakeholders, so that the motive to do well is balanced by the motive to do good.

Your role is pivotal in shaping the way forward. But as numerous and weighty are the challenges so too are the opportunities. What is the next frontier that you will reach for? How will you continue to break with convention and discover unique answers to timeless questions?

We have heard, time and time again that with great power comes great responsibility. I can think of no better a time to remember this. You have done much but there is much more to be done. The world today, now, more than ever, has need for perceptive, passionate leadership that understands the issues but marches boldly forward with practical solutions. If you do not lead the charge, who will?

And so on this most remarkable of milestones, I wish for you the ability to push the boundaries of what can be done. To define the context for tomorrow’s leaders in tomorrow’s terms. To be relevant in the ways and places that these new challenges will demand. You will need to stay true to your remarkable past while responding flexibly to the constantly changing world as you equip, enable and embolden the future sparks of change.

You have extraordinary achievements to celebrate today. But your birthday is also the day to look forward. To be audacious in aim, confident in stride and humble in manner.

I am proud to have been a small part of your distinguished history as I join my fellow classmates graduating in your Centennial year. But I have even greater expectations of how you will shape our futures.

For 100 years you have defined the very meaning of business leadership. I wish you the privilege of defining it for the next 100.

April 7, 2008
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