As we approach the end of another incredible year and an amazing graduation ceremony for our EC class here at Harvard Business School, I’d like to ask you to take a moment to think about what the last weekend of May and our national holiday that traditionally marks the start of the 101 days of summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day is all about.
For our many international students, Memorial Day is a Federal Holiday to commemorate the thousands of young men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice in military service for the US. Memorial Day was first observed in 1868 and Congress official recognized Memorial Day in 1971. Today, Memorial Day is marked by parades, ceremonies and BBQs with friends.
Yet, we would be remiss if we didn’t at least take a moment to recognize the rich history of service and sacrifice that we have right here at Harvard. As we all learned, during WWII HBS dedicated itself to the war effort and essentially became a service academy. To that end, all graduates were required to either enter the military or support the war effort in some fashion. Today, HBS is represented at the highest level of our Military. We can count Admiral Michael Mullen, the most senior ranking officer in the US Military and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among the very best who have walked the halls of HBS. Admiral Mullen is an alumnus of HBS’s Advanced Management Program (Class of 1991).
Outside of HBS, almost every campus on Harvard University has numerous grads who have served in the Armed Forces and at least one alumnus who has died in military service. In all, 16 Harvard men have earned the Congressional Medal of Honor (this nation’s highest military decoration) and approximately 1,200 Harvard alumni have given the ultimate sacrifice.
As we reflect on our proud history of this esteemed institution and the sacrifice offered this nation’s best and brightest, we must also recognize the unparalleled support the Harvard community provides the more than 150 veterans of our current conflicts who are enrolled across the many campuses. Moreover, we should look to the future.
With the tides of change pushing against the archaic Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy regarding homosexuals in the Armed Forces, the future looks bright. Amid heated controversy, ROTC was officially removed from campus in 1969. Unfortunately every year since then, 35 or so Harvard undergrads interested in following Harvard’s great tradition of service in the Armed Forces of the United States have been forced to attend training down the road at MIT. By repealing DADT, Congress will open the door to bringing ROTC back to Harvard College. The Harvard students and administration will have a heavy weight lifted from their shoulders, and they should celebrate the diversity that ROTC cadets bring to the community of students. When DADT is repealed, we should all welcome ROTC back to the Harvard College campus with open arms. The deeply held values that ROTC cadets hold dear like integrity, service before self, courage, and honor will only add to the incredibly rich experience that is HARVARD.
So, as summer approaches at full speed, please take a moment in between flipping burgers on Memorial Day to remember those Harvard men who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service of their great nation and be proud of the long Crimson Line!