I’m also uncomfortable with how the story explicitly played into the stereotype of the HBS student, and not necessarily in a good way.
Sometimes, the subtext of a story can be as salient as the primary narrative. And when it comes to stories about Harvard Business School students, so often the subtext of the story tends to speak to notions of wealth, of arrogance, of privilege, of entitlement, and so on. In media, in movies, in pop culture, this is the negative stereotype that gets reinforced, over and over.
When I encounter these stereotypes, my first reaction is to sigh. My second reaction is to be defensive. My third reaction, the one I try to hold onto and carry around with me, is to remind myself that there is a large part of this meta-narrative I cannot singlehandedly control, but there is also a small part of it that I can… and that’s the part I try to focus on.
This is what I believe. I believe that in everything we do, we need to defy the negative stereotypes people try to impose on us. We need to bewilder them with our generosity, our humility, our good humor, and our compassion. We need to be the opposite of defensive; we need to be open, self-critical, willing to shine a light on ourselves. And as we embark on different career paths, we need to make sure that our motivations are true. We need to be constantly asking ourselves, are we trying to create real value in the world, meaningful value in the world… or are we just in it for ourselves? Most importantly, we need to hold onto our ideals. Just because there are folks out there who are cynical about us does not mean we have to succumb to that cynicism ourselves. There will always be skeptics, there will always be doubters. Our best response is to simply carry ourselves in a way that gives lie to their preconceived notions about us.
Ultimately, this story belongs to us.
Listen up, people. We are going to write our own story here, together. We cannot control the external narrative, but we do control our own experience. We own this culture. It belongs to us. And we can make it as good as we want it to be, as aspirational as we want it to be.
Because here is the thing. In a matter of days the world is going to move on and forget about this story. But even after the spotlight has faded, we are still going to be here, living this experience every day. So let’s use this moment to remind ourselves of how precious this place is, and recommit ourselves to doing everything we can to make our culture as empowering as we know it can be.
I hope you know how inspired I am by your engagement in, and passion for, this one-of-a-kind place. With immense respect and gratitude,
Senior Associate Dean, Chair, MBA Program