When I worked for Synovus Financial Corp. Jim Blanchard, Chairman, would periodically tell the story about a couple that lived in the 1800’s. The couple had a son who was the apple of their eye. They adored him, dearly. However, at a young age, the son was killed in the war, and as you might imagine, this ripped the soul out of the mother’s heart.
The parents wanted to do something to honor the memory of their fallen loved-one. The mother had an idea. She told her husband that they should plan a trip back east to meet with the president of the distinguished Harvard University, so they took the slow locomotive train ride to Cambridge, Massachusetts. When they arrived at the president’s office, they didn’t look the part of people one belonged at the nation’s preeminent educational institution. The couple was dressed in overalls, smelly, quite dirty. The president’s secretary took one look at them incredulously and told them to have a seat.
Several hours passed, and finally the secretary told them that the president would see was ready to meet with them. When the couple walked into the vast office of the president of Harvard University, he, too, looked at them incredulously as he motioned them to have a seat.
“What may I do for you,” said the Harvard president.
"Sir, our son was killed in the war, and we would like to honor his memory," said the mother.
"Perhaps you might like to establish a scholarship in his name," said the president.
"No, we would like to do something more substantial than that," said the mother.
The conversation went back and forth for several minutes and before the parents became exasperated with the president’s distant conceited attitude, so they decided to leave. As they walked toward the door, the mother stopped to ask the president a question.
"Sir, how much does it cost to run a place like this," said the mother.
"Well, Madam, if you have to ask, I do not believe you could afford it," said the president arrogantly.
"Come, Honey, let's go," said the exasperated mother to her husband.
Years later, the president of Harvard University was sitting in his office reading the newspaper, and he read an article about a new university being built in California. The name of the university was Leland Stanford University. It was at that moment that the president of Harvard University realized that the couple who had been in his office a couple of years earlier was the same couple that was about to establish this new university.
As Jim Blanchard used to say, there never should have been a Stanford University. Instead, there should have been a much larger Harvard University.
As human beings we should be careful how we treat one another. Too many times we base our decision and our actions on ignorance and stereotypes. We all come from different walks of life with different backgrounds and different aspirations. Just because one does not dress or look like you does not mean that that person does not have something to offer to society, so be careful how you treat people.