Hello BSers! It’s time! We have a submission for a Class of 2020 essay for the Stanford GSB that we’re going to discuss today, sent in by an earnest Brave Supplicant who’s undoubtedly thinking that this is a good essay. 🙂
We hate to be the one to dispel the illusion, but…
Here’s what we got:
What matters most to and why?
A few years ago, I was taking a pre-dawn stroll along a beach in northern France. As the sun rose, I tried to envision myself on this same beach, only 70 years prior, in an attempt to understand and appreciate the sacrifices that were made by America’s “greatest generation”. It was June 6th and I was standing on Omaha beach in Normandy.
Listening to the waves wash ashore, I was musing on that infamous day when an elderly French woman, her son, and grandson approached. I was wearing my flight suit because I had to work later in the day, so I had assumed that they just wanted to say good morning or talk (military) shop. In actuality, the lady came up to say ‘thank you’ and wanted to tell me a story. She didn’t speak any English, and my French doesn’t extend far beyond “merci”, so her son played translator.
She was just a young girl during World War II and vividly remembers German soldiers visiting her house numerous times – the Germans’ presence easily identifiable by the loud banging on the door, their distinctively black boots and the screaming and chaos that followed their entrance. She quickly sought out a ‘safe spot’ that provided a view, yet offered her some protection from the harassment. One day, however, there was a lighter knock on the door. To be safe, she still ran to her secret hiding spot, which ended up being underneath her parents’ bed. To her surprise, she didn’t recognize the all-too familiar German boots nor the language that the men were speaking. Instead, these men had brown boots on and spoke with a softer tone. There wasn’t any screaming and her parents seemed relatively calm. After gaining the courage to come out (with her parents’ help), she soon realized that these were the ‘good guys’; they were Americans.
She then thanked me, of all people, for rescuing her and for my service to protect liberty and freedom around the world. We then hugged, cried, and hugged again. After a few more stories and some small talk, I graciously thanked her for sharing her memories and then we parted ways. Although there have been many, that moment alone validated my decision to serve my country in uniform and is a perfect example of what matters most to me.
It wasn’t until I was invited to a week of introspection and study at the Aspen Institute’s “Seminar on Leadership, Values, and the Good Society” did I realize that the majority of my adult life decisions have been motivated by a similar theme; having a significant impact, providing opportunity, and making a difference by positively affecting lives through service and community.
Alrighty then, we’ll stop right there. That’s about 450 words, of an essay that Stanford suggests be around 750 words total.
We ask all of you reading this: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT THE APPLICANT FROM THIS ESSAY?
Go ahead. Read back over it. We’ve got some of our own thoughts, comments and observations we can offer after the jump, but the best way for you to take advantage of this opportunity is for you to put on your thinking cap and analyze it for yourself.
Then continue on reading what we have to say.