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A True Story
A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun
threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston, and walked timidly
without an appointment into the Harvard University President's outer
office. The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods,
country hicks had no business at Harvard and probably didn't even
deserve to be in Cambridge. She frowned.
"We want to see the President," the man said softly.
"He'll be busy all day," the secretary snapped.
"We'll wait," the lady replied.
For hours, the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would
finally become discouraged and go away.
They didn't and the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided
to disturb the President, even though it was a chore she always regretted.
"Maybe if they just see you for a few minutes, they'll leave," she
told him. He sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance
obviously didn't have the time to spend with them, but he detested
gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office.
The President, stern-faced with dignity, strutted toward the couple.
The lady told him, "We had a son who attended Harvard for one year.
He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was
accidentally killed. And my husband and I would like to erect a memorial
to him, somewhere on campus."
The President wasn't touched, he was shocked. "Madam," he said gruffly.
"We can't put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and
died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery."
"Oh, no," the lady explained quickly. "We don't want to erect a statue.
We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard."
The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and
homespun suit, then exclaimed, "A building! Do you have any earthly
idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million
dollars in the physical plant at Harvard"
For a moment the lady was silent. The president was pleased. He could
get rid of them now. And the lady turned to her husband and said quietly,
"Is that all it costs to start a University? Why don't we just start
Her husband nodded.
The President's face wilted in confusion and bewilderment. And Mr.
and Mrs. Leland Stanford walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California
where they established the university that bears their name, a memorial
to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.
You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those
who can do nothing for them or to them.