“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
"There is a Jewish family living on the eighth floor. They must be destroyed!" Standing on the concrete stoop outside my apartment building in Minsk, Belarus, a neighbor spoke those piercing words. My small hands tightened, clenching my polka-dot dress. My family was the only Jewish family living on the eighth floor.
Months later we immigrated to a predominantly minority neighborhood in Baltimore. In school, my teacher taped large signs around me in a new language: "CHAIR," "TABLE," they spelled in bold navy blue marker.
"Jewish." "Foreign." "Different." I desperately wanted to erase those all-too-familiar labels. I wanted hide my Jewish identity, to yank down those taped-on signs. But I never did.
Instead, I tried to see beyond these labels. It helped me connect with people – especially marginalized people – because I began seeing beyond their labels too. When I taught an art class for men deemed "criminally insane," I chose not to know their crimes or diagnoses. I let their artwork speak for itself.
Today, I strive to define myself before others define me. I will be the contrarian that challenges groupthink. I will be a policymaker in business and a businesswoman in policy. I will be an artist in a studio and outside one. Throughout, I aspire to create opportunities for others to join me – to define ourselves, fly in the face of expectations and open seemingly impenetrable doors.
— Inessa Lurye
Each year we ask our classmates a straightforward, simple question taken from the lines of a poem by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Mary Oliver.
We share with you intimate and candid responses to this question, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
Concept and photography:
Tony Deifell, MBA '02
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Harvard Business SchoolDillon HouseSoldiers Field
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