As I step onto the graduation stage on Baker lawn, I'm transported back to five years ago, a lifetime ago, nervously opening the door to Dee Leopold's office for my HBS admissions interview.
Before I even sat down she asked the one question I feared most, the one that not even countless hours of reading business journals, practicing case method, or studying politics could prepare me for.
With a deep and visceral sincerity in her eyes she asked "How is your father?"
A faraway voice calling my name brings me back to my impending graduation. The graduation that my dad is not attending. Like many of my classmates who have lost a loved one, it is both my greatest source of power and my crippling Achilles heel. In a moment, I doubt my ability to lead a wild and precious life at all – the overwhelming sorrow turns it into a mere existence.
But I survive. The pain dulls and the world keeps spinning. I realize that there are people who depend upon me as a son, a brother, a husband, a colleague, and a friend – as I greatly depend on them.
I look up at the rows of expectant faces in the audience, smile ruefully, extend my hand outward. With tenderness and strength in my heart, I step confidently toward the Dean.