By Penny Righthand, CLU, ChFC
the lighter side of life »
Iam so glad that I am not among this year’s college graduates, despite the fact that if I were, I
wouldn’t have to spend so much money on moisturizers and youth serums,
and I’d have many years to recover
from the latest portfolio plunge.
These poor kids are, well, to put
it bluntly, poor. And “challenged,”
to use a socially correct word. They
owe billions of dollars in student
loans. Corporations aren’t hiring.
And according to at least one major
graduation speaker, they’d better get
busy refreezing the permafrost before
all those thawing microbes escape in
numbers that will make their student
loan totals look micro.
The photos of this June’s graduates, smiling in their caps and gowns,
prove, even more than their diplomas
do, that they finished their theses and
used up the last of the family fortune.
Nevertheless, the Harvard graduates didn’t seem too discouraged by
the recent economic news. After all,
they’re young. And the job market
is not as bad as it was expected to
be. (This is considered good news?)
Besides, most of them aren’t looking
for jobs on GM’s assembly line. Some
of them will, no doubt, start their own
businesses solving some of the myriad
problems we Boomers helped create
with our own businesses.
As one of the MBA grads noted in
a speech to his classmates, a recent
article in The New York Times counted
Harvard MBAs at the head of many of
the corporations we’ve been reading
about during the recent financial debacle. That’s the Boomer generation.
“Does that mean,” he asked, “that if
you want to see where the next crisis
point in this economy will be, all you
Ethics lessons The good news is that this young man and his classmates have decided to take action. They’ve come up with an oath, similar to the one doctors take, promising to do no harm even if they
can’t do any good. The sad news is that
they needed to create this in the wake
of the ethical meltdown in the financial
arena. They had to remind themselves
to “refrain from advancing our own narrow ambitions” at the expense of others.
But these new MBA grads are getting a lot of attention. Suddenly ethics
is becoming the most popular class in
business school. These students are
receiving invitations for interviews on
various TV and radio shows. Perhaps
a new generation of trusting financial
advisors will emerge.
Meanwhile, ironically, many doctors who took the Hippocratic oath
years ago had to (unofficially) rewrite
it to fit the new “for-profit” paradigm
that came with the emergence of
HMOs. Did this make the Hippocratic oath hypocritical?
This crop of new graduates is
looking for ways to be creative and
to change the view of the world from
where they stand. Or maybe to move
from where they stand to where
someone else stands to view the world
from a different perspective.
So an oath about ethics in finances
may not be a bad place to start. Maybe
they can learn from our mistakes.
Maybe these new graduates can reverse
Those Poor Graduates
Perhaps the latest crop of (unemployed) business students
will take ethics seriously.
need to do is look for where a Harvard
grad is the CEO?” Now that’s scary.
As Walt Kelly’s cartoon character,
Pogo, once said presciently, staring into
his mirror so many years ago: “I have
seen the enemy and it is us!”
up with an oath,
similar to the
one doctors take,
promising to do no
harm even if they
can’t do any good.
some of the trends that brought us to
these financial crossroads. Maybe
the MBA grads can learn from the
very doctors whose medical art they
derailed by focusing on profit instead
of on patient care. Maybe they can
craft a future that cares about people
and helps further all our endeavors for
the sake of the planet. Does that sound
like the rousing end of a graduation
speech? Someone once said, “Never
waste a good crisis!” I agree. ;
Penny Righthand, CLU, ChFC, lives in the
San Francisco area and is a member of
NAIFA-Alameda County. Contact her at
5980 Horton St., Ste. 500, Emeryville, CA
94608 or at