By Preeya Sud, Harvard Business School, Class of '17 & Harbus Contributing Writer
As the world reels from the shocking result of the US 2016 Presidential Election, HBS students have written to The Harbus with their reflections. The mood on campus this morning is somber and perplexed, no one expected this. Sitting in class on Monday morning only three people raised their hands when asked, by Professor Kevin Sharer, 'who here thinks Trump will win?'. Just last month, a poll across the business school showed that 82% of the student body supported Hillary Clinton. HBS students are known to say (somewhat flippantly) that we live in a bubble. As the anonymous reflections below show, just how much of a bubble we live in seems to finally be sinking in.
The reflections started pouring in on the Election Night around midnight and came in till the following day. The Harbus chose to publish only a fraction of the reactions sent in. All reflections have been posted to The Harbus website.
This election has demonstrated to me, more than anything else, how out of touch I, my friends, my school, the media, and society at large are with what most Americans really want and are truly concerned about. The public discussion has focused so strongly on character attacks (to be fair, most of them have been quite warranted) at the almost complete expense of the real issues at play that the rhetoric rapidly regressed into "How can you vote for a liar?" with smug responses of "Because I won't vote for an egotistical bigot." Flip the nouns to capture the opposing side. We (and I really mean everyone) have spent months very, very closely examining two trees and ignoring a huge forest. The reality is that America is filled with huge numbers of people who feel poignantly disenfranchised and alienated. They don't like the direction the country is moving in. They may have lost their jobs to globalization. They think that the U.S. caters to international interests instead of standing up for its own. They aren't interested in open immigration. They believe that the threat of terrorism is real and that we must do something about it. And now the silent majority has spoken. It's happened. Rather than lamenting our country, joking about moving to Canada, and attacking the other side, we need to recognize that Trump isn't about to win because of his character. He's about to win because he's made the best appeal to address the worst grievances of the largest constituency of voters. We need to recognize these problems and not dismiss them, as we have during the election cycle. Trump is certainly a new page, probably a new chapter, and maybe even a new book. But one man, flaws and all, does not a nation make. We make it. We did yesterday and we're going to tomorrow. Even if many of us feel we've taken a step backward, we still have the power to make America great.
MY recruiting job just became much simpler. Previously I thought I might want to stay in the US for a couple of years before returning to my native Colombia. With Mr. Trump as president I will most definitely return right after my MBA. A sad history in the history of mankind...
Disappointed but not surprised. We as a liberal coastal intellectual elite consistently underestimate the anger of the average American because by definition we have lost the ability to empathize with them given our "outliers" characteristics. This leads to a misinterpretation of data and a confirmation bias that blinds us to outcomes which we can't necessarily fathom emotionally.
Trying to wrap my mind around how disconnected I am from the rest of America. I have over 1,000 Facebook friends and did not see a single pro-Trump post today (aside from a handful who emerged after it became clear he was far ahead). How do I make sense of this? What are the implications for my aspirations as a leader? A female leader, no less?
Embarrassing. Infuriating. Terrifying. I am trying to be patriotic and accept democracy. I am trying to empathize and understand how a Trump voter could possibly think that he was a better candidate (both morally and tactically) than the most qualified presidential candidate our country has ever seen. I am trying to find a way to fix our broken country that is full of such sad people. But I fear this is impossible to recover from. I fear economic devastation, pervasive hatred, and war. It actually makes me afraid to live here and to be from here.
Thinking about HBS' mission, we as HBS MBAs have a choice as to where we want to make a difference in the world. Tonight has made me reconsider my commitment to bringing good jobs back to US manufacturing centers. Why would I want to help people that don't recognize the dignity of my friends and loved ones? Shouldn't I try to improve outcomes in places that don't apparently hate what I stand for?
I feel like the glass ceiling is taller and tougher than I ever imagined, and that makes me feel hopeless.
While answering prior to the final verdict, I'm honestly heartbroken at the prevalence of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and white supremacy in a country I am a citizen in. What do these results say about our values? This is the first time I am legitimately having difficulty recognizing or identifying with "my country." There is something seriously wrong in this country right now.
If only Bernie had been the candidate...
We are a nation that doesn't speak to each other. The fact is there are two completely different societies in America. And I don't know how to fix it.
I am stunned by the outcome. I cannot believe that the United States is electing someone who is basically a sex offender to the highest office in our country. In doing so, the majority of voters are endorsing disrespect and violence towards women - and to many other segments of the population, among them Muslims, Latinos, people with serious health issues and disabilities, and more. I am seriously concerned about the impact this election will have on the well-being of many people in our country, and especially those who are already the most marginalized or vulnerable - for instance, through likely rollbacks of the ACA, empowerment of those seeking to buy deadly weapons for personal use, and disinvestment in social welfare as a result of a coming reduction of taxes on those who can afford to pay the most. And I am at a loss to know what to do and how to respond in what feels like a true crisis situation. As a business student, I am in search of words of wisdom on what I can do to help make things better in even a small way at what feels like one of our nation's direst moments in recent history.
I'm an Asian-American woman, a first-generation immigrant, and a first-time voter, having become a citizen in 2014. During my citizenship ceremony, I felt so proud and excited to become an American. The origin country of every new citizen was announced that day to cheers and celebration. I felt I was entering the embrace of the greatest country in the world - one that honored my heritage and personal identity. Today, that excitement has fallen through a pit in my stomach. To me, Trump's impending victory tells me everything I need to know about how I am seen by half of America. It tells me how little value is placed on me as a person of color, an immigrant, and a woman. I feel put in my place, and my place is not here.
HBS gave the world Bush. Wharton gave us Trump.
HBS voted 85-3 or something like that in favour of Hillary. It was socially unacceptable for someone to say they supported Trump. About time for people at HBS to reconnect with common people and step outside the bubble. How do people plan to lead and change the world if they don't even have an iota of sense about what the "other" people are thinking?
This election has affected me in so many ways: as a woman who has seen a candidate casually brag about sexual assault, as a member of the LGBT community watching a candidate threaten to take away marriage equality and the fundamental rights that accompany it, and as the daughter of a Syrian immigrant watching a candidate describe immigrants as rapists, thugs and terrorists. I am deeply saddened and shocked at how the election results are turning out. This election has made me realize how truly divided our society has become, and how much work we have going forward to repair it. I am afraid for the future of our country, socially and economically. I am afraid that we will lose all of the progress obtained towards key civil rights issues affecting women, LGBT, ethnic minorities and immigrants. Lastly, I fear the impact that this will have across the world in terms of economic impact and global stability. This is not the America that I know and love.
I am heartbroken. Today changed the course of our lives, no matter where you come from, what you believe in, who you are... after today, freedom is at risk. Today is not about America, today is about the world, today is about HUMANITY. We underestimate the impact this moment in time will have in our history. I am concerned for my country, I am concerned for my people, I am concerned for your people too. More than ever, it is important to be OPEN, FAIR, WELCOMING, DIVERSE & LOVING. We are all in this together, let's stand strong and prove that we can endure because WE ARE GREAT already. #iamwithher
So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.
We've come so far. If this presidential race has taught us nothing else, it has taught us to BE the change you want to see in the world. Don't leave success up to chance. Don't allow fear and anger to freeze your ability to act. Go out and make change happen. If you are upset about the results of the election, don't despair for long. The fight for equality continues. I'll see you out there.
I'm one of the secret Trump supporters. He's an impossible candidate to be proud of supporting, or to even defend, but I truly believe he is the lesser of two evils and still very much an unknown in terms of how he will lead. My decision ultimately came down to my belief that our nation's system of checks and balances will keep Trump in check, with even his own party guaranteed to challenge him, whereas Hillary will never be held accountable for her actions by any of the institutions that are supposed to do so - the courts, the media, even the FBI. What troubles me deeply is that anyone who saw Clinton's corruption, dishonesty, terrible judgment and history of placing her political interests above all else as being a more certain harm than Trump's bluster and narcissism, has been completely dismissed by so many Americans and international citizens as racist, misogynistic, ignorant bigots. I found this attitude even more severe in our elite academic bubble than in my other networks, which is why I've kept my political thoughts to myself. I hope that we can have more faith in each other, and in the American citizenry - many of whom have not been given the incredible blessings we have - that our decisions were motivated by legitimate reasons and very real concerns. HBS teaches us that we can disagree with someone yet "assume the best" about where they are coming from and seek to better understand their viewpoint, and I hope we all have the courage to do that going forward in order to unite as a country and as a global community.
First, the American people have spoken and (very likely, at this point) Trump and a Republican congress is what they chose. While I respect everyone's right to express their opinion and sadness on social media, there is a point at which we need to realize this is about our country. Vehemently berating the elected candidate not only demeans over half the population that elected them, but diminishes these voters' voices in the democratic process. From a broader perspective, the election results demonstrate that there is a large voice in the American population that the elite, media, and politicians have failed to identify, understand, or represent. As business leaders we need to be aware of our environments and how they can insulate us to thinking one opinion is shared, when in fact there may be a large majority that is simply quiet and reserved about their personal opinions. The fact that Republicans won each branch of government proves the significant underlying dissatisfaction with the current government. Hopefully the next 4 years bring conversation about what those dissatisfactions are and how they can be addressed.
It's the inequality, stupid. Positive economic growth caused by globalization, freedom of trade and technology has been highly unequally distributed. As an example, median household income in the US has remained stagnant for the last 30 years while the top 10% of the population has seen an important income growth. The increased population polarization has translated into a frustration from the ones not benefiting from growth, making them open to listen to more radical views. These people are not stupid, they are looking at past political actions and their current reality. The popularity of extreme right parties in France or Germany, the Brexit and now the Trump Presidency are testimonies of how people are willing to trade social rights for the promise of a better well-being. While I personally believe the Trump Presidency will be a backlash in both social and economic issues, this election is a representation that, contrary to what many believe, our system actually works. Democracy is right now channeling a strong frustration that a couple hundred years ago would have been repressed until a war burst. Reversing the increasing inequality trend is not a question about morality or fairness anymore. It's about social stability for our generation and the ones to come. The 2016 electoral events across the West have granted us the luxury of a wake-up call about rampant inequality. Now we have to seriously act on it.
The election has shown that HBS should place much more of a moral obligation on us to think about what is important in the world in our time here. We can't just spend the majority of our valuable time here learning the same financial models as students 10 years ago and 10 years from now. We need to debate the current state of our world, the state of politics, the state of the world economy - if we don't make sure we understand why more than half of the U.S. Population and UK population (in Brexit in June) feel left behind, then who will? Learning tools to proliferate ourselves in high paying jobs has no meaning if we as future leaders don't understand what is truly going on outside our bubble of high performance and a globalised lifestyle.
As an international student, I could not vote yesterday and I would not have voted for Trump. However, I believe that there are many reasons that explain his victory. First of all, he is the first relevant figure in the USA who has confronted the "dictatorship of political correctness". Most citizens in this country are judged harshly for expressing their views out loud if these are traditional and are therefore extremely frustrated by this situation. Democrats usually feed this monster by criticizing immediately any sentence that could be misinterpreted to try to assert themselves as the moral references. This leads many Republicans to stop expressing their opinion in polls or social groups (but, of course, they still vote!!) Secondly, Hillary was a horrible candidate. She does not connect with other human beings in an authentic way. She has focused her campaign on her condition as a woman, but that is not a reason to vote for or against anybody! Finally, mass media and other citizens that represent the elites have aligned perfectly with Donald's interests. He claims that the political elites don't want him to win because he will stop favoring them. What did all these elites (including Harvard) do? They tried to destroy him. This unanimous support for Clinton has helped him immensely. HBS endorsements (like polls in which 85% of RCs would vote for Hillary) and decisions such as the Republican club of Harvard not supporting Trump have actually reinforced his message. HBS students: next time, if you want to help a candidate, remember who you are and who you represent. Maybe the candidate does not need your help.
As a brown woman who came to this country five years ago, I never once felt discriminated against and always appreciated how America is so progressive considering gay rights, equality and pro choice! And now I realize this was because I was primarily living in the blue states. Today, I'm appalled to see that the country I've loved actually has a majority that sees me as both brown and a woman. I feel weirdly unaccepted.
Preeya Sud (HBS '17) is the current Editor in Chief of The Harbus. Prior to HBS, she studied law, before making the logical jump to marketing at P&G, where she spent five years working across Scandinavia and the UK. She is passionate about business, politics, and writing.