Gordon Swaby

Never Judge A Book By It’s Cover.

I’ve heard that term used many times before, but i never really took into into practice, until this evening of course, and i was taught this by someone who i met recently. Initially i thought my Principal got some hopeless person to replace x teacher; i treated xx teacher with much disregard, up until recently, i can be very very overbearing sometimes…yes i admit it, but other times i’m the most humble person you can find, i think it would be better if i was someone that people do not judge by first impressions.

Now this story made things even clearer to me:

A lady in a gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston. They walked timidly without an appointment into the president of Harvard University’s outer office.

The secretary determined 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. The secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted to do.

“Maybe if they just see you for a few minutes, they’ll leave,” she told him.

The President sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn’t have the time to spend with them, but he detested the thought of 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 that attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. My husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus.”

The president was not touched by her story, he was shocked. “Madam,” he said gruffly. “We can’t put up a statue for every student from Harvard who died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery.”

“Oh, no,” the lady explained quickly. “We don’t want to erect a statute. 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.” 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 our own?” Her husband nodded. The president’s face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.

Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford walked away, travelled to Palo Alto, California where they established the University that bears their name, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.

The moral of the story is of course to not judge a book by it’s cover, the president treated people with regard because of there shabby appearance, but he later found out that they could build a university as prestigious as Harvard , and all they wanted initally was to erect a building in remembrance of there son.

….I hope i got my point across


Written by Gordon Swaby

Gordon Swaby

Founder and CEO of social learning service EduFocal.com. I’m passionate about technology, the internet and the use of technology in education. I am a recipient of Governor General’s Youth Award, the PSOJ’s 50 Under 50 Award, The commonwealth Youth Award and many others.

Lovingly made on Tuesday, December 11th, 2007 at 12:10 am. Filed under Interesting, Personal.

  • Esteban Agosto Reid

    Interesting story/post regarding the formation and development of Stanford University, but in all honesty this story can be classified as an urban myth.The history of Stanford University is taxonomised in many libraries across the United States and when such an history is explicated, this myth of the lady in the gingham dress is dispelled.Incidentally,Leland Stanford was at one time the Governor of the State of California and a rail road barron.

  • http://www.advance-gamers.com Gordon Swaby

    Even if the story is not true, the fact still remains it teaches a valuable lesson Esteban, and that was what i was aiming for

  • Esteban Agosto Reid

    Yes,the story does teach a valuable lesson, and the moral is extremely poignant. Subjectively,I have tried not to judge individuals by how they look or are attired, because at times you do not know who you are speaking with or to.But again,we are all humans and we do err in this regard from time to time.RESPECT!

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