The annual Harvard Business School Armed Forces Alumni Association (AFAA) Veterans Day event honored those who are serving and have served in the military.
Veterans make up 4 percent of the MBA cohort and, according to Zeita Merchant, a US Coast Guard Commander and current National Security Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, “It’s great to have a night like this where schools across Harvard come together to celebrate veterans. It honors those who are serving and those who have spent their entire careers on something bigger than themselves.”
The event began with a cocktail reception, where attendees could spend time getting to know each other while sharing their experiences. Then, it moved to a formal ceremony within the Klarman Hall auditorium, which included:
- a remembrance ceremony for war prisoners and service members missing in action,
- a toast to various services,
- a performance of the National Anthem,
- a color ceremony performed by Harvard ROTC,
- and a celebration of the Marine Corps’ 244th
“Tonight is very special,” said Jessica Stephenson (MBA ’20), an Apache helicopter pilot and troop commander in the U.S. Army. “My section came out very strong tonight, as they did last year—it means the world to me to share this celebration and a bit of my service with them.”
There was also a speech by Admiral Scott Swift, a former commander of the Pacific Fleet. He gave a wide-ranging talk about his career and life lessons from his time in service. He spoke on the importance of relationships, trust, diversity, and understanding instead of judgment.
“Information—what uniform someone is in, what race they are, or how they self-identify—is not enough,” said Swift. “You need to take it to the next step and turn it into knowledge, to have a deeper understanding of the challenges you face individually, collectively, or at times from a national perspective.”
Swift concluded his speech by talking about how important it is to surround yourself with people who are different from you: “The key to diversity is surrounding yourself with people who are different from you. You get diversity of ideas through diversity of experience. You have to challenge your thinking, and turn what you think into how you think. That’s changing judging into understanding, and information into knowledge.”
You can read more about the Veterans Day celebration on the HBS news website.