Darden and the DB Factor

February 25, 2008

Please note that this is a historical post moved from my original site. The date was November 28th, 2007. 

Hey everyone, I’m pleased to announce that my blog is now going live via RSS feed to Darden’s page. The Darden PR people will never forgive themselves… (j/k, Sue, thanks for the help!).

About a month ago, a good friend, former Army buddy, and all-around good guy name Will Bardenwerper wrote an op-ed piece for the NY Times reflecting on what he perceived to be a general disconnect between the home front and the battlefield in the war on terror.

Will is a guy who had a successfull, albeit nascent, Wall Street career before getting a little upset after 9/11 and joined the Army to set things right. He led a successful Army career, first as an Infantry platoon leader, and later as our Brigade’s Public Affairs Officer. He writes in his op-ed about the apparent apathy among the high-rolling ranks of Wall Street investment bankers and other movers and shakers when it comes to the issues of our nation’s security, and the increasing burden upon those who have volunteered to provide it.

Recently I had the opportunity to view the Robert Redford film “Lions for Lambs”, which calls out this very same apathy among undergraduate college students. The film, panned universally by critics, rang true with me in the end. As clumsy as the combat scenes tended to be (this is the normal reaction veterans have to the film industry’s apparently fruitless efforts to recreate the real thing), the message was borne out. Too many young Americans are maybe just a little too caught up in Chris Crocker and his rants about Brittany. We are on the verge of a historical presidential election during one of our nation’s most divisive times… we are facing unprecedented challenges in the realm of international relations… and, now, thanks to Global Economies and Markets, I know we’re also probably on the edge of a recession or at least a correction (knowledge may be power but it’s also a reason to worry, and I’m learning again now that I’m back at school). Yet Madden tournaments and three-year-old carribean murder cases are at the center of attention for the average young American.

And in Will Bardenwerper’s world, managers are complaining about paying more than a 15% tax on their “interest income” generated by shrewdly managing someone else’s money. Sigh.

There is what I call the DB factor. I won’t get too elaborate on this point, but the “DB” stands for a middle-school insult that somehow still seems relevant to me even to this day.

At Darden, I look around at my classmates and I notice that the DB factor is pretty damn low. Even when I look past the diversity of the students, and past the classmates who came from a military background, and even past the students who have pulled themselves to this point from a white collar background, I see it in everyone else: a very, almost unexpectedly, low DB factor. The Darden community is putting together a great auction to benefit “Building Goodness in April”, a wonderful charity in which groups of students head out and spend their time and the newly raised funds to refurbish the homes of those less fortunate. We are sponsoring a great “Toys for Tots” drive (I’ve already given one of my favorite toys: Kinex), and I can’t even begin to say how grateful I personally am to the Darden Military Association (DMA) and its associated sponsors for their support of military candidates and students at Darden. Probably the most important thing to me, however, is the in-depth description of pro-bono work I’ve heard from almost every company or firm that has come to brief on-grounds. It’s nice to know that giving a damn doesn’t stop when you get an MBA. In fact, it’s nice to know that you have the potential to do a lot more good as a result of getting one.

Will’s point remains solid. My stepbrother, Alex, is still in Mosul, and so my thoughts never stray far from Iraq. The fireworks at the Tech game last Saturday had the predictable result of having me duck and search involuntarily for the safest piece of earth to get under. A bag of garbage on the side of the road is still somehow a bit more ominous… I subconsciously swing my little car around it, avoiding it at all costs. And sometimes, even now, when leaving my apartment for the cold walk to grounds in the morning, I find myself feeling not just for my keys, wallet, and phone… but also my weapon, which, of course, was turned in for the final time last February.

But as long as we can remember the big picture while focusing on improving our little one, I think we can all collectively keep the DB factor down. And that’s pretty cool.

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One Response to “Darden and the DB Factor”

  1. Bill Gray said

    I’ve really appreciated the perspectives and maturity you and the other military students bring to Darden. It’s hard to imagine the notion of reaching for a gun on your way to class. Our case discussion must seem a little boring compared to your experiences over the last couple years.

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