Truth is a premium these days

How strong is your foundation?

Why don’t people buy trophies instead of earning them? Because the trophies would have no meaning. The same idea applies to many endeavors in life, including being admitted to a college. Unfortunately the news broke today that countless students got into colleges through fraud.

This reminds me of an old lesson I received while at Vanderbilt University:

“Today I am going to give you two examinations, one in trigonometry and one in honesty. I hope you will pass them both, but if you must fail one, let it be trigonometry, for there are many good men in this world today who cannot pass an examination in trigonometry, but there are no good men in the world who cannot pass an examination in honesty.” Madison Sarratt (1891-1978), dean, Vanderbilt University.

I quoted my alma mater above because I am proud of its tradition in emphasizing honesty above all else. In fact the FBI investigation noted that Vanderbilt’s high standards blocked the fraud outright. Even though I wasn’t the best student, I can proudly say I got into Vanderbilt with no legacy and graduated purely on my own merit. Pride can only be felt when the accomplishment was truly earned.

Ultimately, no matter how great the college, its reputation is based on the people representing it, not the other way around. All the crests, emblems, and mottoes mean squat if the people behind them are unscrupulous individuals.

If you are a young person trying to get into a university, give it the old college try and be satisfied with where you end up. According to today’s news, while prestigious colleges were filling their enrollment with legacy applicants and athletes of middling talent, it missed out on honorable students who would have added a luster of credence to their “veritas” principles.

Give me honest young men and women and I can teach them how to do great things. Their future is limitless. But if they are dishonest, then no matter how well I teach them they will eventually fail. It is inevitable.

Therefore, build a foundation based on truth. The building might not be high but it is strong. It will remain standing even in the worst of storms.