The Gingham Dress




BE SURE to read the note at the end of this article!



As received in an e-mail…





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


The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard & probably didn't even deserve to be in Cambridge.


"We'd like 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, and the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted.  "Maybe if you see them for a few minutes, they'll leave," she said to him!


He sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn't have the time to spend with them, and he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office. The president, stern faced and with dignity, strutted toward the couple.


The lady told him, "We had a son who 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 wasn't touched. He was shocked.


"Madam," he said, gruffly, "we can't put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery."


"Oh, no," the lady explained quickly. "We don't want to erect a statue. 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 buildings here at Harvard."


For a moment the lady was silent. The president was pleased. Maybe he could get rid of them now.


The lady turned to her husband and said quietly, "Is that all it cost 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 got up and walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California where they established the university that bears their name, Stanford University, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.


You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who they think can do nothing for them.


 ---- A TRUE STORY . . . By Malcolm Forbes





Note:  What a great article and a super moral, huh?  It’s especially thoughtful of Malcolm Forbes to make the effort to give us all an insight into the true story of the founding of Stanford University.


The main problems with this wonderful article are – Malcolm Forbes had nothing to do with it, it offers no insights and it is strictly a work of fiction. No matter how much we would like for this to be a true story, it is not.


Our life paths are frequently charted and our destinies determined by “stories” which, like the one above, may not be completely true.  It’s not that anyone is intentionally trying to mislead us through their poor information, perceptions or interpretations of events or situations.  They are just providing us with their opinions and perceptions which at the time, they are likely convinced are true.


Each one of us then, takes the information we are given and stores it away as “fact” for future reference.  Over time we hardwire our brains to accept only the information that confirms or reinforces these “facts” and reject that which contradicts everything we are absolutely, positively sure is true.  And, as the article about the gingham dress illustrates, there are times when the information we receive is just so appealing that we’ll tend to accept it immediately as fact without taking the time to check out its authenticity.


If your life is not everything you would like it to be – if you’re stuck in life’s rut – I would recommend that you take the time to question those “facts” that you’ve filed away over the past years.  What information have you received that is prompting you to think and subsequently act as you do?  What is holding you on your present life path?  What fears, doubts, worries, insecurities or misconceptions are you keeping in your “fact” file that are preventing you from moving on to the person you could be?  Don’t you think it’s time to find out?



For the full story on “The Gingham Dress”, go to




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