Why Thousands In The Wharton Community Signed The Open Letter To Donald Trump

The Open Letter to Donald Trump has been signed by almost 4,000 verified students, graduates, faculty, and family members of the Wharton community–including substantiated members of every Wharton class from 1964 to 2021. Many readers have asked us to comment on why our signatories decided to add their names to the open letter. In response, we decided to analyze the comments of Mr. Trump alongside those of our signatories. Here’s what we observed . ( Author’s note: Many thanks to the co-authors of the Open Letter to Donald Trump : Christine Goldrick, Wilson Tong, and Amira Valliani .)

Carlo Allegri/ Reuters

“I went to the Wharton School of Business. I’m, like, a really smart person.”- Donald Trump( July 11, 2015 )

While Donald Trump has repeatedly brandished his Wharton undergraduate degree as proof of his intelligence, the Wharton community has never celebrated intelligence for its own sake. We readily recognize that intelligence can never be an end in itself–intelligence only has meaningful social value if it is applied toward a meaningful social objective. To that end, we seek to harness the power of data and proof to improve our businesses and our communities.

In contrast, Mr. Trump has long remained fixated on intelligence as an intrinsic measure. In a fit of braggadocio, he once tweeted, “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest–and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.” Mr. Trump’s theatrics obscure the fact that any ostensible indicator of intelligence–educational credentials or otherwise–is a red herring. What is the relevance of Mr. Trump’s intelligence if 76% of his fact-checked statements are patently false?

“It is the duty of anyone hoping to live in a fact-based world–regardless of political affiliation–to oppose Trump’s candidacy.” — W’0 3 alumnus

“Trumpism is a festivity of ignorance, ” wrote one of the signatories of the open letter, a 2003 alumnus of the Wharton undergraduate program( “W’0 3” ). “It is the duty of anyone hoping to live in a fact-based world–regardless of political affiliation–to resist Trump’s candidacy.” A 1991 alumnus of the college( “C’9 1”) agreed that Mr. Trump was “illogical, ignorant, uninformed, temperamentally unfit for political office, ” and “a danger to the country and the world.”

Perhaps in response to being publicly refuted by virtually 4,000 members of the Wharton community, Mr. Trump tried a new approach at the Republican National Convention( RNC ). After months of trumpeting his undergraduate Wharton credentials, the campaign attempted to downplay the value of an MBA education. “We didn’t learn from MBAs, ” his son, Donald Trump, Jr ., scoffed. “We learned from people who had doctorates in common sense.”

Unfortunately, both Mr. Trumps miss the point. The Wharton community wholeheartedly agrees that having an educational degree is no substitute for experience or common sense–or a desire to create meaningful change.

“I alone can fix it.”- Donald Trump( July 21, 2016 )~ ATAGEND

At Wharton, students are constantly reminded that true leaders recognize their own limitations. In fact, our MBA admissions interview includes a team-based workout that requires vying applicants to work together to solve a devoted problem. Once we arrive on campus, we are exhorted to explore “stretch experiences, ” seek out 360 -degree feedback, and learn from the diverse leadership perspectives of our peers.

But how does Mr. Trump define leadership? According to a 1999 interview with Larry King, he had absolutely no idea. “How do you define leadership? ” he mused. “I mean, leadership is a very strange term because, you know, some people have it, some people don’t and nobody knows why . ”

Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has recently stumbled upon a strange and dangerous new definition of leadership. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it , ” he announced in his RNC adoption speech. “Our plan will set America First , ” he said, echoing the sentiments of a nativist, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, and isolationist organization from the World War II era.

“This is not the kind of leadership that we learned at Wharton.” — WG’8 8 alumnus

Mr. Trump’s “I-alone” and “America-alone” brand of leadership observes little support within the Wharton community. Signatories of the open letter called him “a weak leader, ” quoting his lack of “humility and compassion, ” fondness for “strongmanship[ sic] and intolerance, ” and policy of “dividing the country instead of bringing people together.” “This is not the kind of leadership that we learned at Wharton, ” wrote a 1988 alumnus of the Wharton MBA program( WG’8 8), who pronounced Mr. Trump not only “unqualified to represent the Wharton alumnus body” but also “unqualified to be President of the United States.”

“Make America Great Again”- Donald Trump ~ ATAGEND

The Wharton community is proud to represent a remarkably diverse group of people. We proactively invest in student initiatives like the Return on Equality coalition that seek to create business leaders and citizens who can help construct America( and the world) a more all-inclusive place. We welcome opportunities like the #HumansofWharton storytelling platform to empathize with the diverse lived experiences of our peers.

Mr. Trump has long claimed that he wants to Make America Great Again. But who does America represent, in the eyes of Mr. Trump?

Not Latinx immigrants, whom he seeks to expel on a scale greater than any other forced migration in global history, and whom he has vilified as rapists–despite being a defendant himself to multiple charges of rape. Not African Americans, against whom he has incited violence and discriminated so blatantly that the U.S. Department of Justice sued him–not once, but twice–for housing discrimination. Not Muslims, whom he wants to register in a national database and ban from our country( while flatly denying the existence of an extensive vetting mechanism for refugees ). Not American veterans, like Humayun Khan, a fallen Muslim American soldier whose mother he cruelly attacked for being too grief-stricken to speak at the DNC, or U.S. Senator John McCain, whom he has callously ridiculed for being captured while serving our country in war. Not Jews, whom he has demeaned in a dog-whistling, anti-Semitic( and plagiarized) attempt to discredit Hillary Clinton. Not Asian Americans, whom he has lazily stereotyped as perpetual foreigners , no matter how many generations they may have lived here. Not indigenous Americans, like the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, whom he has baselessly accused not only of organized crime but also of not “look[ ing] Indian” enough to operate gaming establishments. Not Americans living with disabilities, like New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, whom he has openly mocked in reprisal for questioning the factual basis of Mr. Trump’s Islamophobic asserts. Not lesbian, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or faggot Americans, whom he believes do not deserve the fundamental and inalienable human right to marry. Not females, against whom he has unleashed a torrent of misogynistic statements for breastfeeding, menstruating, asserting their sex freedom, exerting their reproductive rights, or failing to meet his arbitrary standards of female beauty–in other words, for daring to exist as whole human beings beyond his personal, perverse intake. The list goes on.

In response to this litany of hate, the Wharton community has come together to denounce Mr. Trump.

“My father fought for his country and its ideals both in war and with peacetime activism. He would be appalled.” — son of W’4 2 alumnus and war veteran

For many signatories, to intervene in the letter was an act of love and solidarity. An inner-city schoolteacher and incoming WG’1 8 student described the “psychological damage” that Trump had inflicted on her Latinx students as “heartbreaking and unacceptable.” A rabbi , nonprofit administrator, and WG’8 4 alumnus has pointed out that “inclusion is good for business, and thus the overall society, ” lamenting that “Mr. Trump must have missed that essential lesson.” Several advocates signed the open letter in honor of their fathers, who were veterans and Wharton alumnus. They were adamant that “Trump would never have represented his views, ” with one categorically stating, “My father fought for his country and its ideals both in war and with peacetime activism. He would be appalled.”

“A true member of the Wharton community and a true leader stands up against hate, racism, prejudice, and xenophobia.” — WG’1 7 student

For those of us who belong to communities that Mr. Trump has repeatedly attacked, the personal was inseparable from the political. “I am an American citizen, a minority, small children of immigrants, a Christian, and a woman, ” wrote one WG’1 7 student. “A true member of the Wharton community and a true leader stands up against abhor, racism, prejudice, and xenophobia.” Another WG’1 7 student, a black international oman from Zimbabwe, concurred: “Trump’s hateful remarks don’t represent me or the student body that I love.”

“I am a board member of College Republican at Penn. I am horrified by Donald Trump’s statements and actions over this past year.” — W’1 9 student

It was unsurprising that the open letter resonated across the political spectrum, widening “beyond party politics” as one WG’0 5 alumnus find, into the realm of “basic human decency.” Republican signatories included a WG’6 2 alumnus and self-described “center-right Republican, ” as well as a W’1 9 student and College Republican board member who declared that he was “horrified” by Mr. Trump’s campaign. “Not merely does he fail to represent Wharton, ” the W’1 9 student wrote, Mr. Trump “fails to stand for both conservative and, more importantly, American values.”

“Look, Mussolini was Mussolini. It’s OK to — it’s a very good quote, it’s a very interesting quote, and I know it.”- Donald Trump( Feb. 28, 2016 )~ ATAGEND

The Wharton community is proud of its own history of protecting freedom and democracy from encroaching menaces of fascism and totalitarianism. Today, the Wharton curriculum continues to teach respect for democratic governance, civic duty, and stewardship through social impact.

While some readers may bristle at election-cycle invocations of Godwin’s law, Mr. Trump’s campaign has disturbingly espoused many textbook attributes of fascism and totalitarianism, including, but not limited to, an anaphylactic antipathy to the truth, open support for torture and violence, a hypermasculinist disdain for losing, fanatical fearmongering, mandatory registration of a scapegoated minority group, and white supremacist propaganda couched in nationalist rhetoric.

Borrowing from a well-known anti-Nazi poem( “First they came…” ), Ohio governor John Kasich has conceded that Republican voters “might not care” if Mr. Trump threatens Muslims, Hispanic immigrants, black protesters, or journalists. “But think about this, ” he warned. “If he keeps running, and he actually becomes president, he might just get about to you. And you better hope there’s someone left to help you.”

“I long for a return to the glory days when our worst alumni were just your garden-variety white collar felons and inside traders–not a maybe-fascist demagogue who pretends to sell steaks.” — W’1 3 alumnus

Many Wharton signatories shared Mr. Kasich’s concerns. One C’8 5 alumnus called Mr. Trump “an aspiring fascist autocrat, ” while a WG’8 8 alumnus proclaimed him to be a “fascist who has no place in public office.” Procuring consolation in satire, a W’1 3 alumnus was recognized that he “long[ ed] for a return to the glory days when our worst alumni were just your garden-variety white collar felons and inside traders–not a maybe-fascist demagogue who pretends to sell steaks.” According to a C’9 1 alumnus, Mr. Trump is “dangerously narcissistic” and “a serial liar.” Deeply troubled, she wrote, “He represents the worst about us; he is what happens when the untrammeled id is given a megaphone. He sullies democracy with his demagoguery.”

“Donald Trump is the antithesis of everything I believe Wharton stands for.” — W’0 9 alumnus

Several signatories, including a prominent faculty member, denounced Mr. Trump as the “antithesis” of everything Wharton stands for. Some of us might venture one step further–

Donald Trump is the antithesis of everything America stands for.

. . .

Disclaimer: This op ed reflects the personal views of its author and quoted signatories only and is not affiliated with the Wharton School. The Wharton School takes no political stance and does not comment on its students, alumnus, or faculty .

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