04/11/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What I Meant to Say

Weary headed, congested, and recovering from the flu, I walked into a foundation meeting with an audience of nine board members. Clad in business suits and briefcases, they were to be my interviewers for the final round of a prestigious college scholarship. They maintained an air of pleasant cordiality but immediately I tensed up like a defendant in a courtroom.

Fifteen minutes later, I left the office with one question in mind, "did I really say that?" My answers to the interview questions seemed to explode like buckshot - scattering in every direction without any real target. I was prompted to discuss sustainable capitalism, so I gave a quick definition of the term and discussed its short-term consequences. That was fine. But as I finished, I began to recount my recent trip to Gambia. My inner philosopher took my tongue by the reins and sputtered out sentences about the kindness and joy seen in the small African country despite its extreme poverty. My eventual point seemed to be that because the Gambian people are so hospitable and joyous despite their meager wealth, sustainable development has drawbacks and should be pursued nonetheless. The question rose in my mind, "did I really say that?"

The man to my right asked me, "where do you see yourself in five years?" I answered by explaining that companies seeking profit with no limit can be incredibly harmful to the communities in which they work. Throwing in words like "globalization" and "marginal costs" out of the blue, I sought to explain my personal goals of balancing entrepreneurial success with social responsibility. Unfortunately, I ended up sounding like a student attempting a presentation by reciting the bold terms in the back of the textbook.

Worst of all, as I walked out of the conference room I could not even remember the last three questions the interviewers had asked me. Sick and tired as I was, I left with the fearful thought that I had rambled off like someone talking in their sleep. I really couldn't be sure of what I said.

Pondering my perplexing remarks, the interview seemed to have caught me in a sort of daze. It was like a dream. I took my coat, descended in the elevator passed through to the lobby doors. When I got outside the cold shocked me to a sharp realization. "Did I really say all those things?" Hopefully not. Hopefully it was just the cold medicine kicking in.