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INTOTHEBEST Scholarship Winner

Class of 2006
Congratulations to Labrini G. from Cornell University

Scholarship Essay Question

Why does wealth color our view of people?

  Labrini's Essay

When faced with the question of why wealth colors our view of people, I immediately feel hesitant and precautious as to the words I choose to use in my reply, for fear that I will be perceived as judgmental and vain. However, I won't claim that I have never judged someone by his or her financial status because that would be hypocritical of me. I know that my perception of someone has been colored by their wealth many times. Let's face it. In our society, wealth equals success. Living in the tri-state area, I have encountered people of diverse levels of wealth. Living just a twenty-minute train ride from the city, I have watched in admiration the sophisticated men and women walking down Fifth Avenue in their Burberry and Gucci attire. I imagine that they were educated in the most respectable universities in the country. I can imagine them working hard in their dorm rooms, studying, and writing papers, all while starring on the soccer team, volunteering at the animal hospital, and being an active member in some sorority or fraternity. I immediately think, "wow, this person must have done something great to have all of these lavish things." I like to believe that that person walking down the street worked hard to get where they are, that they are responsible and reliable. I'd imagine that they are dedicated to everything that they do and that they are being rewarded for their efforts. I imagine them as being worldly and very intellectual, kind of like a Renaissance man, having high tastes and high standards. On the same train ride however, on the same street even, I have come upon someone in rags, begging for some change, or sleeping in a cardboard box. I am a bit more cynical and a bit less forgiving of this stranger because I assume the opposite of what I had thought of the respectable person I described above. Like the woman carrying her designer briefcase, whom I assume is responsible for her own success by doing admirable work, it is easy for me to imagine that the homeless man is responsible for his own shortcomings. Unlike the wealthy businessmen and women, the homeless person was probably irresponsible, lazy, disrespectful, careless, and selfish, caring only about them self, wasting their money on frivolous belongings or on drugs or alcohol. Although this may be my immediate reaction, later on when I look at the spectrum as a whole, I realize that just because a person is successful, it does not mean that they are honorable. I begin to consider the other possible causes of one's wealth and the other's financial disadvantage. I believe that one man's loss is another man's gain. Maybe that wealthy person gained a lot from the other's many losses. Maybe that wealthy person was deceitful, dishonest, and selfish, and that's how they acquired their fortune. Maybe they ruthlessly stepped all over that poor person on their way up the social ladder. The latter theory is harder to accept as true, mainly because I would like to think that the good are rewarded and the bad are faced with worldly misfortune. I believe that most people have this reaction for the same reasons I do. I hope that my efforts in school and personal relationships will pay off someday. Although I would love to be that woman walking to my office on Fifth Ave in Jimmy Choo shoes and a Burberry scarf, I certainly do not want this life if it comes at the expense of someone else. I do not want to be that business executive who fires 50 employees without a second thought, or who has to scheme their way to wealth, deceiving friends and coworkers in the name of money. People judge others by their wealth because it is an easy way to ignore the evils and injustices of the world. It is easier to say that everyone deserves what they have (or don't have, for that matter) than to take into consideration all of the factors that contribute to one's wealth; to have compassion for those who are not wealthy; and to face the fact that any one of us could be that person begging for a dime on the subway.

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