Rocky Mountain High

7 May 2011

Yes, Virginia, there is an end to tuition payments

In one of the most beautiful places on earth, Boulder, Colorado, made even more beautiful by the graduation of my son, John, a communications major.

The commencement speaker, Steve Ells, is a social entrepreneur in one of the most unlikely of spaces: the fast food business. He is the founder of the Chipotle chain, which does Mexican food “the way it oughta be” (apologies, Rush): no canned beans, but rather cooked slowly in all the fixins’, and pork lovingly free-range raised on a cooperative farm and treated with respect and dignity — after which they kill and eat them (well, nobody’s perfect, I mean some of us are carnivores).

But this got me to thinking: maybe the next big wave of social entrepreneurs will come from within existing industries, just by thinking outside the corporate box. In Ells’ case, as he relates it, he had always been obsessed with giving people the best food, and in his case it meant ditching the corporate farms for his ingredients, and finding other suppliers among the remaining family farms. He claims that people can tell the difference, even if it costs a bit more, and he has over 1,000 restaurants to prove it. My son, John, is an avid Chipotle aficionado. His only disappointment: “We were sure at the end of his speech, he was going to say ‘And as CU grads, you will have free tacos for life.’

Well, life does have its disappointments, homey. Get used to it.

Rupert Scofield


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