Monday, June 11, 2012

Commencement Speech: "You are nothing special."

"You are nothing special."

This is, perhaps, the last thing you would expect to hear in a commencement speech (and on this blog for that matter).  However, that is exactly what David McCollough said to the graduating class of 2012 at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts.  

And you know what?  I totally loved it.  Instead of praising them for the accomplishment of graduating high school, he kept it real and reminded them that selflessness is an important virtue and that “the sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special, because everyone is.”  Here's an excerpt from his speech:
"You are not special. You are not exceptional.

Contrary to what your u9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you … you’re nothing special.” 

Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped.  Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again.  You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored.  You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie.  Yes, you have.  And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs.  Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet.  Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman!  And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building… 

But do not get the idea you’re anything special.  Because you’re not."  

Not to worry though, McCollough ended on a positive note.  He encouraged the students to break free from the complacency that being coddled and having an overinflated sense of self can bring.
“As you commence...  I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.  Don't bother with work you don't believe in any more than you would a spouse you're not crazy about...  Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction. Be worthy of your advantages,” he said, adding, “The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer.”

Here's a transcript of his entire speech.

What do you think about his speech?  Love it?  Hate it?

1 comment:

  1. On point - there's been a rise of entitlement culture, especially among students. To say this doesn't = "you suck" but rather, go be your best, now's the time to walk the walk. Gotta love a little tough love graduation speech!