You Are Not Special!

As a parent of a recent high school graduate, class of 2010, I can only imagine the reaction of the parents at the Wellesley High School 2012 graduation when the faculty speaker, David McCullough, Jr., began his commencement address with these four words. I first learned about his controversial speech watching NBC’s Today Show the other day and was curious enough to go online and read it.

Just this brief excerpt should provoke your curiosity to read more. “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.”

Take the time to watch the full commencement address here:

Much to my surprise, I loved it! I have since posted it on Facebook and sent it to many of my friends and family. I think this message would even be appropriate for middle school students to encourage them to think about life a bit differently before entering the intensely competitive world of high school where resume building for college applications has become all consuming.

I remember reading Joe Queenan’s Moving Target column in the Wall Street Journal about parental boasting. He laments “I kind of miss the child loser”. Today everyone gets a trophy for the most part to be sure no one’s feelings are hurt. He fondly recalls what it was like to lose when he was growing up and the lessons that losing taught him.

I understand Mr. McCullough’s message has gone viral with over 1 million hits on YouTube.  The Los Angeles Times editorialized about it and it was featured not only on NBC’s Today show but also on Fox News and other networks.  Bloggers ranging from Newser to The Jace Hall Show are hotly discussing it. The Wellesley Media Corporation was inspired to create a video contest for students to enter and demonstrate why they ARE special! Of course, there will be some sort of “one-of-a-kind” trophy reward!

Finally, I applaud Mr. McCullough’s challenge to students to dream big, step out of the box and remember that life is a journey meant to be explored and enjoyed with passion, win or lose, and not a resume building destination. Students’ stress levels are so high today and competition is so intense whether it is in sports, the arts, college admission or job hunting. I hope this year’s 3.2 million high school graduates will heed this wise wake-up call.

I intend to share “You Are Not Special” with my college junior and remind him to take a breath and smell the roses! Of course, he IS special to me!

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