There was a recent uproar when a high school English teacher, David McCullough Jr., gave a graduation commencement speech at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts telling the graduating seniors that they were not special. There have been many negative comments stating that a commencement speech is supposed to be uplifting and motivating for those high school seniors, sending them off into the world full of hope and optimism. I can see where they are coming from because when I was in high school I might have felt a little let down by being told that I wasn’t special. But the fact is that it’s the truth.
Mr. McCullough is only doing what a lot of us parents won’t dare to do for their child as they go off into the world ready to pursue their dreams. Prepare them for the cold hard truth that there are thousands of other people out there just like them. There are thousands of people that have just graduated high school, some with honors. There are thousands of people that have been accepted into top notch universities and are majoring in the very same thing that they are. There are thousands of people that want to change the world just like they do. There are thousands of people who are just as smart and as talented as they are. In other words, they are not special.
Now obviously Mr. McCullough didn’t really mean to discourage these kids into thinking that all that they had accomplished thus far meant absolutely nothing and that all the hard work they had put in until that point was all for nothing. He simply didn’t want to send them out into this big old world thinking that there weren’t thousands of other people just like them, who had accomplished the same things and worked just as hard.
Of course our children are special to us, and everything they do is special and remarkable, but if we don’t prepare them for the fact that when they go out into this world, what we see as being remarkable, the rest of world will see as simply average, then we are doing them a disservice. We are not giving them the proper tools to really make something of themselves. They need to know that the world can be their oyster but it will not just open itself up to them without them putting in the work to pry it open.
We keep sending them out into the world with this sense of entitlement, thinking that they are so special that they don’t have anyone else out there to compete with. We are allowing them to dilute themselves into thinking that they are the only one’s who can do whatever it is that they do. But they are not. We have to let them know that they will have to fight for their rightful place in a world full of people who are exactly like them. As David McCullough stated in his speech, “if everyone is special, then no one is.”
The Diary: Succession of Lies (Now Available)
Writing as “Jaycee Durant”