There are ten of thousands of high school and college commencement speeches every year in America, making it difficult for the speaker to say something particularly original.
However David McCullough, Jr. figured out a unique to make his words stand out when he did the commencement duties at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts.
Instead of telling the graduating seniors how great they are, and how wonderful their lives will become, the high school’s English teacher decided to knock the class of ’12 down a few pegs.
Contrary to what your 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,” McCullough said.
Then McCullough turned to raw statistics to prove his point:
Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians… 37,000 class presidents… 92,000 harmonizing altos… 340,000 swaggering jocks… 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs. But why limit ourselves to high school? After all, you’re leaving it. So think about this: even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you.”
The theme McCullough kept hitting at is that the graduates were not the precious little snowflakes that they had been told they were their whole lives.
You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. … We have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.”
McCullough stressed that realizing that they aren’t special will make the students strive for more and “do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.”
So what do you think? Is McCullough making an important point? Or did his downer of a graduation speech ruin would should have been a great day for the students?
Watch the full speech below.