Friday, July 20, 2012


A concerned, practical, beloved, good teacher, David McCullough, gave a speech to graduates at Wellesley High School, telling them, telling the graduates "You are not special."

He told the graduating class that parents and teachers encouraging them to think they are special are confusing them. The main point of his speech to the students was forget about being special. He pointed out that everyone striving to be special, reduces what is special -- that ultimately, no one ends up "special." He proved it with logic, with numbers, with strong, specific examples, as well as quotes from major historical figures.

This McCullough guy is the son of a Pulitzer prize-winning historian. He's been a teacher for 26 years. He's down-to-earth, nice-looking, friendly. He relates powerfully to the audience of kids, parent, and teachers.. His speech went viral on the Internet -- graduates and their parents loved what he said.

I say NO, NO. DON'T LISTEN, KIDS! DON'T LISTEN, ADULTS!. . I'm huffing and puffing and blowing down his house, his concept, his whole damn speech!

My more than 26 years of reaching, striving, expanding me and my dreams and my horizons, prompts me to say being special is life and death important to loving yourself.

Do I need to quote great names to remind you about "Love Thyself?"

"You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."

"Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again."
-Joseph Campbell

"Above the cloud with its shadow is the star with its light. Above all things reverence thyself."

"Self-love is the instrument of our preservation."

Hey, I'm shouting at you as if you were my child, my family -- the only one I trust is me. When I don't, I am confused, depressed, sort of wandering and lost. I am not lost -- I'm powerful when I hear and obey my inner voice, even when it's just whispering.

First and foremost, hear your inner voice! Listen to you! Be special -- you are special!

Want to see McCullough's words, read them, and see what you think? Here's a link to David McCullough's full speech.


Ameer S. Washington said...

I couldn't agree more. The very fact that everyone is an individual makes them special, because no two people are exactly alike, even identical twins think different, act different, and eventually will develop their own style in fashion, speech interest, and their childhood and adulthood scars both physically, emotionally, and spiritually with be very different; i.e. special. The very fact could be found in the Bible. All the disciples saw Jesus die, but each of the gospels in the KJV of the bible are vastly different in many regards. Which is why there are so many sects of a religion like Christianity. Thus we can both be told to draw a house by the same person and pencil on paper something totally different, while both would still resemble what a house is to us.

This guy doesn't realize he's special. Special enough that someone sought him above all others to deliver a speech to their graduating class. I might check the speech out but most likely not. It the very thing I've always hated about graduations. It's someone telling you about the rest of your life as if they can live it for you. I enjoy those of good advice based on experience. Don't tell me who I am, or what I can't be, or whether I'm special or not. Help me reach whatever it is I'm seeking. I think telling me I'm not special wouldn't have been something I'd have liked. I'd still listen, but I'd absorb none of it.

Anonymous said...

I remember hearing about this guy's speech and that no one is special. I disagreed with him then and still do. I think he led a very lonely life growing up and he was told that he wasn;t special. He could have really inspired those students, but he didn;t and I think he missed the boat! kam

Anonymous said...

Hi Em. I couldn't answer right away, so I was able to think a little more about the question.
Are we special?
We're certainly unique. No living creature is identical to another. Even identical twins or clones differentiate significantly because of different experiences.
Human beings are capable of so many different acts, from unthinking conformity to mass murder to total sacrifice and more.
Our potential is incredible.
And when we die, there is nothing left that spark of life in us that made us what we are. No one knows what happens next, but the flame here is extinguished.
So we are certainly irreplaceable.
Usually I would try to think of a third reason to support my thoughts, but I think unique and irreplaceable are enough to qualify as special.
Louise Sorensen
louise3anne twitter

Anonymous said...

Maybe I misunderstood the point of Mr. McCullough's speech―it's been a while and I don't feel like listening to it again―but I tended to agree with him when I heard it.

Maybe we're playing with the definition of the word 'special', as in Special Education for handicapped kids, but I interpret special as 'having the ability and the initiative to do something really well, and to make a difference in this world'.

My feeling is that most people are born with the opportunity and potential to be special, but being special is not one of their inalienable rights. They're not going to get there by sitting on their lazy ass playing video games, watching TV, and eating junk food.

All a kid has to do in today's world is just show-up at a few of his team's little league games and he's presented with a trophy to take home and throw in a pile with all his other unearned trophies… Just for showing up for a few of the games!!!

Our country wasn't built by this kind of people―trophies are for winners. I just hope that there are enough real special people out there to support all these parasites in the coming years.

The attached New Yorker article addresses the issue pretty well:

Linda Phillips said...

My whole entire life, from day one, I felt special and unique. That was not always a good thing, but it made me who I am...and I am very proud of who I am.

Nafisa Ford said...

Better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual: that is the adjective definition of the word. And the way I see it as long as we are striving to be better than we were the day before, out of our individual "usual" then we are special. All sentient beings strive for that, from humans to all of the animal kingdom, to well every living thing. Hopes that we will be better, our children will better than we for many generations to come. Who are we if not "special?" I have never heard his speech, but I hope he is not asking for complacency, to not change/evolve as a person. Thanks again for a thought provoking topic :-) Revel in your SPECIALNESS.

Maureen Jacobs said...

Being special is such a broad term. I think every person has a certain something that makes them unique to others. Being special is what we strive for. Standing out from the rest.

I do agree with mr. Everyone's not special, somewhat, because in some ways we do sugar coat and tell people things to make them feel good. We tell them they are special so they feel special. But many folks don't see it for what is, word play. Some folks need acceptance and recognition, that they hang on that one word or phrase.

Everyone is special, but not because someone told them. Because they feel it. See it, even become it.

I, for one, would have a speech for any graduation. Short, but poignant.

Here it is:
Life can be an adventure or a disaster. How we choose to proceed will only carve which outcome results. You, and you alone, are the only person that will be with you 100 % until the day you die. Learn to live with yourself, and remember, you alone control your destiny.

Maureen Jacobs