Refreshing Graduation Speech

Ah, graduation.  A seminal milestone filled with pomp and circumstance and typically a lot of words signifying, not much.  As someone who prefers to "go gentle into that good night" and does not like a lot of closure,  I have never gone in much for graduations.  A friend tells me graduation it is really for the parents.  That seems about right - I certainly hope my minions do some graduating some day. 

So I was pleasantly surprised last week when, from our very own sleepy little town comes a graduation speech worth listening to.  A speech right up there with the not really by Kurt Vonnegut MIT commencement speech in 1997.  From that point until last week,  I had not noticed a graduation speech.  Apparently,  now that I think of it, this includes one of my own graduations at which I was in attendance but can't tell you a single thing about who said what on that auspicious day. 

Then suddenly, shockingly,  from the public high school in our little town comes a graduation speech with a real message.  A message so timely overdue, so refreshing you can't help but love it.  The speaker was not a politician, mogul or celebrity.  He is David McCullough Jr.,  high school English teacher, father and a guy who wasn't afraid to tell it like it is.  The title of his address, if it has one is "You are not Special."  You can read it at our friend site The Swellesley Report.  Since then it has gone viral and can be watched on, among other sites, the Huffington Post, YouTube and Yahoo.  He was on CBS This Morning this morning.

Why on earth has the world found this speech so compelling?  Maybe because people are tired of the child-centric world we have created.  Maybe people realize that when these children who have been given every advantage ask "What's in it for me?" instead of "How can I help?" or as McCullough says
"building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans" the world is out of balance.

McCullough finishes strong with the message:

"Selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you're not special - because everyone is. Congratulations, good luck. Make for yourselves, please for your sake and ours, extraordinary lives." 

Here's hoping this is the beginning of a brave new world for us all.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Love, love, love it. My husband was watching it in youtube a few days ago and made me listen. He chortled loudly about the UGGS statistic. So wise.

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