Massachusetts Teacher Tells Graduating Seniors ‘You Are Nothing Special’ During Commencement [VIDEO]
This could possibly go down as one of the greatest commencement speeches ever.
Hopefully you gathered from that opening line that I totally support Wellesley High School English teacher, David McCullough Jr. who not only uttered those three words early on in his speech to the 2012 graduating class during the recent ceremony in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, he built his entire speech around them.
Before you get all huffy and puffy and think “how dare he!”, you should know that he used it as a tool to inspire them, but he was 100-percent serious.
“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…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,” McCullough Jr. said before following up with, “if everyone is special, then no one is.”
He makes an excellent point (as you’ll see in the video below, he makes several). In a world where the undefeated team in a youth sports league gets the same trophy as the team that had their butts handed to them week in and week out because no one wants to hurt their feelings, kids start to feel they’re entitled to something. They expect to walk out of college right into a top level position in their field of choice because they feel like they put in the effort for four years so they deserve to start out making $100,000 a year. What some of them fail to realize is that there are thousands of others just like them who put in the exact same work and are looking for the exact same thing.
It’s a point I tried to make to the young men and women at a Youth Resources meeting a couple of months ago. I didn’t tell them they weren’t special, but I did tell them they needed to be patient once they decided what they wanted to do with their lives. Are there people who walk out of college into a high level and high paying job? Sure there are. But there are a ridiculous amount of others who start out as an unpaid intern in their field of choice while flipping burgers, running pizzas to house parties, or some other something-to-pay-the-bills kind of job on nights and weekends. The point I made to Youth Resources that once you find what you love, you have to work hard to get it. I didn’t walk in the door of our group of radio stations 14 years ago and start doing afternoon drive. No, I worked Midnight to 6am on Friday and Saturday nights (because people either weren’t listening, or were too drunk to care whether I sucked) on our rock station, 103GBF to improve my product, I made sure local commercials played during St. Louis Cardinal baseball games a couple times a week on our news station, Newstalk 1280 WGBF-AM, I did whatever was asked of me. I even filled in one Saturday evening on 105.3 when it was a country station…and I hate country music! Point being, I did whatever I could to become multifaceted, a chameleon of sorts that could adapt and work in whatever scenario. Whether I’ve done that or not, I’m not for sure, but to say I’ve worked for one group of stations and one group of stations only since college in an industry that typically sees people (particularly on-air talent like me) moving every 2-3 years has to say something.
Ultimately the point McCullough Jr., is looking to make is that young people need to quit thinking that everything they want should just be handed to them. They need to work at want they want, pay their dues, and once they finally get to where they want to be, they’ll appreciate the experience that much more and hopefully be able to enjoy.
Watch the full speech below, then weigh in with your thoughts in comments below.