Watch: ‘You’re Not Special’ Commencement Speech Wellesley High

David McCullough Jr., an English Teacher at Wellesley High in Massachusetts tells it like it is to the graduating seniors, ‘You’re not Special’.

McCullough, the son of the Pulitzer Prize winning historian of the same name, gave the graduating class a real-world reality check during his commencement speech.

My favorite line, ‘climb to the top of the mountain to see the world, not so the world can see you’.

I am sure you have heard plenty of speeches, but this one is worth listening to, twice. The viral video is below, leave a comment with your thoughts.

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One Response to Watch: ‘You’re Not Special’ Commencement Speech Wellesley High

  1. Nic says:

    My knee-jerk reponse to hearing about a commencement speech entitled “You’re not special” was, I must admit, hostile. But I’ve since listened to the speech and read the transcript too, and I have been forced to revise my opinion.

    He is not telling those students that they’re worthless, far from it. He isn’t saying “You’re not special and you never will be”. He’s saying “You’re not special right now”. And even though it’s a bitter pill to swallow, he’s right. Special can be achieved but it has to be worked for. And he’s saying that you shouldn’t aspire to become “special”, I agree with him there too. Special should be a by-product, never the end goal.

    And there’s no blueprint for “special”. The lady who used to come into the shop where I worked and tell me that my smile made her day was special to me. Presumably, I was special to her, just because of my smile. Even if I was having a lousy day, I made sure that I had a smile for her because I know that it made a difference to her. “Special” isn’t just a superiour intellect or superior beauty, superior this, superior that. Often, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

    That said, the speech does come across as harsh. I can’t help but remember that at secondary school, confidence can be quite fragile. I think this speech needs to be considered carefully before what he’s truly saying comes through, so it might have been a bit too “ambitious” at secondary school level, if that makes sense. But if you do consider it carefully, consider the “mountain” line that you highlight and this part:

    “If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning. You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness. (Second is ice cream… just an fyi) I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning. It’s where you go from here that matters.”

    …you see that this speech is not designed to destroy dreams.

    Standing up and delivering that kind of speech takes guts.

    I honestly think that those graduates will come to be grateful for that speech. As I understand it, it got a fairly positive reception anyway, but the true impact will be seen later on.

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