I admire Mr. David McCullough, Jr. for having the balls to tell the youth graduating from his school that they are not special. He eloquently nails the nail squarely on the head. Here is the whole transcript, but I culled some of my favorite bits below:
You are not special. You are not exceptional.
Contrary to what your u9 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.
Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. ...
But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.....The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can’t ignore. Newton, Natick, Nee… I am allowed to say Needham, yes? …that has to be two thousand high school graduates right there, give or take, and that’s just the neighborhood Ns. 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… ...
... You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. ...
... Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that 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.
I've heard that some have criticized Mr. McCullough for his words, but there are many that are applauding him. He said what many fear to say to the youth of today. I say "thank you" for giving those kids a reality check. Mommy and Daddy and Aunt Sylvia might think Janie or Johnny are special, but they need to prove their specialness to the rest of us. Janie and Johnny can't walk into a prospective employer and say "What can you do for me". I know I'd say "I can show you the door."
Life ain't easy boys and girls. Only Mommy, Daddy, Aunt Sylvia and some teachers and coaches will just hand you a trophy. Life is a lot more than just showing up.