The other day on theMOATblog’s Face Book page, I shared the link to one of this year’s most highly publicized graduation speeches. It was given to graduating Seniors at Wellesly High School in Massachusetts by one of their teachers, David McCullough, Jr (yes, his dad is the Pullitzer-Prize winning biographer). Basically, he let go of a load of truth – firing at his audience in an uncomfortable fashion. He told the eager listeners, “You aren’t special.”
Ouch. Not quite the run-of-the-mill inspirational words spoken at most commencement ceremonies. But, if anyone was listening – really listening – the words were incredibly inspiring … even liberating.
The Washington Post printed McCullough’s speech last week (Commencment Speaker Blasts Students 6/8/12, Valerie Strauss). Here’s how they set it up:
It was all said in the context of telling students that there is a big wide world out there and that they should not succumb to a culture in which everyone gets a trophy. McCullough, son of the award-winning historian David McCullough Sr., advised the students to seize the future by doing what they love, rather than taking a job for money.
“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you,” he said near the end of the speech.
But he wasn’t exactly kind in getting to his message.
“Contrary to what your 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,” he said.
He ends his speech with the truth:
“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.”
Are we training our kids to creatively think? To solve problems? To be all that they were created to be? Not for fame or for accolades, but to fulfill purpose. And, by the way, LOVE that he hit the selfless thing which just might be the secret sauce of life.
How do we turn the ship? … I think it’s falls in the one-home-at-a-time category. As the great Chuck Colson always said, “Culture doesn’t change people; people change culture.”
So who’s cooking dinner?? … just sayin’
Thanks for walking the road with me.
If you want to turn the ship in your own home, for sure don’t go that road alone. Check out Cleaning House … and share with friends. Listen if we can do it anyone can. (I’m not saying we’ve arrived – it’s one foot in front of the other around here. Hopefully moving forward, lots of times picking ourselves up after tripping on a bump.) Our family provides the funny fodder to buttress great advice and ideas shared by so many of the MOATblogs wise experts.
I have always considered myself to have been pretty good at encouraging my kids, pushing them to do for themselves and I have never believed that “everyone gets a ribbon for trying”. But once I started reading Cleaning House I realised just how entitled my kids act at home! I was blinded by status quo, but not any more! Love that you have taken this fight on and are willing to guide us along the way.