Thank you, thank you, David McCullough Jr. …
This is a picture of Wellesley High School in Massachusetts and of David McCullough, Jr., the English teacher whose commencement address to the class of 2012 has gone viral ... much to his amazement. The fact that he told the graduating teens that “you’re not special” is, evidently, so out-of-the-norm, especially in an affluent community like Wellesley, that it struck a chord among students and parents alike.
My favorite part of his speech is : “You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. … We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.
No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s ‘So what does this get me?’ As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.”
David McCullough ends his dissertation with: “… 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.”
Isn’t that wonderful?
I graduated from Wellesley High School in 1950 and have never forgotten another amazing English teacher, Mr Wilbury Crockett. He was the teacher who inspired me, as well as my classmate Sylvia Plath, to follow our dreams.
Now 62 years later I am, once again, in awe of a Wellesley High School English teacher. I couldn’t wait to write to Mr. McCullough and tell him that. His message, his humbleness and his eloquence reminded me so much of Mr. Crockett and I hope his students treasure him as much as we did Mr. C. back in 1950.