Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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.


Blogger kenju said...

WOW. I surely do agree with him!!
Those are some lucky students.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

What inspirational words Ginnie. I can understand your feelings of awe!
How fortunate to have two special people to that inspired you then and now. Love Di ♥

3:51 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

That's really cool, Ginnie.

4:31 AM  
Blogger Syd said...

I read his speech. It really was well done and so true to what I think. I hope the students listened and really heard him.
Sylvia Plath was a class mate. Ginnie, you are full of even more surprises than I can imagine.

5:26 AM  
Blogger Arkansas Patti said...

I was surprised to hear some of the flack he got for those statements. I do agree with him. Parents and schools are so afraid of low esteem that often over inflated egos and expectations are the result. Neither of those work in real life.

5:57 AM  
Blogger NCmountainwoman said...

Amen! I get so tired of hearing parents yell, "GOOD JOB" so often that it is meaningless.

7:58 AM  
Anonymous schmidleysscribblins, said...

I have heard about this address and do and don't agree with him. Every child is special. Our specialty is to become the unique being we are born to be.

Comparison is the issue, not uniqueness. Every snowflake, every rose is special and unique, all are beautiful.

Not everyone will be the fastest runner, the best singer, or the most wonderful cook. My specialty is being me. I am perfectly myself and that is OK. I dare say you are one of a kind. Dianne

7:42 AM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Ginnie, I had not heard of this graduation speech before reading it here. It is a powerful one with a great message and bound to also cause controversy.

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Big John said...

We could do with a few teachers like him over here in the UK.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Haddock said...

Some memories linger on till the end.
Some people do matter in one's life.
He was one among them :-)

10:21 AM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

It is good to remind the privilged occasionally that they are not "special". By chance, life has been good to them. Such reminders should encourage the privilleged to give back to society.

12:04 PM  
Blogger possum said...

Yes! When I heard this speech, I yelled YES out loud! For years I watched as kids were given awards for everything... and everyone got one. Some of us called them certificates for breathing. The idea was to boost self esteem, especially for the little ones who never got any praise at home... to make them proud of having done something right if only that they came in the room and sat in their seat without punching someone first or telling someone to F themselves... not an uncommon occurance in so many schools, I am sad to say. But, eventually, these kids realize it was all just a sham, and then they figure out how to manipulate even that "tool."
They ARE all special, we are all unique, but just showing up on Planet Earth is not an event for a reward unless it is earned. Guess this will be my topic in this week's Musings... see you then?

4:48 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home