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‘You’re not special’ graduation speech sparks buzz

The Lookout

Social media was buzzing about a Boston-area high school teacher's blunt commencement speech that told students they "are not special."

Wellesley High English teacher David McCullough Jr. told graduates "You are not special. You are not exceptional," quoting empirical evidence:

"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 ... 92,000 harmonizing altos ... 340,000 swaggering jocks ... 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs," he said in the speech published in the Boston Herald.

He added: "Even if you're one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you."

McCullough makes a statement on parents who overdo it in a modern society focused on collecting achievements. "You've been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble wrapped ... feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie." But he adds in a video on Wellesley Channel TV YouTube page, "You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. ... We have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement."

McCullough's address does push students to recognize real achievement: "The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life is an achievement," and he encourages graduates "to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance."

Many expressed their approval of the message on Twitter:

This is awesome. I don't remember my HS commencement speech. I think I would remember this one. — S.L. Gray

Fantastic speech which sums up the neglected duty of so many Americans in 1 phrase: "Be worthy of your advantages." — Benjamin Yee

the greatest commencement speech ever. — Neil Raden

My new hero. Tells grads "You're not that Special ... when everyone gets a trophy, the trophy doesn't mean anything." — Jason Dobrolecki

The Boston Herald also reported that McCullough's words were very well received by attendees. The teacher, a father of four, admitted he's guilty of the actions he pokes fun at in his speech.

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But near the end of the address he says, "The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you're not special. Because everyone is."

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