Monday, June 11, 2012

An Honest Graduation Speech

My daughter graduated from Wellesley High School in 2011. Her favorite teacher was David McCullough Jr. (son of author/historian and Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough)

David Jr. gave the commencement speech at Wellesley High School this year, delivering a sobering message.

"You are not special. You are not exceptional."

He noted that there are 37,000 valedictorians and that statistically the graduates of Wellesley High School are no different than those from countless other schools throughout the country.

His point was to live life to its fullest, reveling in the diversity of experiences the world provides rather than bolstering your own ego with thoughts that you are special.

"The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer. You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness--quite an active verb, “pursuit”--which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube."

We can all be exceptional by being relevant.  Relevance comes in many forms.   Fame, fortune, and degrees from the most competitive schools do not necessarily imply that you've made a difference.

What a great message that statistically we all regress to the mean and that it,s up to us to live life in ways that make an impact on everyone around us, leading to our own distinctiveness and satisfaction.

Now go make the best of your day, whatever that means to you!


Jewel Bracy DeMaio said...

Thoughts: 1) the main message is don't believe your own hype - I like that. 2) I recently heard a talk by Andy Andrews, who said no one gets anywhere in life because of what they intend; they get somewhere in life bc of what they actually do. 3) What the commencement speaker said is SO true: stay relevant, and affect someone's life.

Jack Evans said...

Well said, both by you and Mr. McCullough. I wouldn't ever want to take the joy out of life, and I understand it takes experience to take as much pleasure in striving for goals as it does for entertainment, but I also think this is an important message to send to people as they're in the middle of growing up.

To me, a successful day starts with a pleasant greeting for everyone I meet and orienting myself to the direction I want to be in. A continuous series of successful days makes a successful life, wherever it takes a person.

ACDunc said...

I love this! I live in St. Louis and this was on a morning radio talk show. Great message! Thanks for sharing!