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!

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