You’re Not Special

Someone sent me the transcript from a commencement speech.  The title and beginning featured a slightly shocking pattern interrupt. In other words, they caught me by surprise. I found myself so intrigued I read further, and eventually realized that, unlike 99% of everything else I ever receive, I could not stop reading this. I have included it below in its entirety for your enjoyment and pondering. I love how it concludes, and think there are many, many fine points made along the way. Oh, if we could only think and behave thus!

Here it is!

Here’s a new one in the annals of commencement speakers. A teacher at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts gave his address to the Class of 2012 and blasted the students, telling them over and over, “You’re not special.”

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(Dennis R.J. Geppert/AP)

David McCullough Jr., an English teacher at the school, delivered his rather unusual speech:

Dr. Wong, Dr. Keough, Mrs. Novogroski, Ms. Curran, members of the board of education, family and friends of the graduates, ladies and gentlemen of the Wellesley High School class of 2012, for the privilege of speaking to you this afternoon, I am honored and grateful. Thank you.

So here we are… commencement… life’s great forward-looking ceremony. (And don’t say, “What about weddings?” Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective. Weddings are bride-centric pageantry. Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there. No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession. No being given away. No identity-changing pronouncement. And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos? Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy. Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent… during halftime… on the way to the refrigerator. And then there’s the frequency of failure: Statistics tell us half of you will get divorced. A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.)

But this ceremony… commencement… a commencement works every time. From this day forward… truly… in sickness and in health, through financial fiascos, through midlife crises and passably attractive sales reps at trade shows in Cincinnati, through diminishing tolerance for annoyingness, through every difference, irreconcilable and otherwise, you will stay forever graduated from high school, you and your diploma as one, ‘til death do you part.

No, commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism. Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue. Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field. That matters. That says something. And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all. Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same. And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.

All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special.

You are not special. You are not exceptional.

Contrary to what your soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special.

Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman! And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.

The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can’t ignore. Newton, Natick, Nee… I am allowed to say Needham, yes? …that has to be two thousand high school graduates right there, give or take, and that’s just the neighborhood Ns. 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. But why limit ourselves to high school? After all, you’re leaving it. So think about this: 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. Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching sixty-eight hundred yous go running by. And consider for a moment the bigger picture: your planet, I’ll remind you, is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe. In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it. Neither can Donald Trump… which someone should tell him… although that hair is quite a phenomenon.

“But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection! Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!” And I don’t disagree. So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus. You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another — which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. 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. It’s an epidemic — and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement. And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.” I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition. But the phrase defies logic. By definition there can be only one best. You’re it or you’re not.

If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning. You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness. (Second is ice cream… just an fyi) I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning. It’s where you go from here that matters.

As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison. Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction. Be worthy of your advantages. And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life. Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it. Dream big. Work hard. Think for yourself. Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might. And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.

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. The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life. Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow. The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil. Locally, someone… I forget who… from time to time encourages young scholars to carpe the heck out of the diem. The point is the same: get busy, have at it. Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands. (Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression–because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life. Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once… but because YLOO doesn’t have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn’t matter.)

None of this day-seizing, though, this YLOOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence. Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct. It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things. Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly. Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them. And then 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.

Congratulations. Good luck. Make for yourselves, please, for your sake and for ours, extraordinary lives.

 

173 responses to “You’re Not Special

  1. WOW!! That’s very powerful!!!

  2. That was extremely poignant!!

  3. This is so great, thank you for sharing it Chris!

  4. Mathieu Catellier

    Great!

  5. Candace Opalewski

    This is a POWERFUL speech and wish he would have been at my commencement!!! This my friends is what education is supposed to be about; living life to the fullest extent possible!! Thanks for sharing Chris!!

  6. This is so very true. Even when I graduated from a great, distinguished college in one of the best Universities in Michigan this past May, I looked around and knew that there was no way that I was the smartest, most talented, or even hardest-working member of my graduating class. I know that my classmates will mostly go on to do things of varying size and applauseworthiness, but I’m just very glad that I DO have a legitimate leg up on the competition by being a part of LIFE. That’s something that the vast majority of people do not have, and it IS a definite advantage.

  7. That speech is amazing! It bet it got their attention; as it got mine.

  8. Ian Pardington

    Talk about promoting the whole move on in life idea!! wow!!

  9. Angela Hunstiger

    WOW! did you sign him up yet? can I? Now if only 3 of the graduates were paying attention, it made a difference. Amazing. My husband is a high school english teacher and is using this for the article in the summer school reading class he teaches. I want more people to read this.

  10. Theresa Saigh

    I have a high school graduate this year and I am forwarding this to as many graduates I know and more. That was simply fabulous!

  11. I love that he puts a strong emphasis on reading….it truly is a HUGE key to the difference in the ‘self-education’ field of learning….now WHAT they read is going to determine if they ever become ‘special’….because all of us really do want to hear….You is kind, You is Smart, You is important! (The Help)……Thanks for sharing…once again!
    Roy and Brenda Hatcher

  12. Such an awesome antidote to the belief system most of them and most of us had already formed of our future at that age. My antidote for life Is LIFE amazing he shares what we are living. Thanks Chris

  13. Andrea Renkas

    WOW! I would have loved to hear that LIVE!

  14. Very moving and inspiring!

  15. every student, every parent, every teacher and every leader needs to hear the message! Always “Living Intentionally for Excellence” and “Together Everyone Achieves More”

  16. That is really an inspiring speech that should be read by every member of every senior class in this country. I would have been honored to have had such a perceptive, eloquent teacher at any time in my life. Thank you for sharing this amazing piece!

  17. I wish I’d had that commencement address!

  18. Thank you Chris for bringing my attention to this blog. Thanks to Orrins and your incredable leadership material, cds,and books. I have seen a change in myself and am glad to be a part of Orrins vision to 1 million people.

  19. i wish i had someone say something similar at my graduation!!!..its very thought provoking and funny!!!!

  20. Justin Lawrence

    Great speech, I hope those kids were paying attention. My comencement speaker talked about technology being the future, wish I had been paying attention.

  21. Wow, that is very inspiring!

  22. Great article! Thanks for sharing

    Keep Leading,

    Josh

  23. Powerful! Great article. Thank you for being an inspiration.

  24. Thanks for all you do, great info.

  25. Theresa pardington

    Life long learning is essential; especially when focused & powered by god’s word & purpose for your life…what a magnificent journey if u stay the course

  26. Wow…great message, lots of great points!

  27. Kevin and BREANNE Hafner

    Wow….. That was AWESOME……i def know some graduates that need to read this, but because its more than a paragraph sadly they probably won’t…. Won’t stop me from sharing =)

  28. Michelle Albrecht

    Amazing address. I truly hope that the graduates and their guests heard the meaning instead of digging in their heels and becoming angry which can easily happen when words are interpreted as inflammatory. I felt he was very much on point when he stated that the clock is ticking. It’s so easy to forget- young or not. Thank you for sharing!

  29. That was Brilliant!

  30. that was so good, I expected it to be written by you !! Thanks for sharing ! I have some friends whose son who just graduated from HS, he’s getting a copy !!

  31. That was so great, I expected to look down and see it was written by you !! I have a friend whose son has just graduated from HS, I am sending him a copy ! Thanks for sharing. ( FYI – great info tonight on the call )

  32. WOW!!! What a wonderful commencement speech! thank you for sharing.

  33. Danny Kellenberger

    Chris,
    What a great lesson for all those high schoolers to hear. I hope they take it to heart and realize the layers of truth that permeate through the speech. I pray they have the courage and humility to heed the advice and help make a difference in society. Those who do will probably end up in Life with us. Thanks for sharing!
    Danny Kellenberger
    Carpe Diem

  34. my this is so true…we alkl need to live the life of excellance for everyone is the same…thanks for sharing Chris

  35. Man that was a great read. It reminds me when I graduated 20 years ago. I thought I was special or the world’s greatest guy. Never trying hard, passing the buck, it’s not my fault, looking at getting the most by putting in the least. Talk about blind spots. It didn’t take very long in my leadership journey (with TEAM) that I realize that I wasn’t special and I was losing. Keeping score and taking responsibility has giving me the ability to grow and has changed my life. Chris I appreciate everything you do. Keep charging the hill.

  36. Chris,
    Simply said, get your nose in the Bible, read it, and learn the truth!
    Great post,
    GOD Bless
    BP

  37. Kristin Jarvis

    Very inspiring! Thanks for sharing!!!!

  38. Wow! What an awesome speech! Very deep meanings.

  39. Wow. I totally agree. The title threw me off a little, but the concept is genius. It’s very similar to an Orrin quote: We are all created equal, with the opportunity to create unequal results.

  40. Such an important message. I’m hoping the speech goes viral just so that many people can read and understand. When everyone is special, that inherently means none of us is … definitely something our younger generations need to hear and absorb.

  41. Just wrote about this speech myself, it’s a winner! As someone that works in higher education I wonder about how I can make this required reading for all incoming freshmen students :).

  42. You, Chris Brady truly are special. Thanks for leading an extraordinary life, and taking me along for the ride!! -Terri

  43. Reblogged this on Political Corrections and commented:
    Just a thought…does this normalization of the youthful masses encourage socialistic indoctrination? Does equalization quench individualism and lead to the terrors of 1984? Would love some insight!

  44. The video of this speech is available on youtube. He does a wonderful job of conveying his message. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  45. Awesome! A little speechless after reading that! What courage it took Mr. McCullough to write and read that. Thanks for sharing Chris!

  46. I heard about this speech but hadn’t actually heard the details. I actually got chills with the end message. Funny, this sort of loosely falls along the line of my post today http://bit.ly/KlySG1. Each of us is special and we should remember that. Thank you for sharing.

  47. I love speeches like this. It’s similar — although much more gentle — to Tyler Durden’s speech in the movie “Fight Club.” It sets a whole new standard to being an individual.

  48. Mom said I’m *speshul* and I just updated my experience from when I walked from the living room to the kitchen on fakebook.

  49. Heard about this speech in the news. Thank you for sharing the transcript. (I wanted to pull out some quotes.)

    Here’s a video of it, if you’re interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lfxYhtf8o4

  50. Hell, my mother always went out of her way to tell me I’m “nothing special.” 😀

  51. Wow this is terrific, thanks for sharing! It’s great you got the Freshly Pressed acknowledgement even though it’s not your speech.

  52. No way, this is the English teacher at my high school! Oh Mr. McCullough….. One year until high school for me, and then I’ll get to listen to “You’re not special” all day long…

  53. Reblogged this on onlyspartanwomen and commented:
    In case anyone was wondering what all the hubbub was about over the “You’re Not Special” commencement speech, here is the full script reblogged from Life and Leadership by Chris Brady. It’s really quite good, and for many of us, I suspect quite relevant on more than one level (I know it is for me anyway!) …

  54. My husband and I watched this speech last evening on the Internet. Very powerful stuff! I’m saving the transcript for my own kids to read when they graduate. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  55. Reblogged this on tenleymyers2 and commented:
    Tenley Myers

  56. That was quite a unique introduction! Great speaker!
    Cheers,
    Courtney Hosny
    http://www.oneweektocrazy.com

  57. Right on target. It’s about time someone told it like it is. Graduation is only the beginning of life’s adventure. Embrace life and know that learning never stops. Excellent speech.

  58. I read about this speech yesterday, and the more I think about it, the more I love it. It truly was the best commencement address ever given.

    Ever.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂

  59. Thanks for sharing this!

  60. Imagine how many people on Earth are solarizing their systems everyday?

  61. Yes, there are a lot of quotations that “every schoolboy or even Bachelor of Arts” could recognize.
    Yes, there is something chic and modern -and perhaps a little Palanuik-y, in saying that “You are not special”.
    Yes, there is some practical advice.

    However, this speech eats itself. It says to enjoy life and to learn, to be a life-long reader, but implies a sense of what is the “right” kind of knowledge and what is the “baser” kind –one surely cannot enjoy sports and be intellectual or wear Uggs and be academically rigorous. One cannot listen to Katy Perry and hear sound-play on par with “The Windhover” or hear Eliot in a Destroyer album. That would imply that things classically labeled “unacademic” might seep into university! Heaven forbid we intellectualize the present day!

    It says to do things because you enjoy them and enjoy the challenge, a contradiction I’ll illuminate in the next paragraph, but lists to read often. What are we to read? Anthologies, books, articles, etc. that society, culture, the world tells us matters? Should we read texts that are eschewed by the mainstream only to be celebrated by subcultures (i.e. poetry)? How could reading often do anything but assimilate us into culture, into the world? How can ascribing to a set of aesthetics academia prescribes as beauty do anything but blind us to the beauty of teenager enthralled in his skateboarding? Truth, beauty, knowledge, God, or whatever you call it isn’t just in university, museums, books. It’s everywhere. Look around and see “the extra brilliant kindness of the soul”.

    It looks like the speaker wants us to do things for the challenge. Well, when I do that I’ll cross “do something for the challenge of it off my list”. Giving a speech on being an individual that tells one how to be an individual is ludicrous to the absurd. Sometimes there are things that are not challenging or miraculous that need to be done. Sometimes there are challenging things that shouldn’t be done (reading Atlas Shrugged is one of them).

    And lastly, if there is no true center to the universe, why must we center our ways of learning around reading? Unless he’s using “reading” in a deconstructionist context –read a painting, a movie, a flower, the beauty of the sun across a lover’s skin, the feeling of hunger. Perhaps, instead of spewing out all this “advice” and wasting everyone’s time he could have paraphrased W.D. Snograss:
    In one whole year learn a blessed thing they won’t pay you for.

  62. This needs to be told more frequently to high school students.
    Thank you so much for sharing! And congrats on the Freshly Pressed status.

  63. I heard excerpts from this speech this morning and liked it, but the full text is even better. Thanks for posting!

  64. Patrick Lipzinski II

    That was awesome, that man should get an award 🙂 YLOO!!

  65. I happened to see the video of this commencement speech. Thanks for putting it in print on here. It was an impactful speech and one that I’m sure the graduates will remember.

  66. A man that thinks correctly and isn’t afraid to say so! Wow, that’s so rare!

    But shouldn’t he be afraid that some of his ideas might offend some people for not being politically correct? 🙂

  67. I loved this, so much power and truth woven into it. I graduated last week – and this far exceeds the speeches that were delivered at my graduation.
    thanks for the inspiration and congratulations on being fresh pressed!

  68. Powerful post. I too, loved what you had to say. I grew up with this subject taught to me every day. You are not special to the world. You are only special to the people that love you for who you are. I am so thankful that my family taught me this but at the same time loved me.

  69. Chris that was the perfect commencement speech I have ever heard!!! That speech needs to be heard all over the U.S.!!! Actually kids need to hear it at even a younger age than high school graduates. That’s why I feel the EDGE program is just so amazing and awesome for our youth of today to hear!!! All of you on the P.C. are absolute geniuses!!!
    Thank you all so nuch for making a difference in the world!!!

  70. Hello from Europe 🙂
    Great speech – I wil let my students know! I agree with Randy Spence.

  71. sorry for wil instead of will 🙂

  72. Awesome speech

  73. I know, inspiring ain’t it?

  74. Wow, what a deep message. Lightly peppered with humor makes it palatable but ends with a bite that’s sure to hit home. Thanks for the effort to put this together and share with the rest of us. I’ll have to feature this.

  75. Very true, love the speech and few lines are just imbibed by my heart.

  76. Pingback: You’re Not Special « Lean Execution – Intelligent Metrics

  77. Reblogged this on Lean Execution – Intelligent Metrics and commented:
    I really enjoyed reading this post on “LIFE and Leadership by Chris Brady”. The subject of this post has been a topic of newspapers and talk shows here locally and I’m sure elsewhere too. Enjoy.

  78. Reblogged this on Puro-Ruth and commented:
    I hope and persuade you to read this. Haha. It is so true. If you read yahoo!, this the phenomenal commencement speech that says, You’re not special. And the parents of the graduating batch was furious, I think, with this speech. But for me it was challenging. I couldn’t stop reading it. :)) so read!

  79. Wow! This speech makes one speechless.

  80. That was awesome! So much truth in it, and hopefully all the kids understood it! 🙂

  81. I liked this but I would add that the fulfilling and relevant life is when you fulfill God’s purpose for your life (which may or may not be what you want it to be). For when you find and follow God’s purpose for your life, it will be your passion and you will make a difference in this world.

    Selflessness is exemplified in Jesus Christ who gave his life for us. When I read the final line, I couldn’t help thinking that’s what Jesus would say. We are here for others. Period. Jesus says, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

    “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others” 1 Peter 4:10

    I couldn’t help but think the speaker missed a chance to speak the Truth into these kids’ hearts. Probably because of separation of Church and State and since he’s a teacher, he didn’t want to risk it. Still, you have to wonder who would have been touched….

  82. I saw parts of that on TV. INteresting. Congrats on being freshly pressed DrJeff7
    http://www.hertiagebreedfarms.wordpress.com

  83. congrats on being freshly pressed
    DrJeff7
    http://www.heritagebreedfarm.wordpress.com

  84. Inspiring message. Funny, I have been saying to my kids for years “you’re nobody special” meaning you are not deserving of special privileges, nor are you exempt from ordinary rules, because you are just the same as everyone else – just as good. Maybe he’s been listening to me. In any case, your being Freshly Pressed makes you special, at least for a day or two, and congratulations for that.

  85. Wow! A whole buffet of food for thought. Thanks for sharing.
    You Matter! Smiles, Nancy

  86. a real inspring speech !!!

  87. I read parts of the speech a week back too. Did not have the full version though. Thanks for sharing

  88. Love this speech! What an amazing reminder. Thank you for sharing!

  89. Reblogged this on and commented:
    I don’t usually like posting material to my blog that I didn’t think of but this is exactly the tone and content I think people looking to adapt to life changes need to read. Great post. Great speech.

    The Art Of Adaptation

  90. So glad the teacher had the courage to speak the truth and give the students a reality check.

  91. Reblogged this on The Undergrad in the Corner and commented:
    Words I wish I’d heard at my own high school graduation. You know what I did get to hear, however? Our class speaker giving a speech that used the word “passions” at least thirty times, followed by a failed attempt to rile up the crowd with nonexistent school spirit. (He goes to my university as well. I see him, and I remember.)

    Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent. Read this commencement address…

  92. As Christ said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He really loved those kids, saying what he did. Another Rascal for the side of truth.

  93. I don’t even remember what my graduation speaker said. And it was just last June. But this… This is something I hope to remember for years. Thank you so much for sharing!

  94. Long speech but very powerful! I love it and thanks for sharing. 🙂

    ————-
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  95. Thanks very much for posting this very thought provoking speech.

    To me, this speech is an example of how powerful writers can influence the collective psyche. I fear that there are many scary things in this speech that need to be addressed. The matter-of-fact way it is written hides, it’s many dubious assumptions, and implications.

    1) It has a very sombre, almost defeatist attitude. It would be easy for anyone convinced that they are not special, to jump to the “why bother” attitude.

    2) It assumes that you cannot be special, just because you likely are not.

    3) It asks the reader to ignore any accomplishments they may have, as merely maternal reassurance, when compared to the grander scheme of things.

    4) It uses statistics falsely, in that it expresses the large number of people in the world, without making it clear that there is a correspondingly LARGE number of WAYS that someone could be special. i.e. They could be a special composer, librarian, bio-chemical researcher, head-hunter, political activist, graffiti artist, computer game character animator or one of millions of ways that someone can genuinely be special and contribute valuable input to the world.

    5) It promotes, more passive, non-contributory ways to engage with the rest of their lives. Such as read and love learning, but what about, the love of applying ones learning, and about writing new ideas.

    6) It demonstrates is pessimistic, Schopenhauer dislike of the special value of marriage, of family and of individualism.

    7) I claims that an act or accomplishment that may be deemed special, will be assumed to be done for alterier motives. But doesn’t recognise that even if good deeds are done for side motives, any motives that encourage good deeds to be performed are ultimate good, and creates more good in the world.

    8) By the author’s own logic, would not the pursuit of becoming special, regardless of it’s attainment be a worthy deed nonetheless?

    I like that it challenges people to face that they live in a densely populated society, but I would like to firmly remind all, that there ARE people that are special, and that you are not special….

    Unless you are 🙂

    Read more thought provoking articles at my blog stephenis.com

  96. Amazing..True….Breath taking……Mind Boggling…….and very real.Cheerrs.:).
    Loved it Though personally i think everyone is special!!!!!
    Congrats on being freshly Pressed.

  97. Pingback: “You’re Not Special” Commencement Speech! | Andy in Oman

  98. for those of you like me (heehee) with short attention spans, in summary:
    you are unique just like everyone else : )

  99. Oh wow, I so much loved this! Thank you for posting this.
    I will read this more than once..

    You’re not special, because everyone is. Amazing thought.

    Must have been great having been there irl.

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  101. Reblogged this on hemadamani and commented:
    wow!! I’m speechless. too good.

  102. I looked for this when I first heard about it and could not find it in its entirety. Thank you for posting it. I love it!

  103. That’s awesome! I think I’m going to print it and save it for my son, nieces and nephews.

  104. Chills. This is solid wisdom. So thankful for people unafraid to go against the grain…may there be more commencement speakers who share real truths like this.

  105. Yeah, go on! Get out there and be EXTRA ordinary. Talk about anti-climactic. The reason ‘weddings are bride-centric pageantry’ as the eloquent high school English teacher says, is because throughout HIStory women have been treated as chattle.
    Mr. McCullough, nice speech. What? You couldn’t just remind them to use sunscreen?

  106. Thank you. This is one of the best things I have ever read!

  107. BEST THING I’VE READ IN YEARS!
    I’m in awe…

  108. BRAVO !!!!!! The best read that I have had on wordpress. wonderful !!!!

  109. great post!
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  110. Loved it, because I am not special.

  111. Reblogged this on tradewindtrolleydodger and commented:
    I agree, the best commencement speech I know of.

  112. Amen…I wish I had wrote it.

  113. Pingback: You’re not special | The Rubber Duck Brigade

  114. Great speech. Tweeted it, so more can read it.

  115. Thanks, Chris.
    That was awesome!!

  116. Reblogged this on annmarietee and commented:
    Great commencement speech!

  117. Bonnie Gallant

    Thanks for sharing Chris! In a world that desperately needs leaders it will take a group of people committed to stepping up and living intentionally for excellence, not trying to be special like everyone else.

  118. Great speech! Imagine a teacher saying this to parents at a conference. The speech points out a reality which many do not want to face. Therefore, everyone is special . . . some in a good way, and some in a bad way. What one does with his or her kind of special will make the difference. 😉

  119. My inner nihilist despises all commencement speeches and the people who give them–especially at high schools. This probably isn’t the appropriate response.

  120. Georgia Baker

    Very interesting post .

  121. kittyreporter

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful commencement speech full of useful wisdom.

  122. Pingback: Word of the Week: specious | PennyCharmer

  123. I believe this is something a lot of young people need to hear (and their parents). Thank you for sharing this.

  124. We may soar high into the skies like skylarks but we cannot afford to forget that our nest is on the ground! Wonderful speech!

  125. Wait, people. If only he said “The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not THE ONLY special ONE.” That would have been more congruent for a final phrasing. Because he is indeed owning that we ARE (all) special…

  126. Wow, this is amazing. I was totally captivated from beginning to end. I’ll definitely be sharing this with others. The last paragraph is priceless.

  127. Things MY students need to hear. Instead, we’ll make sure to give them all an award…..

  128. Pingback: There is Purpose Behind Every Struggle… « Kristen Seidl – Living an Intentional Life

  129. Reblogged this on AvantGuard and commented:
    Chris Brady was right….this is a must read!! And an uninterrupted one at that!!!! 🙂

  130. Pingback: Live. Life. Now. « Less Is More…More or Less.

  131. Reblogged this on Reflections of a rising humanist and commented:
    This is quite the striking and equally inspiring and truthful commencement speech. Never have truer words been said!

  132. Pingback: You’re Not Special « Block Thirty

  133. Reblogged this on Full of Her Travels and commented:
    I admit it: I’ve done a few things in the past, not because I felt it was important or meaningful, but rather to add it to a resume or check it off a list.

    Yesterday I read a high school commencement speech featured on Freshly Pressed, “You’re Not Special” (reblogged below). The speech, given by a high school English teacher, reminded me of a teacher colleague I worked with who was similarly witty, intelligent, and straight-forward with his students. They in turn hung on to every word he said in the same way I’m guessing these high school students did. The content of the speech is a refreshing reminder to realize “You Only Live Once” but more importantly: “You Live Only Once.” My interpretation: we may not be given public recognition or feel we helped much by spending our time in a church soup kitchen. We may not get paid enough or feel appreciated as a teacher or social worker. Sometimes we may not feel that we accomplished everything we wanted by being a stay at home mom. The point is to go make a difference and make one because it’s important…without caring who notices. Whether it’s one person in need, one student, one child: make a difference to them. Everyday.
    In terms of travel the essay is a good reminder to not skip through places just to say, “I’ve been there,” but to really take to heart what we’re seeing. It’s too easy to start counting countries, ticking them off, and not actually see anything. Instead, savor each place, each city, each moment wherever you are, whether it’s abroad or in your hometown. And while you’re at it, make a difference to the people you meet along the way. Represent your country, your values, your beliefs and teach, share, and learn. The moments I remember are almost always moments that I connected with someone or learned something meaningful about the people or culture I am visiting as a guest. Those moments don’t happen automatically, though. They require some effort and some desire on the traveler’s part.

    It’s been awhile since I’ve graduated but it is certainly a day to feel special. You accomplished your goal and have opportunities stretching before you. However, I think it would be lazy to think that I can’t make a difference now that so many years have past. I’ve done so many more things than I ever imagined I would, and I’ve done very few things I planned on doing. I’m not special. I’m average. But I can still make a difference. Everyday.

    Congratulations to all the graduates, new and old!

  134. That really was worth the read! Find myself wanting to read it again it was so well written!:)

  135. I saw clips of this on TV and figured there was something great in it’s entirety. And it indeed is. Words sorely needed for our time. May these words take hold of many.
    Thank you for posting.
    Peace,
    Alexandria

  136. mintedberries

    Reblogged this on MintedBerries and commented:
    A very moving speech. 🙂

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  138. That was great!!! I wish he spoke at my graduation too, but sad to say at 18 I most likely wouldn’t have appreciated it!! Thanks for sharing Chris because now I can!!!

  139. Great post Chris! Very powerful speech, none of that sugar coated “you are special” nonsense…

  140. Pingback: Weekly Roundup : “Freshly Pressed” & Old stuffs « NightlyArt Library

  141. Reblogged this on tabula rasa.

  142. Amazing! That should be read at every high school graduation!

  143. Now THAT…is special! Great post!

  144. Pingback: Care and keeping of teenagers… « Sound off

  145. Reblogged this on Butterflie Blogger and commented:
    Ok, si it turns out I’m not sas tech savvy as I thought…couldn’t put the video in the post…something about ’embedding’ …I’m yet to figure that out…
    So I put up the transcript of the speech from another blogger who I’m following…. Take a few minutes to read it and let me know what you think
    Luv

  146. Ok, I’m borrowing this :p .

  147. Pingback: Significant « rantonit

  148. Nice post! checking out the others of yours now! following you now

  149. Pingback: June 16 « I Kept My Wits Today

  150. Mohammad Habbab

    I’m Speechless ! This is AMAZING !

  151. Amazing…loved “carping the heck out of the diem” 🙂

  152. LOVE it!!! I teach in a High School and wish this speech could be played from now on for every graduating Senior as they get ready to march out in the world. All too often, they have been raised with a unrealistic sense of entitlement, which is going to bite them in the ass when they get out there and realize that life doesn’t exactly work that way, despite “what their soccer trophy suggests”. HAHA- God, I love that line! 🙂 Well done on the post!

  153. or in other words; we are all special

  154. Shannon & Kelly McGinley

    Way to go Chris! Every graduate from 8th grade to collegiate needs to hear this! Thank you for sharing!

  155. WOW! Extremely humbling! I could quote the whole article, but love “Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them.” “for the good they will do others” sounds like a secret to improving in all of the 8 Fs.

  156. This speech has been showing up everywhere on line!

  157. Perhaps this needs to be read and reread regularly. How often do we hear or read something this powerful and in no time forget the depth of the message? I may read this aloud at dinner tonight, and then again tomorrow,…

  158. Pingback: You’re Not Special

  159. The lines that really stood out for me were these ones:

    “Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”

    They pretty much sum up the attitude I had throughout university and one I try to carry with me now. I was an average student, I got perfectly respectable grades. Not the best, but respectable. I don’t have stunning beauty or a superior intellect. If cancer is cured or world poverty eradicated, it won’t be anything to do with me. But I’m fine with that. I’m good at what I do and whatever I do, I do because it’s what I want, not because of how it’s perceived by everyone else. I’m not saying that anyone who ever becomes a doctor or a scientist does so because those are the graduate jobs that command the most respect, but you do hear a lot of that, pressure from parents and the like.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of settling for nothing less than a job that you’re entirely happy with. Apart from anything, that I don’t think that job exists. But nor am I a fan of going down a career path simply because it’s prestigious. There must always be better reasons than that.

  160. Everyone has seen the tired old science fair project, such as the volcano or the styrofoam solar system, which have been favorites of many parents for what feels like generations. These projects are relatively simple and easy from the parent’s point of view, but they are incredibly bad choices for the children involved. Why?These are the kind of projects that are so well-known that even the students know what is going to happen. And when that happens, the students are not learning anything, and their performance suffers during the presentation portion of science fairs because of it. Science fair judges have gotten bored with these types of projects, and that’s a big problem for students who endeavor to win prizes in their science fair. In the end, this kind of project is only really good for the parents, and surprisingly, these kinds of projects are not even particularly cheap!:

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