“if everyone is special, no one is…”

This has got to be my favorite commencement speech EVER…

SKIP ahead to 3:00 to get to the good stuff……

High School Commencement speech

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.”

He sums it up well, why is this on my mind? – 2 reasons – recently I saw our local honor roll, and I swear half the school is getting straight A’s – and my inner statistician is abit skeptical of that. And soon at high school graduations, I bet you see lots of 4.0 graduating seniors – I graduated with nearly 200 students and I know we did not have more than a few perfect grades at most, and we had some pretty damn smart kids in our class (lot of lawyers, doctors, even some Computer Scientists Smile ) – should that bother me? – no, It shouldn’t at all – I mean, it’s this generation’s problem with how they will mark achievement but its one of those things that just feels abit off. 

Or Check out this article about grade inflation in the colleges, proving that for most, you get what you pay for





Soon GPAs are going to be assumed to start with a “4”, and we will just have to go out a few more decimal points as we will separate students in honors classes with a few extra thousandths here and there.  Don’t get me wrong, I am still going to celebrate every good grade of my kids, my nephews/nieces, and friends of the family however David McCullough’s quote is going to stick with me “We have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.”


So tonight, sure I could go online and pick up another Masters degree based on “life experiences” from a non-accredited university that sounds real enough, but I have a feeling that finishing by book on Data Sciences might prove to be the choice that brings genuine achievement – just a hunch from a guy who did not graduate with a 4.0.


About bradosterloo

.NET Software Developer working for Innovative Systems, LLC in Mitchell, SD
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