Saturday, June 9

"You’re not special "

Wellesley High School teacher David McCullough, Jr., in Massachusetts, told graduating seniors in his commencement speech, "You are not special."

It's a good speech and a good word to the audience. In the overall scheme of things by definition not everyone is exceptional. And I might be reluctant to use the word special to describe people. But I think we can say that everyone is important. Again, generally speaking, everyone is important to someone. And we since we are made in the image of God that makes us important -- maybe even special in relation to the rest of creation.

So, my very dear friends, don't get thrown off course.
Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven.
The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from
the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God,
nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.
He brought us to life using the true Word,
showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

~ James 1:16-18 (MSG)

1 comment:

Nicola said...

To be honest, the only true criticism I have of this speech is that it might have been a little ambitious considering his audience. Perhaps I'm projecting myself onto his audience but as I recall, your self-esteem can often be rather fragile at this time in your life and being told "You're not special" is hardly going to help with that.

But of course, he was saying "you're not special" not "you are worthless". The way I'm reading this speech is that he's saying no-one is special by default, that no-one is entitled to anything without having worked for it. And I don't know about anyone else but that's an attitude I can largely get behind. And I can certainly get behind the idea that "special" shouldn't be the end goal in itself, it should be a by-product.

Besides, what is "special"? Who gets to decide? Do you have to be a doctor or an engineer to be special? Does that mean that no retail worker can ever be special no matter what? Do you have to give generously to charity to be special? Surely not, that means that no-one who's struggling financially could ever be special. Special is what you are to yourself and to others. It's not for anyone else to decide. That's why I love these lines:

"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."

In other words, chase your dreams because they're your dreams. By all means become a doctor or an engineer but do it because that's what you want, not because those are the graduate jobs that command the most respect, that are certain to make people nod in approval.

As a very wise woman said (Well, the White Queen from Alice in Wonderland) "You can't live your life to please others".