This Man’s Message to Graduates: You’re Not Special

Most excellent:

A snippet from his address (bold mine):

…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.

You can read Mr. McCoullough’s commencement address here.

If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. So true.

Honestly, kids need to learn that there are winners and losers in life. This is tough for a parent to allow their kids to learn, but it is necessary. It’s part of growing up.

Thanks for my friend, Todd, for finding this video.

2 thoughts on “This Man’s Message to Graduates: You’re Not Special”

  1. I agree. When I was a kid playing soccer, I believe the top 2-3 teams with the best records got trophies, so they actually had some meaning. Now they are pointless.

    I get the impression a lot of kids these days think you graduate from college, buy your 3-series BMW, and a nice house a few years later. I don’t think they have any clue of the struggles they have coming.

  2. Clocks, many do get the BMW , or Corvette or Mustang from well meaning but short-sighted parents. At my daughter’s school many kids expect a new car and a major party for graduation.

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