Monday, June 11, 2012

Unspecial

Over the last few weeks I linked to a couple of commencement speeches I found inspirational or thought-provoking, both by famous authors. This one is a little bit different, in that it's a high school graduation and the speaker is less likely to be someone you know.

Nonetheless, I found the message espoused by David McCullough Jr., English teacher at MA's Wellesley High (and son of acclaimed historian and author David McCullough), just as inspirational and just as thought-provoking. Hinging on the idea that the mere act of graduating (from high school, no less!) doesn't make us intrinsically special, McCullough lays out how precisely we can make ourselves special. Here's one part in particular that reached out to me:
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.
When he talks about "the easy comforts of complacency," man, that's something I have to fight back against every single morning when I wake up. And while I do pride myself on my love of reading, that's a pride that comes with absolute understanding of how much more I really need to be doing. Like he says, "as a matter of principle." Despite the fact that some idiots out there read up to "You're not special" and that was all it took to get their knickers in a knot, these are wonderful sentiments, expressed wonderfully. You can read the transcript of McCullough's speech here, and if so inclined, you can check out the video after the jump.

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