‘You’re not special’: The best grad speech ever?

A Boston-area English teacher reaped the social media whirlwind—and praise nationwide—by telling students they’re just ordinary folks. Should other speakers use the same approach?

No, seriously. You might think a commencement address would blow up in the face of a speaker who dares to tell graduates: “You are not special. You are not exceptional.”

But Boston-area English teacher David McCullough Jr. stirred up nationwide reaction—much of it positive—by telling students they’re not as unique as our self-esteem-obsessed society would have them believe.

“You see, if everyone is special, then no one is,” McCullough said. “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.”

This led us to ask speechwriters why his address resonated in mainstream and social media, where people were tweeting about “the greatest commencement speech ever.”

Bloggers, too, were all over the story, and Gawker, predictably, hurled profanities at what it called “the most depressing commencement speech ever.”

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