‘You are NOT special’ Commencement Speech

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The commencement speech delivered to the 2012 Wellesley High School graduates was anything but special. Instead of platitudes about achievements, English teacher David McCullough Jr. offered doses of reality in his speech, which has garnered praise and criticism.

A few excerpts that resonated with me:

  • By definition, there can only be one best. You’re it or you’re not.
  • If everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless.
  • Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction.

When I went through high school, the Grade 12 graduation was ‘the’ big milestone. Now, there are kindergarten graduation, junior high graduation, and high school graduation. We tend to pat ourselves on the back often, which builds an inflated sense of self and blurs what genuine achievement is about. A complacency mindset is detrimental to preparing oneself in the real world.

There is no place for complacency in business. Competition is fierce and we need to prepare our future business leaders that nothing can be taken for granted.

© Connie Siu 2012. All rights reserved.

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