June 11th, 2012
11:20 AM ET

Commencement speaker tells grads they’re ‘not special’

by James Dinan, CNN

(CNN) - Most commencement speeches aren’t very memorable. The commencement ceremonies I’ve attended, both as a graduate and as a guest, featured speeches that sounded like the speaker just phoned it in and could have cured insomnia. All of the speeches talked about reaching for the stars and keeping your feet on the ground – it’s as if Casey Kasem wrote every commencement speech ever recited.

This takes us to David McCullough, Jr., an English teacher at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts. McCullough’s recent commencement speech to Wellesley’s Class of 2012 could be pared down to one sentence: You’re not special.

McCullough, son of the famed historian, told the graduates that they’ve been pampered all their lives by parents, teachers and others, but now they need to slip up and make mistakes as they try to make it as adults. You can catch part of McCullough’s speech in the above video.

Despite the bluntness of McCullough’s remarks, many critics are heaping praise at the speech, saying it is a wake-up call for a generation some say is self-centered and over-protected.

What do you think of McCullough’s speech? Was he mean-spirited, or was he just telling the truth?

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Filed under: Graduation • On air • Practice • video
soundoff (414 Responses)
  1. Faith

    I think what he said is ok, but kids (people) do need to know they have value. Not every kid hearing this has been pampered. Some maybe haven't lived the best life. But, if we know we are valuable because we are God's children....we can rest in that and not worry about the rest.

    June 12, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  2. patruns

    Saw a bumper sticker on a van in front of me last night that said "My child was student of the month in (village name) Pre-K". Really? Pre-K?

    This guy has it completely right and until everyone stops thinking that they are special every other country in the world is going to surpass us.

    June 12, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • Loki

      Those nasty bumper stickers are handed out by not so special teachers.

      June 12, 2012 at 8:57 am |
      • Bill

        But who puts them on the car?

        June 12, 2012 at 9:00 am |
      • Loki

        So why hand them out ?

        June 12, 2012 at 9:17 am |
      • Bill

        To appease the parents. Why hand out trophies for t-ball?

        June 12, 2012 at 9:22 am |
      • Loki

        The trophies are their to make you feel like your money was well spent. Hand out medals as you take the money.... You can't have it both ways. If you want to say the students are nothing then don't hand out awards saying they are. Teacher hypocrites at their finest. And let's not mention "Over Protected" either. Fire a teacher...no way.

        June 12, 2012 at 9:32 am |
      • Bill

        It's a shame your anger/jealousy/ resentment, what ever your issue may be, is preventing you from making logical arguments. Try looking at the whole picture and those responsible for inflating the ego's of children. It's not just teachers. Could you imagine the outcry from these parents if the schools didn't hand out meaningless awards? Or the sports leagues didn't hand out trophies? I don't think many parents see the trophy as a trade off of the money spent. Even if the leagues didn't charge and no trophies were handed out, I think you would still have parents complaining. Stop blaming the teachers for what is also the fault of others involved in the child's life. But I guess that's easier for you. Otherwise you would have to also blame yourself. Or are you too special to think you might be wrong?

        June 12, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  3. Chris

    Awww....did someone offend you when they said you weren't special? You go ahead and get mad. You are special...they fact that you are getting mad tells me so. o.O

    June 12, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • Moe

      Watch one night of American Idol auditions and you'll understand how parents constantly deceive their children into believing they are special. They aren't. The sooner you learn this the sooner you'll get off your a** and start doing for yourself.

      June 12, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Tracey D


      June 12, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  4. Chris

    Awww....did someone offend you when they said you weren't special? You go ahead and get mad. You are special...they fact that you are getting mad ells me so. o.O

    June 12, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • TIffany B

      And how old are you that you make faces with your post? I can voice my opinion if I want to and the fact is people shouldn't judge a generation when they haven't even had a chance to make a difference yet.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  5. TIffany B

    I am a graduate of 2012 and not all of us are self-centered, and pampered. It is not our fault that the economy is crap. I wasn't coddled I worked my butt off to get into a great university. Although the speaker does make some fair points I firmly believe that we are all special in our own way. All of us have that one special talent that helps us in life. So shame on all of you people putting us down when the generations before us could have made things different.

    June 12, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Matt

      Well, My generation put a man on the moon, built the shuttle and developed the micro processor. Whats your's going to do?

      June 12, 2012 at 8:36 am |
      • Skeeter

        Probably put women (in commercial launch vehicles) on Mars, look at the shuttle in the Smithsonian, invent a computer with a reasoning capability, and perhaps even finally cure cancer. While bailing themselvesout of the debt heaped on them by previous generations. That said, I believe McCullough was right – all of us are fairly unique in ways that make us individuals, but none of us are born "special". However, life has a way of eventually teaching us all that simple fact. Really not a place for that in a commencement address, where the speakers should be speaking about the new beginning for the graduates. In a free society it's really up to the individual to act in ways that show that we ARE indeed "special" – or not.

        June 12, 2012 at 9:35 am |
      • BGreen

        Pay off the massive national debt your generation racked up. Thanks for that.

        June 12, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Loki

      McCullough should be fired. And so should the principal. They took the tax payers money, fattened their pension funds, and yelled a most disgusting sermon at the children they claim to have educated. YOU are not special either hippy dippy liberal moon bat English teacher. What a fool.

      June 12, 2012 at 8:36 am |
      • Middle generation

        I think your "rant" says it all.......

        June 12, 2012 at 8:42 am |
      • jsmith

        I just spent the past nine months explaining to high school students that "I went to a movie" is not an excuse for not doing homework, "I was talking to my friends" is not an excuse for showing up late to class, and having their parents defend atrocious classroom behavior while demanding A's for doing little or no work. This guy deserves a medal for standing up and shooting them with a dose of reality.

        June 12, 2012 at 8:50 am |
      • Moe

        Little Johnny who could do no wrong... mommy chimes in.

        June 12, 2012 at 8:55 am |
      • Tracey D

        Good for you! I am just glad your not like the other half of your generation. Knocked up baby Mama. Guess you are special after all!

        June 12, 2012 at 9:03 am |
      • WhatNow

        Loki...You must be the parent that showed up at the university when you your "child" didn't get an A in class. You could be that parent who thinks that just because you "child" made A's in high school that they are exceptional and that it must be my class, even though 1/3 of my class are earning A's. Maybe you are unaware that your "child" rarely makes it to class because the class starts at 8:00am and "that's just too early". Or maybe, you are a high school kid who does not yet know about the realities of life. You will learn. I just hope your parents are teaching you independence and responsibility, because that is what it takes to be successful and happy.

        June 12, 2012 at 9:12 am |
      • Jeff

        The moment you start throwing party affiliations into your slurs against people, you lose all credibility.

        June 12, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • max3333444555


      I liked your comment. Every generation thinks the one after theres is messed up, lazy, and going to hell in a handbasket.

      In my generation they were labelling Ozzy albums and telling us we were going to hell for listening to ACDC. Now Ozzy's Crazy Train is on a car commercial. My generation was supposedly so messed up from drugs we needed the president's wife to explain that we should "just say no".

      I find the current generation of kids to be smarter and, in many ways, more motivated than we were.

      My generation has inundated you guys with negative messages, taken the fun out of everything by making it far too serious (everything kills you, blah blah) and has you concerned about money far earlier in life than is necessary.

      I see it in my oldest who is 17 now. I try to counter it but the negative messages are just everywhere.

      I wish you the best and I am sure you will make a good life for yourself.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • WhatNow

      Tiffany, I can assure that the truly special students are noticed and encouraged. I love getting students who have worked hard to get into college. I bend over backwards to help students who are working and going to school to better themselves. Those students who work extra hard and go the extra mile will always be noticed and they are the one that gets the job. Keep working hard and you will feel special with each success that you earned for yourself!

      June 12, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  6. albert

    After the WWII, North America was known for the hard workers and high quality products, when you went to school you studied hard and made a difference. Today North America is known for all the Wall Street thefts and corrupted government and parties, everyone wants easy money without work and the schools discovered how to make money putting on the ground the quality of studies, Well done teacher, we're screwed in the current system, you made the difference in your speech

    June 12, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  7. Katie

    Kids need to be told that while they are the center of their parent's universe, they are not thee center of the universe. The world may be their oyster but it's up to them to make the pearl. There's this kid in our neighborhood – she was not just good at things, she was one of the best in the state. She didn't just play in the band, she was the first chair of first chairs. She didn't just sing, she got all the solos. She didn't just run track, she was the one to beat. She didn't just get good grades, she was Salutatorian. She wanted/needed/deserved to go to an Ivy League school and applied to them all, with Brown and Yale being her top choices. They turned her down – because she expected a four year free ride. She finally got one, at a different private school, but got annoyed when they didn't offer the degree she eventually decided on. She pleaded and cajoled and insisted they give her what she wanted, but she ended up having to go to school one more year at the local state university to get the degree she wanted – and she had to pay for that year's worth of school. Oh you should have heard her complain!! Now she can't find a job and no one is paying her way, and she has to waitress to pay off her one year school loan. She is having a very hard time coming to grips with not being special.

    June 12, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • wjkssmd

      Helicopter Parenting Example.... that kid is going to have a mental break within the next 5 years. Hope she gets help, and I don't have to help pay for it.

      June 12, 2012 at 8:19 am |
      • Matt

        Thank Dr. Spock!!

        June 12, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • watergirl

      Or..it is a testament to how sad it is that you can't get into higher education based on education and abilities, but only on your ability to pay....

      June 12, 2012 at 8:38 am |
      • Disappointed

        Or if you fill a minority requirement

        June 12, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  8. jacobsart

    Don't tell graduates they aren't special. You might has well have to them not to come to the fake little ceremony. Are they supposed to be celebrating something? Is it a special event? I say to any kid who graduated to this speech, you yourself decide if you are special. You don't need to hear it from your crank teacher. We are all special and all not special. Being special is a made up concept. It's subjective. Special, special, special.


    June 12, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • Mike

      I suggest you listen to the whole speech, not just the snippet the media gives you. He said millions of kids are graduating from high school this spring - that doesn't make any one of them special. He said everyone in the world is special in their own way, so pick a career that lets you do something good for them, rather than for yourself. It was a humorous and inspirational speech, and it was something they needed to hear, if only for the first time. Bravo!

      June 12, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • crabman

      the truth be told -- now hows that feel because you know what the teachers right

      June 12, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  9. Gen Y

    Don't fear what you don't understand. It's okay to judge, if that's what you have to do to get by.

    June 12, 2012 at 6:11 am |
  10. maxbianco

    Nothing Stings as bad as the truth!! and the truth is.... they're Not special. furthermore, the US education system has become the laughing stock of the world thanx to millermont, kaplan and a host of other Jokers. all profit, no quality; high School is even worse!! and theres plenty of blame to spread around.... starting with the students themselves!! this trainwreck of an issue is self made!!

    June 12, 2012 at 5:32 am |
    • PublicSchoolTeacher

      Don't forget to blame a society that despises ad even ridicules academics, knowledge, and intellectualism (see Big Bang Theory) but places insanely high value on credentials (diplomas, degrees, certifications, etc.) because they allow us to judge and make assumptions without actually having to look for competence.

      June 12, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  11. TBizz

    I was told at my HS commencement in 1998, by an adult, that "Yoda walked the halls.." of my High School. Our halls and walls were blessed by his presence, and smart or dumb, any of us who graduated from this place were just plain cool. What a load of dung. I have always resented that we had this person telling us what we wanted to hear (the remade versions of Star Wars were just coming out) rather than giving us a message we could actually use. I really appreciate this guys message, regardless of he, himself, not being anyone of much stature. In the whole speech, he tells it like it is, and sees life the way it's supposed to be seen. Good for him. Bad for CNN for focusing on something so blatantly out of context, I had thought more of you.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:53 am |
  12. Jar Jar Binks

    Meee so tells you dat youz dummiez keeps so voting foz de Repulicans dat youz never gonna finds no jobs or futurz. Dayz so wit da Sith Lords andz so wantz very much so destroyz da middlze classes.

    June 12, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • DANNY

      What are you trying to sound like, is this supposed to mimic a southern drawl or just plain stupidity.

      June 12, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  13. LizardLance

    Dear Graduates of 2012: The baby boomer generation has royally mucked things up because we are self-centerered and narcissistic. In summary: We don't give a damn about anybody else or about our country. So good luck graduates as you try to undo all the harm we've done.

    June 12, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  14. Boinky

    Wait till these kids graduate college and try to get a job. Believe me they will find out just how special they are.

    June 12, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  15. liberalnewz

    Dear class of 2012:

    You suck and you can't get a job.

    your teachers.

    June 11, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  16. Jataka

    And neither are teachers.

    June 11, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Loki

      So true. Teacher's, who are the most coddled and greedy people in the USA yelling at the kids they just failed to educate. You are fired.

      June 12, 2012 at 8:31 am |
      • Bill

        @ loki ...The most coddled and greedy people in the USA...? Wow. Do you realize the vast overgeneralization of your statement? I guess you forgot about athletes, film and television stars, Wall Street, musicians, etc. And "yelling at the kids they failed to educate"...? Since when is the teacher solely responsible for educationg a child. Didn't the speech also mention coaches, parents, and other organizations that seem to go out of their way to celebrate minor accomplishments with trophies, awards, ceremonies, certificates and the such? Yes I have two daughters (7 and 3) that dance and play softball. Do they get awards? Yes. Are they proud of them? Yes. Do I go out of my way to notify my friends and family of the awards? No. Am I proud of them? Yes. I instill in them a desire to participate in these activities because they are fun and they like to do them. I think the message of the speech is that we have lost the belief in hard work. But you see this as another way to blame the teachers who are really just one small aspect of the overall pipcture. Many kids today seem to only participate in things only if there is some sort of extrinsic reward. We are losing the ability to value intrinsic rewards. And I feel that comes from parents and coaches and others who strive for a win at any cost mentality. As one example I refer you to the recent news about the egg hunt cancellation because of the parents. Win at any cost. But lets squarely blame the teachers...

        June 12, 2012 at 8:56 am |
      • Loki

        I agree that there are other overly coddled people in America. The list you presented is well placed. But those people can be fired.... That was the crux of my argument. Accountability and job protection.

        June 12, 2012 at 9:36 am |
      • Bill

        So you are saying that the only reason he said that the kids are not special is because of job protection? Have you read transcrips or recordings of other commencement speeches by those same individuals that can get "fired"? They are saying basically the same things? Why are you so afraid of the truth that you feel the need to blame teachers?

        June 12, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  17. jimburke4obama

    Love David McCullough, Jr's speech. Not the best verbal delivery but the content certainly hits home. Today everyone is "special". Actually its a dusty muddy planet. Not too much is new out there. And like myself and David McCullough, Jr we too are not special either. Its nicely humbling to realize we are ordinary people but striving to be better.

    Thanks everyone for your comments, they are most illuminating.

    June 11, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  18. Mensaboy

    There is a difference between encouraging and misleading. Participation trophies, social promotion, no failing grades are misleading. In real life, there are winner and losers. There are successes and failures. Most of us will experince winning, losing, failure and success. Only in liberal fantasy land do people never lose or fail at a task.We need to encourage our kids to try. And if they fail, try again. It's not how far you fall, it's how high you bounce.

    June 11, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Al Bundy

      Little kids should not be worried about winning or losing, too many parents are just nuts about winning at an early age. Sports really are about trying your best, not just about winning.

      June 12, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Sherri

      I agree. In ball teams and other events now, ALL get a ribbon. ALL are considered 'winners'. This is nonsense. And it kind of devalues those who actually did win or do the best. If everyone gets a ribbon or award, then it has no value. Now if we're talking about special olympics etc. I have no problem with that. But for others, I can't see awarding everyone.

      June 12, 2012 at 2:10 am |
    • Teacher from Tampa

      What world are you living in saying that this is "Liberal Fantasy Land"? NCLB was enacted by Bush whom has never had a liberal thought in his life, at least not while sober or not high.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:41 am |
    • Katie

      This kind of thinking is definitely not 'liberal.' If it was, most ordinary, middle and lower middle class Americans would be raising spoiled brats. I don't think the wealthy people who give their children brand new cars on their sixteenth birthday vote Democrat or consider themselves the least bit liberal. Liberals aren't the ones putting their kids on waiting lists for expensive preschools. They aren't the ones spending $15,000 on a birthday party because "you're only nine once."

      June 12, 2012 at 7:22 am |
  19. Jennifer

    This sounds like mine. I graduated in 2012 but our speaker told us that if we were above average then we'll be average in a few years and if we're average we'll be below average. He also said that our degree means nothing so we basically wasted thousands of dollars for nothing. The speaker was an alumni to the school, had inherited a large company from his family, and donated a lot of money so he got to be speaker.

    As a graduate, I know all of the negative stuff in the world and what's going on with the economy, jobs, and unemployment. At my graduation, I wanted to hear optimism, that our future ahead would be bright and hopeful. Instead he took our dreams and slashed them like he slashes his employees' wages and benefits. In a time where our future is uncertain, a glimpse of hope is what we needed. Not the blunt club of reality.

    June 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  20. larry5

    You're nothing special is Obama's message to everyone. People that work hard or stand out need to be taken down. It's unfair to have someone earning more than everyone else or receiving notice beyond the crowd, that is except for Obama.

    June 11, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • beecee

      You must be the proud owner of a double-digit IQ

      June 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Benla76

      Amazing how you found a way to work something completely unrelated and out of left field into this.

      June 11, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Smokey Poles

      Wow... just, wow.

      June 12, 2012 at 6:57 am |
    • GreenSunflowers

      Wow, you spun that so hard I got dizzy!

      June 12, 2012 at 10:47 am |
  21. darmonx

    speeches dont change habits instilled from childhood overnight. the mistakes to be made by this generation will be inevitable but give him credit for trying.

    June 11, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • Kathy

      He borrowed my 'soap box' the one I have been on for years about an entire generation of kids who's parents ruined their lives...an entire generation spoiled – they never shoveled snow, cut the lawn, worked for minimum wage, waited in the rain at a bus stop or saved money to buy their own cars....not mean! Truth hurts. Buck up!

      June 11, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
      • EmW

        Im slightly removed from HS kids as I am 24 but I did every single one of those things you mention as a teenager....not fair to lump everyone together. Maybe affluent suburbanites don't make their kids do these things but I think the majority of people still do.

        June 12, 2012 at 7:09 am |
      • Rich A.

        Let me give you a little hope. My twin daughters just graduated, and I made them do all of the things that you just claimed parents are not doing.

        I agree with this commencement speech, and I agree that today's coddled kids need tough love, but they also need encouragement. I told my kids that they're not special, BUT THEY CAN BE. With hard work, they can be.

        June 12, 2012 at 7:21 am |
      • Mike

        Thanks Kathy. Two words that best encapsulate my advice to the younger generations: "Buck Up!"

        June 12, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  22. BP

    Loved the part "And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself."

    June 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  23. us_1776

    The speech is exactly what kids need to hear.

    With 7 billion people on the planet just how special could one person possibly be?

    You're not. And life is not fair and don't expect it to be.


    June 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  24. Rob

    Every generation thinks that the younger generations are "lazy" and "pampered" and that they have it too easy – this has been true for every generation. Personally I am glad that I don't have it has hard as my parents, grandparents, etc.. and they are glad I don't either

    I think it is fine for a speaker to tell people the truth – they aren't special, very few if any of the graduates will change the world – heck – will even have any impact on anything outside of their own personal lives that matters.

    June 11, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  25. TJ

    Well, this forum is certainly full of older ladies and gents who are just a wee bit bitter today, hm? Let's break this down: First off, your chances of existing are one in 400 trillion, so in essence, everyone is special because of the extremely high probability that you never could have existed.

    Science aside, this is an ignorant, sweeping generalization of an entire generation. I appreciate a dose of honesty, as do most people. I also think that most people, not teenagers, are fairly lazy. But I think it's very easy to pull your hands away and say, "These kids are lazy." Are kids born lazy? No, they are molded into lazy children by lazy parents. And lazy teachers. Most adults turn raising children into inconvenient meetings, not the process of raising a human being. To turn this on kids as if they raised themselves? Now THAT is lazy.

    When I graduated high school, I got a job, moved out, went to college, and supported my lifestyle and my education solo for the last seven years. Am I lazy? I certainly don't think so. So please, do not make pompous remarks unless you're willing to shoulder the blame. Because passing off responsibility? While that is truly American (looking at you, Congress) it is the very definition of lazy.

    Maybe everyone should spend a little more time teaching their own kids how to be independent, and a little less time bemoaning the children of others. (Also, let's take this advice with a grain of salt: The average high school teacher in MA makes the top 25 percentile for all high school teachers. And he is the son of a millionaire book author. So perhaps he is not the utmost authority on self-made Americans, having himself not been a pulitzer-prize winning author.)

    June 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • EmW

      boom. what he said. Haha, ironically lazy comment. In all seriousness I agree though

      June 12, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • DB

      Nicely put !! of all the comments left, this by far stands out the most-as being honest !!

      June 12, 2012 at 8:07 am |
      • DB

        My comment was for TJ –

        June 12, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  26. Ehines

    The speech was great. I'm kind of disappointed in CNN that they spliced it like that to make it seem that he was being mean spirited. It was a well thought out, positive, inspiring speech and the audience response seemed to be positive. Please watch the wholeeeee speech if you have any questions since CNN messed up on this one.

    June 11, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  27. UtahProf

    I tell my kids this kind of thing all the time – it is the truth and they will be more prepared to deal with reality because of it.

    June 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
  28. K Harlan

    I love this speech!! I read about it and then heard it on Youtube.. This man could not be more right or truthful.. Enough of the lies to our kids...Pandering does not make this country or our children better .... they need to hear the truth!! Enough of the lies!!

    June 11, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  29. plato101

    Why would it be mean spirited to state the obvious?

    June 11, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  30. Tori

    He gave them their first real life lesson...it was great.

    June 11, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
  31. spent

    It's about time someone address the youth in an honest fashion.

    June 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  32. spent

    I think it is wonderful that someone told a truth about the youth and parents. Good for him.

    June 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  33. Erika

    Seriously? You guys just clipped out the parts that made it sound controversial. Thankfully, the full version was posted on YouTube. I found it to be an inspiring speech that tells kids that they should live life to the fullest, that they need to work hard because everything isn't going to be just given to them. Perhaps you should represent this speech in the manner it was given, instead of twisting it around for ratings. Makes me wonder what else you do this with...

    June 11, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  34. C-Diesel

    Tell me the truth, like it or not!!!

    June 11, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  35. Lynne

    "What do you think of McCullough’s speech? Was he mean-spirited, or was he just telling the truth?"

    I think that perhaps you should have listened to the entire speech and you would have understood the overall point....

    June 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  36. TexDoc

    He's in big trouble now, he told the truth.

    June 11, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  37. Mindyj

    I listened to this last weekend on a different site, the whole speech, and he was awesome. I wish my graduating kids has someone like this speaking. To all you who disagree, I recommend watching the whole speech before you jump to conclusions that someone out there in the big bad world is trying to pick on your baby. He was not only entertaining, but had a very good message for the graduates.

    June 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • K Harlan

      agreed...short of food shelter and an education I do not feel I owe my special kids anything more!! I am exhausted and they are on their own

      June 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  38. Heather

    Awesome speech!

    June 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  39. lex

    I wonder if anyone has told him that he's not special. If not, someone should.

    June 11, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • goTparT

      As he said, "Nobody is special because we all are special."

      June 11, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • dbrown

      I am sure he would agree. That's the point of his speech and he is correct.

      June 11, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Lola

      I agree! Any part of a message to young people that includes the words, "you're not special," is inappropriate, IMO. I was told from birth that I was "nobody special." Those words are like daggers to an impressionable youngster. Everyone is special, because everyone's unique. (So f*** you, Dad!)

      June 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
      • GreenSunflowers

        Totally agree. You really have to watch what you say to kids! Telling a child they're no one special might make you feel better because you think you knocked them down a peg to get to your level of "not feeling special". We're not talking about rich hand-out kids, we're talking about children leaving a public school. Some of these comments are just disturbing.

        June 12, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Patiat

      Meet Lex- someone who utterly missed the point, ladies and gentlemen!

      June 11, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  40. Katye

    May we have the courage to not give in to cynicism and despair, despite all of the reasons around us to do so, and instead embrace the dreams and visions for a better tomorrow. The world is full of voices who give reasons why things are impossible and not worth trying; today's people, and especially youth, face an incredible challenge. They need to hear encouragement that tells them to hope and envision new ways for trust and life in today's world.

    June 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • goTparT

      I know far too many friends of my children who were coddled, bailed out, pampered and told that they were "special" who cannot cope in today's world. It's quite sad, actually. My children were rewarded when they accomplished something meaningful, not just for being. My children are both gainfully employed, married with families and doing well. Their friends that I referenced are still trying to find their way.

      June 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
      • dbrown

        Funny how that works isn't it.

        June 11, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
      • PullMyFinger

        Your friends will make good Socialists/Democrats; your children will not.

        June 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • WhatNow

      Katye, I think that's exactly what they heard. How quickly we forget that each generation faces challenges. My parents grew up in a depression and they raised me to believe that at 18 yrs old, I was an adult. As such, I was on my own to find my way. I did, I went to college working two jobs. Some might have called that cruel, but I greatly admire my parents for giving me the independence and opportunity to find my way.

      June 11, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
      • GreenSunflowers

        WhatNow, children are not adults at 18. This is not back then. A full education lasts way into your twenties. This is not a parent problem – this is a corporation problem. A parent MUST sacrifice for their child to ensure they get the most comprehensive education which leads to that "piece of paper" or suffer in seeing your child falter and fail because NO ONE will hire them or take them seriously without it. You can't just throw a kid out at the age of 18 and say "Ok, my burden is over. See ya later, and remember – you're nothing special!"

        June 12, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Reality Bytes

      Thats exactly how your parents felt, and their parents, and Germany in the 1930's. Like they have some kind of magic answer tht will cure the worlds ills. They wrote poetry and had hope and sang songs.

      Then life happens and your in the audience of the graduation of your own ungrateful sanctimonious "special" kids, and your mortgage is behind, you hate your boss and you got passed over on a promotion again. Poetry makes you want to throw up and you can't wait for your special kd to pay his own bills!

      Welcome to life!!!!!! Congratulations. Your special like everyone else!

      June 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  41. Ordnry1

    David McCullough, Sr., who wrote 1776 is one of my favorite authors. After reading 1776, I realized how special the men of the 18th century Americans were. Without them, we wouldn’t have the independence and the freedom we have today. I perfectly understand why McCullough, Jr said that the high school graduating class of 2012, to him, is not special. Many students graduate from high school without adequate preparation for college. Many can't even read or write well. Of course, there are those who excel in school from kindergarten through high school. These kids who are successful have supporting parents, family and community. Unfortunately, many students do not have such support. What do we do as a society to change that?

    June 11, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  42. Toad 390

    And the dumbing of America continues. Ho, Hum

    June 11, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  43. Aweg

    I understand that THESE kids aren't special, but my mom never told them that. She always told me that I was special. I'm a snowflake!

    June 11, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  44. Jonquil

    ...and like Baby Boomers weren't coddled and catered to for five decades? Cheap houses, cheap education, Mommy and Daddy were able to afford homes and raise five kids on an electrician's or carpenter's salary. Everyone came together and at least pretended to be mutally invested in American society and its families.

    June 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • stormerF

      What is you point, all he was doing was pointing out the truth? We had no cell phones,i-pad,computers,only 3 TV channels,no AC in cars,or central air in houses, Walked 10 times more to get where we wanted,and were always outside creating ways to entertain ourselves. Unless you lived it you have no idea.

      June 11, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
      • PullMyFinger

        You are absolutely right about the way things were when we Boomers were growing up. If things seemed cheaper back then, wages were also way way lower. It wasn't any easier for working class families to afford things back then than it is now.

        June 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  45. oh please

    WHY give ANY praise to freaking HIGH SCHOOL grads?
    They did what was EXPECTED of them....they finished high school . THAT is an EXPECTATION!
    Its ridiculous to have these kids dress up and give speeches for something that any MORON can achieve and is expected of all of them. Its CHILDISH to do this.

    Go to REAL school. go to COLLEGE and THEN EARN that congrats! High school, is COMMON PLACE and if you dont graduate youre a freaking moron

    June 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Portland

      Perhaps you live in a nice place where kids still graduate from HS.. in Portland, OR its becoming an increasing rarity and isn't an expectation at all. Over the last 8 years here I've met more people who have dropped out than those who have graduated. From what I hear this trend is continuing in hundreds of communities throughout America. The America you have in your head is not the America in which we live.. Graduating classes stay large because of increased population, but I'd be willing to bet if you compared the percentages of grads to drop-outs now vs. 20 years ago it would tell a sad sad story. Those that make it deserve a some thanks...

      June 11, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  46. Kevin

    The commencement speech was almost 13 minutes long. Mr. McCollough informed the graduates that they weren't special and cited interesting (and entertaining) reasons why that was the case. Taking excerpts from the speech give the impression that he spent the entire time belittling the graduates. I don't think that was the case here. He finished his speech by extolling the graduates to "make for yourselves... extraordinary lives". I found him to be to be novel and entertaining speaker. He made some good points.

    June 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  47. E Stephens

    He is correct. People are not special as evidenced by the several billion+ of our species walking around. Our actions, however, are special. It is what we do that elevates.

    June 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  48. Jonquil

    Oh, if only someone could give this speech to all the twitchy investors and bankers, who think The World may fall to dust, but they need to continue earning increasingly higher profits and returns, at little cost and risk to them. That it's okay to abscond and squander, a society's productivity and wealth. What makes them so special?

    June 11, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  49. concordantmind

    Being direct is now news? We are doomed.

    June 11, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  50. badPolitx

    Only to their Mothers.

    June 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  51. cemego

    This is the perfect answer to the "helicopter generation"... Way to go David McCullough. Everyone needs a dose of reality and personal responsibility... (Otherwise they're just taking pills to put themselves in an ignorant haze... LEGALLY).

    June 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Raj

      You are absutely right. Building hope on false foundation in the new generation way. Praising a child for getting B will not motivate her to get an A. I have seen parents praising a child for every samll thing...what is the outcome? Answer always right and self-centered.

      June 11, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  52. rdeleys

    He's right, of course. But he should have told them that although they aren't special now, if they want to be special they need to go out, work hard, and make themselves special.

    June 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  53. kellymsme

    It's about time someone told the up-and-coming generation of kids that just because they graduate high school or college it doesn't mean they get everything handed to them. I'm not saying my generation was perfect, but I don't remember myself or the other kids I went to school with expecting everything to be handed to them because they got a diploma or an associates degree. I'll be damned if my kids are going to be as self-centered and lazy as I see a lot of the high school/college-aged/young adults that are walking around these days.

    June 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  54. Jorge

    The U.S. educational system, which is # 35 worldwide (making it nothing really special) is full of teachers like this guy who think they are the holy grail of the pedagogical world because they (in mediocre form, I think) see their job as a form of filtration by attrition and demotivation instead of the much more challenging (and professional) task of actually enlightening and teaching. I have been involved with school systems in one form or another for some years now, and the amount of bitter burn-outs with an us-vs.-them outlook in the public systems is jaw-dropping (not so much in the private schools though, which is counterintuitive, as they pay less).

    June 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Mary

      It isn't as bad in the private schools because they get to "choose" their students. If a student becomes a discipline problem he gets kicked out...permanently.
      In the public system teachers are burnt out because they have 30 to 40 kids in a room and at a minimum half of these kids are underprepared for the class; most of them don't want to be there and the discipline problems are never ending. Most teachers I know who have burnt out have done so because their school has become a war zone. You can't paddle them anymore, suspension is what they want (yeah three days of no school!) and expelling them just moves them to another public school. A close friend of mine needed counseling and medication because the students in her high school learned that the principal would take their side over the teacher's. Students thought nothing of slamming teachers against the wall, threatening to "cut your heart out" and more. My friend left in the middle of the school year and went to a different county to work where she would feel safer. As a parent if you are not teaching your children to respect their teachers and making sure they behave themselves in class, then you have to take on a huge portion of the responsibility if your kids graduate and still can't read and add 2 and 2.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Rodboy

      You are right about schools in the US, but when respect goes so does pride in work. My son is a a teacher and he is not burned out but the stories he tells us about the KIDS are horrible. I worked as a volunteer at school and saw the same thing. The PARENTS ARE NOT involved, they are to busy texting , getting pedicures and shopping to really notice their children.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • erin

      Jorge, he wouldn't have been asked to speak at the graduation if he was a bitter burn-out. He's probably an excellent teacher, and our schools could use more of them. We might get them if we actually paid teachers a living wage. How many master's degree-holders with 20 years of experience in any other profession are making 40K?

      June 11, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
      • Mark

        Master's degree, 21 years experience, $32K a year. The story of my miserable little life.

        June 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Greg

      You ever think maybe most teachers just want to do their job? I do. I don't think I'm anything special. I'm not. I'm a new teacher who would love to be able to just do a good job and hopefully just spark an interest in maybe ten kids a year. The people I work with in my dept. are far from conceited and great people who also just want to do their job. People make such broad generalizations about teachers and it's kind of unfair. It makes us out to be the enemy. I would love to give my students more of a challenge. I would love to make them work harder so they actually achieve something to be proud of. But it becomes increasingly difficult with all the bureaucratic stuff other people keep throwing at us. We have no ability as teachers to truly address problems. We can't say who is in our classes either. My honors class had a few kids who could barely right. MY HONORS class. So don't make us out to be some degrading force in the education system. We're working and hard just like I'd hope you're trying hard at whatever your occupation is.

      June 12, 2012 at 7:25 am |
  55. G Carttar

    Right ON! The next dose of reality is just exactly what being 18 gets you: The ability to go to jail.
    More reality and shock love is required in the world.

    June 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  56. Jorge

    Somebody needs to tell this teacher that there is nothing special about him either.

    June 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • steve

      he had balls to say something you can only complain..so in my eyes shut up!

      June 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • sarah

      I don't think he implied or said he was special at any point in time.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • pat

      I agree. There is a time and place for everything and I am not particularly impressed with the act of raining on someone else's parade as an act of honesty. It is a cheap shot and incaccurate in most cases. Many high school and college have experienced significant challenges – financial, health, family situations – and persevered to graduate. Yes, some people do live charmed lives until sometime after their 18th birthdays – but my kids didn't and neither did most of the kids they knew.

      This guy could use a big slice of humble with a side of "get over yourself". I hope he plans to get away from these people for whom he harbors such disdain.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
      • CalgarySandy

        I would love to rain on these parades. I had to bust my hump in University to have a mortar board and gown. Giving this honour to high school kids is an insult to everyone who worked hard for this and it tells the kids that they are something they are not. Graduating from High School is not the achievement it was in the 50's. Any idiot can graduate high school now. Just show up, soak up the praise for work that is shoddy or your mom did and you too can have a sheep skin and gown. Another few years and you will be handing out the head gear of Masters and Doctors to junior high kids who have good attendance.

        June 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Coflyboy

      He already knows. He is an adult. He is a number just like you.

      June 11, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  57. sarahh

    I don't only think kids need to hear this, they want to hear it. Telling kids they're special for every tiny accomplishment when all the other kids around them achieve the same things is basically lying to them and they know it. Kids prefer the truth. By saturating everyone in praise, the real accomplishments never get truly acknowledged. So why bother.

    June 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  58. max3333444555

    I dont disagree with the speech. i do disagree with the idea that this is unique to the current generation of kids. i see a whole lot of adults that think they are special and have never done a thing worthwhile.

    June 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • rdeleys

      I agree. Unfortunately I have had to work with many people like that.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  59. JB

    Nothing wrong with this speech at all. It's a message that the younger generation needs to hear. Unfortunately, I'd wager that 90% of them didn't hear a word he said while they were playing Angry Birds or 'Draw Something' on their phones.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  60. lmd

    I doubt the graduates cared about the speech since they were done with school. he should have given the speech to incoming freshman.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  61. Josh

    I have a 4 and 6 yo and I think that I should start a sports league for my children and others who want their kids to PLAY sports, not just show up and be awarded. Whether it be football, basketball, baseball, etc, my children need to grow up in a world where they know what it feels like to win and to lose. They will learn to play the game, and use the skills to either fail or succeed. My children do not need to hear – its okay, we dont keep score, everyone wins in this league, or everyone is a winner, because that is filling them with false hopes, and my children do not need false hope. They need reality. Many may disagree, however, the ones disagreeing with me would have the kids who might not be so good at a sport. Guess what – that is life. YOUR KID ISNT GOING TO BE THE NEXT LEBRON JAMES, OR MICHAEL JORDAN, OR AARON RODGERS. Get used to that. If your kid hears it now, and realizes that if they WANT to be that good, then they have to WORK at it. It wont be handed to anyone. So I 100% agree with this message. If you want to be special, you need to take it upon yourselves to do so.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Julie

      Thank you!! Back to basics in raising your children. I commend you.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Squid Burns

      Who is Aaron Rodgers?

      June 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  62. jimdog33

    Sadly, this is a really good article to intelligently debate as both sides of the issue hold merit but the trolls & mouth-breathers have already hijacked the comments.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  63. Mr. C

    Honesty...what a concept! As I have told my grown children time and time again.."You are responsible for the way people will see you and your actions..and I wont always be here to hold your hands." Ashame more students aren't exposed to this speech,I think it far more beneficial than promising rainbows and lolipops!

    June 11, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  64. Keith

    The teacher isn't special, the kids are. Every now and then someone makes a splash buy telling people the "brutal truth" and that is just a bunch of Horse Stuff. The brutal truth becomes evident to everyone soon enough. I doubt that most kids graduate High School without facing it a few times already. They have had to put up with ignorance and incompetence for twelve years already so they are ready to go into the corporate world or government without further training.

    The teacher is a chump, as much fun as it probably was for him, he isn't special.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Tom

      and you sir...epitomize the molly coddling culture responsible for eviscerating self-denial and effort as means to our children's success.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
      • Keith

        Right, that is why I raised three Marines and my Daughter is a doctor with Doctors without borders

        June 11, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • iliveinmassachusetts

      keith, you need to realize that this town as a whole is extremely affluent. many, if not most, of the kids in this audience have been given so much more than the average kid as part of their normal growing up. they don't know what it is like to not have anything; they have probably had more in their 18 years than a good portion of adults in this country.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • rdeleys

      Is that your excuse?

      June 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • rdeleys

      Is that YOUR excuse? "......buy telling people....."

      June 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
      • Keith

        You should have stayed in school longer. Try to express yourself and I will answer you.

        June 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  65. iceload9

    The pendulum is swinging away from "do what you love" to "you better get a job". Next we should give the same speech to colleges that they are "nothing special" and to start training people that will afford them a better life. Instead of leading them down a path of insurmountable college debt in fields with no hope of suitable employment. Because too many of these students could have very productive lives if they hadn't been lead down the primrose path.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Mary

      College students choose their own path. Colleges merely provide the learning experience so the student can follow that path. It isn't the college's responsibility to tell a student "no you can't be an artist, you must study engineering". As a country obsessed with the almight dollar, we have forgotten what college is intended for. The whole purpose of going to college is to learn as much as you can of what you don't know in your chosen field of study, to use that new knowlege and develop critical thinking skills, to broaden your mind so that you see beyond your neighborhood, city, state and country, so that you become MORE in all areas of your life. I became a college professor not so I could "train" people to go out and get a job making twice or three times what I do; I became a teacher so I could do my part to help students realize all of the above. It's a big scary world out there, and the more you know, the scarier it gets, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Living in ignorance is much more dangerous.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  66. Nicole

    He is a high school teacher who must teach as he's told, and it's to standardized tests. Not for success in the real world. If a student fails for whatever reason, he's told it's his fault, not the students fault. So, kudos to him for stating that once they get into the world they are now responsible for themselves. I love my kids, but I don't want them to believe they will always succeed, and that if they fail they are losers. As long as they pick themselves up and go on, they still have a chance at success. Also, I was taught, and I am teaching my kids to serve others first, and be always mindful of bettering themselves and the world around them, even if no one cares or sees. It's not about me is my moto.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • cbartletti

      I am also a teacher of 18 years and I totally agree with you. We can and should encourage kids and pick them up when we can, but ultimately it is the responsibility of these young adults and teenagers to bear the brunt of the work required for their own success or failures

      June 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  67. beez

    All we have to do is get rid of obama and we will be fine. Once we get past this mindset where we don't have to work for anything anymore that obama caused.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • skpfrmdc


      June 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
      • max3333444555

        kids arent lazy. they have been inundated with negative BS.

        June 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
      • Dorian

        I agree. Unfortunately, these types will blame Obama for the cheap toilet paper they brought that left crumbs in their butt this morning. Anything, any reason to put the blame on him. But, they were content with Bush who created the mess in the first place. go figure.

        But, back to the subject... this commencement speaker did the kids a favor by telling them the truth. He gave them a glimpse of real life – it's not sugar coated. Of course, they are special to those who love them, but in the scope of things and society, they're not "special" until they make their own successful mark in life. It takes work.

        June 11, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Interested48

      You people are just so filled with hate, it's astonishing. Guess what, you're not special either!!!! You're also grossly misinformed.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
      • Kyle

        So you're saying they aren't special?

        June 11, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • C'mon

      Yes, because there were no free-loaders before Obama. It all happened in the last few years. Geesh.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • frespech

      You truly are a very small minded individual and probably not a very successful one either, That's probably Obama's fault as well.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Anna

      Yes, Obama caused this mindset of not wanting to work for anything. What is wrong with you? Where on earth are you getting that? Looks like Obama himself works very hard and has his whole life. What has he ever said or done to indicate he feels no one should have to work? You make no sense at all.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • LSB101


      June 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
      • Sherri

        Please learn to spell.

        June 12, 2012 at 2:13 am |
    • max3333444555

      i hate to do it but ill compare obama to reagan. reagan would stand in front of the country and say be successful, start a business. obama stands in front of the country and says be successful, get a job.

      we have an administration based on lowered expectations.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • rdeleys

      Are you living in an alternate universe? Besides, Obama came from very humble beginnings. It was Romney whose daddy bought his comfortable future for him. He never lack for anything at all.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • erin

      beez, right on. No one was every lazy in the history of humanity until Obama became president. Brilliant.

      June 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • Coflyboy

      Oh, yeah. I forgot: This is entirely Obama's fault.

      June 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  68. Good Call

    This man did what the education system has failed to do: Tell the truth. All these kids nowadays think their feelings actually matter and employers will allow them to work at their own pace. In the real world, feelings are for your psychologist and missing deadlines can get you fired. You don't get trophies in your adult life for merely participating. You have to earn them by working hard and beating out others. Kudos to the speaker for telling them that.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • BB*X

      What about the lessons they learned from organized sports now a days? Hell one team can't even win because that would make the other team the losers and we can't have kids thinking that there are winners and losers so let's just give them all a trophy.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
      • WhatNow

        BB...You are so right. It's sad that many parents are afraid to let their kids learn the lessons of losing. It makes the wins so much more valuable. Also, how does allowing all to win teach sportsmanship, dedication and desire to improve.

        June 11, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  69. Debby22

    My daughter is graduating from high school this month and I hope they are told something similar. While their accomplishments should be recognized and acknowledged they shouldn't be placed on a pedestal so high that they don't know how to get down. There are so many people coming in to the work force these days that have no concept of working hard for what you want. They come in expecting the same pay/benefits/perks of those that have been there for many more years. When they're given an assignment to do they look at you like you have two heads.
    So many times we have kids that graduate from our small high school and go away to large colleges only to come crying back to mommy and daddy because they went from being told they are the most awesome precious stars in the universe to being just a number...They need to be better prepared...

    June 11, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • asdrel1234

      Isn't it YOUR responsibility to prepare your children for the world?

      June 11, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  70. Isma'il

    , just attaining a high school or college diploma is meaningless, your character, the sum total of all your thoughts and ideas, that will make you memorable to others for years and decades.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Tesla

      Like, woah dude. That's super deep. *bubbles*

      Do you know how many people care about your thoughts and ideas if there isn't a single intelligent or logical one in the bunch? In most cases, the answer is zero.

      It's always fun to say that a high school diploma is worthless, but I know enough people who don't have them that disagree. A college degree isn't necessary, but it's still a worthwhile pursuit, as long as it's in a worthwhile field; it will improve your chances of landing a good job.

      I feel the problem with mindsets like yours (and by all means, correct me if I'm wrong) is that you feel that any "good job" is going to be a cube-farm where you're just another office drone. And yes, such jobs exist. But they're rarer than you think. If you do something that is worthwhile to this world, you can be challenged everyday, and truly enjoy your job and life. I graduated 2 years ago, and I've been a employed as an engineer for a year and a half; My job is a frustrating, wonderful mess of new obstacles and opportunities each day. I fail a lot, and it's an incredibly frustrating experience. But from failure, I bring success, and that is more rewarding than anything.

      You can define yourself by your thoughts and ideas. I'll define myself by my actions, my failures and successes.

      June 11, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  71. John

    I think he is right, one cannot go from high school into adult hood and be perfect from the start. My generation needs to understand that our parents will not always be there to pick us up when we fail, we have pave our own way in the world in order to be special. Just because you graduate high school does not make you special, what makes you special is the effort and dedication one puts into their work. I do not mean to say that everyone is the same but until my generation is capable of becoming productive members of society we are simply parasites that are sucking the energy from those around us. The faster my generation learns the better the world can become.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  72. WhatNow

    Finally, someone is willing to stand up and say what needs to be said.

    June 11, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  73. Conrad Shull

    More accurately, a few are special, most are not, and some are nearly useless.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  74. mikenphoenix

    A real tough guy,picking on kids,whats his problem,daddy didnt pat him on the back when he graduated,try a moment of compassion,it isnt as though hes responsible for the ″graduates",after they depart,just do your job and shut the f... up.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • sasha

      read the whole speech. beautifully crafted and very inspiring from a well educated and well read man who has thought about life carefully and witnessed 25+ years of graduating classes go out into the world. nothing discouraging about it at all. in fact i'm going to read it to my teens.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Eric

      "Picking on kids?"... right, thats exactly what hes doing. hes not talking about you mikenphoenix, no, your about as "special" as they come.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Tesla

      You know, it's funny that you bring the daddy issue into the mix.

      My dad almost never patted me on the back when I failed. Hell, he only rarely gave me positive reinforcement when I succeeded. I went through an emo-lite period where I thought I was the unloved child.

      The thing is, when I failed, he told me to try harder. When I succeeded, he said I could do better. And I could. So finally, I decided to. I turned around a near-failing GPA into a 3.0 in 3 semesters of school. I pulled myself together and became a stronger, more capable student. I became the man I am today, because I wasn't told I was 'special' or 'good enough.' Push yourself to be better.

      "I've had recurring nightmares that I was l loved for who I am, and missed the opportunity to be a better man." -Muse, "Hoodoo"

      June 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Moncada

      The truth hurts; doesn't it?

      June 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  75. Jacob

    You are special in a profound and utterly unique way. And no one will ever care.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  76. Elizabeth Anne

    Right message AND right time. This generation is pampered and babied. They don't fail anything, get awards for showing up, can't be losers at sports, and they think the world should be their cheerleader. Reality is your first boss out of high school doesn't think your special, your college professors won't think you're special, and the world won't hold itself up while you take as much time as you need to try and be good at something. Graduating high school is only special for one day, and about as useful as graduating from the 8th grade 40 years ago. At this point, It's time for kids to strap on their big boy briefs and big girl panties because it's about to get real.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  77. Oakspar77777

    Every child is a unique individual, just like you. If you don't believe that, go bleed on a crime scene then offer the police a DNA sample.

    Of course, if ever one of us is unique, all 7 billion of us – that also means that we are all exactly the same.

    That is what children need to understand. They are unique, they are original, they are loved – but so is everybody else in line as well.

    This is why the world will not care about them once they leave mommy's purse strings – not because the world is filled with heartless people, but because until someone actually knows you as an individual you are part of a mass too large to evoke sympathy, remorse, or compassion.

    That is what they need to hear – "Yes, you are special to your mommy – now go stand in the middle of the line somewhere."

    June 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Ken

      I translate to everything you just to say " You are not special". So why didn't you just say... I agree with this article and skip all the drauma..... Sheeesh

      June 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  78. SophieCat

    Parents who insist their special little snowflakes deserve special privileges, special treatment, special consideration, are doing them NO FAVORS.

    Everybody's child is "special" – to that parent. And that is as it should be.

    That being said, in the great big scheme of things, NO child is more "special" than any other. And NO child should be treated more "specially" than any other.

    If more parents would teach their child the importance of making OTHER people in their lives "special", we'd have a whole lot fewer instances of misbehavior, in my opinion.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  79. Chris Earle

    I thought each child was special.....just like everyone else.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Ken

      You are special Chris..... UGH

      June 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  80. ncparent

    YAY! Finally, it's about time an educator spoke the truth. I have 3 children and while they're special to me, they are certainly not special to the world nor should they be treated that way. I love my kids and would do anything for them but my goal is for them to make their own way in the world and leave their own footprint...not one I've created or left for them. We need more like McCullough!

    June 11, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • SophieCat

      I feel the same way. My son is special, sure.... to me. But he's not so dang "special" that he deserves more, or better, than any one else's chld.

      I'm sick of these parents that think the Dean, the Police, the neighbors, and everybody else, ought to make "special allowances" for their "special" kid. It's sickening. And then these kids get out in the REAL WORLD, and don't know how to cope because no one treats them like they're "special".

      June 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  81. Meg

    I think it was a great speech! Those who are shocked at what he was saying should take the time to listen to the speech in its entirety. He wasn't trying to belittle the accomplishments of the students, he was trying to encourage them to think about why they sought to accomplish those things. "You're not special" is the catchy phrase making all the headlines, but that wasn't the root message. He was pointing out that if you're going through life earning A's and collecting trophies just for bragging rights, give it up. There will ALWAYS be someone with better grades, more trophies. Focus on doing things because they matter. Do things that will make a difference to the world, to the community, or to yourself. Not simply doing things to make people think you're special.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • imjustsaying

      Meg......to "Do things that make a difference"......like teach english because your daddy told you to teach english.....something like that? In general true, pursue your dreams, make a difference. Add to the world and try to take little. Wait a second......that's a standard graduation speech. Drat, are you saying this guy gave a generic speech with a catch phrase to cause excitement. Couldn't be.

      June 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • hopemac

      You are correct and if you were in that group of young people, congratulations, because you are special. You understood this man's message.
      Good luck. Go out and make the world a better place.

      June 11, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  82. Me.

    All of you are obviously out of school too... And went to highschool when it was FAR easier than it is now. If you think the students have "dumbed down" than go ahead and say it, it doesn't mean they didn't try hard. Graduating is hard and if you thought it was easy than you were obviously one of those kids who were praised the whole time – I guess it's kind of making sense. But a lot of the time kids work their asses off, and deserve to be recgonized for it, not disregarded...

    June 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Steve

      Sorry, it's asinine and absurd for any recent high school graduate to say that high school is harder now than in past generations. Judging from what I have seen, graduates today are far more flawed in basic skills than graduates were 20, 40 years ago. Start the excuses machine.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Me too.

      Oh, sweet baby. High School is so much harder now than it was. Poor child you. What is your source on that bunch of BS?

      Try High School before computers. We had these things called encyclopedias for research. We had to WRITE our work.

      poor baby

      June 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • ingyandbert

      I thought high school was very easy. My grades were good even though except for math, I never studied. All it took to pass was to show up, stay awake (if all you were interested in was passing, that is), and turn in assignments. And, no, I wasn't praised. And I wasn't special either.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • 45 Apps_Admin

      High school was never easier than it is now. It may sound crazy but it used to be that kids could actually fail grades and have to repeat a year of school. We didn't have teachers that would fake our test scores or iPhones to help us cheat – we had to do this thing called studying where we learned how to use words appropriately like "then" and "than".

      June 11, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • sasha

      What? Are you kidding. You can graduate highschool by bearly passing and with a bunch of fluff courses. You can graduate with as little as one academic subject. And exactly what job can you get these days with just a highschool diploma?

      June 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • nhguy

      your handle pretty much sums things up for this generation....

      June 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Ken

      Me, you think for a second this country education is NOT being dumb down.. Then you need to look it up. Look where the US stood in grade averages/scores 30, 20 & 10 years ago. Let me warn you before you do..... Better grab mommy's hand.. Cause it isn't pretty. I am not saying the kids are NOT working hard. What I am saying is that WHAT they are working at is not helping them succeed. You can thank your local Teacher Union for that.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
      • Carlos

        Ken, so it's the teacher unions?? Really??? Teacher unions have been trying to raise standards, hold kids back a year if need be, separate special ed students from the regular classroom so that they can get more one on one instruction, fight parents who demand to have the kid in AP classes when they don't qualify because it looks good, and fight administrations from forcing them to pass kids because high failing rates look bad. The respect kids have for authority is appalling and many parents don't do anything about it. So if these kids aren't special, guess what? They're not. And you want to blame the teacher unions? You're so full of BS!

        June 11, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  83. Cherish

    This guys just an ass. I hate when people try to get recognition for saying things that make someone feel bad. Honestly if I were in that graduating class I'd be insulted.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • boom

      and your one of the self centered pieces of **** that everyone is shaking their head at.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Bob

      Cherish, you are one the barely mediocre Americans everyone is talking about.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • chaka khan

      You're only offended cause its true...overprotected and shielded from reality...i will never shield my children and tell them what is out there they need to prepare for...my dad did to me by saying i am on my own when i leave his house...and it did me just fine...

      June 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Hawk

      Did you read the entire speech? I did, and it wasn't insulting. It was actually very inspiring.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  84. NWeiner

    I don't blame the blunt nature of his speech, but I think such a speech should have been given at a college commencement – because that's where the graduates really must be ready to fend for themselves.

    June 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • bobington

      Graduating college is (somehwhat of) an achievement, graduating high school really isn't that big of a deal anymore, everyone should graduate high school, it really doesn't take much effort. Not that graduating college takes that much effort either.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
      • imjustsaying

        bobington, while I agree that it's not much of an achievement (congrats you have just beat out 20% of the U.S. population), it's a beginning. I still think it is the wrong time and it's a bitter pill to swallow when being told by someone who is likely up there speaking because his dad was famous and not because the kids wanted him there (which dampens the entire point).

        A point such as this should be followed with a positive message on how to go forth.....but maybe this guy didn't know yet.

        June 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Bob

      Really? Give them the truth just when they're about to be thrown to the wolves, and not before? Give me a break.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • JB

      By then, it's too late.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  85. G. F.

    The truth of the matter is that this speech is something we all can learn from hopefully everyone there and all who listen to it comes to the realization that this speech is for the benefit of all that want to take the real hold on life. There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  86. Alvis

    Right messge, wrong time... Imagine the minister at your wedding giving a sermon on adultery and failed marriages. It's stuff you need to hear, but there's a far better time and place to say it. He and his colleagues had four years to convey this important bit of knowledge to this group of students. It takes quite a bit of audacity, pessimism, and bitterness to ruin a day of celebration by focusing on the negative. More importantly, if he saved this knowledge until the END of these students' high school careers, then he was negligent as their teacher.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • imjustsaying

      I totally agree and i'd be curious to know that if being born to a pulitzer prize winning author and famous historian afforded this teacher any luxuries.......nothing like the spoiled telling people to not act spoiled........

      Maybe he needed/needs to take his own advice a bit. No doubt, his father's name is providing him the luxury of giving the speech.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Carlos

      So when is the right time for this message? Can you imagine a teacher saying this in a regular class? Parents would flip out and try to get the teacher fired for hurting their little angels' feelings.

      June 11, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  87. sasha

    In this world of hovering parents who's kids play on "no one wins no one looses" sports teams so that they can be protected from failure and where (in the UK) elementary schools are banning girls from having best friends so that others don't feel left out, and where the education systems has been so dumbed down that everyone thinks they're a genious!, its refreshing to hear someone tell teens what they really need to hear!

    Nothing leads faster to a sense of disapointment and lack of fullfilment then this idea that the world revolves around you...

    June 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  88. imjustsaying

    You're nothing special.....it's all relative. Somewhere in that crowd a young student with perfect grades was bright red and completely ticked off. The truth is, the group as a whole isn't anything special relative to the other graduations going on around the country. However, graduation speeches aren't exactly the best time for a "reality check". Graduation speeches are solely intended to be words of encouragement and to fluff the ego's of the kids graduating because.....well....they graduated. So they aren't special but they also managed to graduate which means they should be treated as someone special in that moment. The last thing you want to do is discourage these students from going to college or pursuing their goals.....if that were to happen then they would truly be not special. Also, to that, the address was given by an english teacher.....a highschool english teacher..........wow. Not special.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • bobington

      A graduation is the perfect time for a reality check....

      June 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Tesla

      So, telling kids they won't get special treatment in life right before going to college, which is meant to prepare them for a career and life, is a bad thing? Oh, and I was one of those kids who got near perfect grades without even trying in high school. You know what's funny about that? I WASN'T EXACTLY SPECIAL! Our class nearly had a valedictorian who had only gotten up to algebra in their math classes, not to mention only got a 16 on the ACT. But, because they took easy courses (which is very possible), they graduated with a high GPA! Hooray for them!

      Fortunately, the staff saw reason, and the girl who got valedictorian had a slightly smaller GPA, but had taken AP Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, AP Literature, and got a 35 on her ACT, all because she worked her butt off. And the other student had the nerve to complain, because he was used to being 'special.' He ended up dropping out of college and now works as a bouncer at a crappy bar. She became a chemical engineer.

      Oh, and as for the 'being a teacher isn't a big achievement?' You go take the classes. Tell us how you do. Just remember that a teacher who is truly doing their job will prepare their students for the real world. And lesson one is (or at least should be) "You are as special as everybody else; therefore, you are not special, and must work hard to differentiate yourself from the mob."

      June 11, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
      • imjustsaying

        Tesla, thanks for the rant. It's a very common story that you gave. I wasn't really motivated, but i'll share a rant of my own. My class had seven, yes seven co-valedictorians. This was because they ALL had perfect GPAs (all honors and weighted to be like a 6.0) and perfect test scores. I think each of them worked their butt off and were in my mind special. They went on to harvard and great schools like much of my class and now work with incredibly powerful people.....still special. Here's the thing. I like the reality check given in this speech. At any speech where students are STARTING off the year it would be great. Right before college however, you want to feel like going through school was worth it. For private schools, the parents want to feel the pricetag was worth it. Not being special is statistically true but it's deflating. In my professional career, yes we need hard workers but those that do the best and move up the quickest and gain respect don't just work hard. They are confident and think they are unique and special. Those that just run with the pack.....stay with the pack. Finally, I was a bit hard on teachers. It's a thankless job for sure. I was a teacher for years while I was in grad school but it's not rocket science. High school teaching isn't exactly college teaching...... As we go through college, there are those degrees that people have to go to when they start failing their primary and secondary choices.......the most common last ditch degree choice.....education. It was known to be easy and you could graduate on time. Teaching at a college on the other hand requires a doctorate and some real skill.

        June 12, 2012 at 10:04 am |
      • Tesla

        Actually, for a large amount of colleges, teaching in college requires having some grad student who is looking for experience. The professor needs a doctorate, sure; but they never use it for teaching. Besides, even if they are present to teach the class, most professors (of technical fields, at least) aren't the greatest educators. Do they know the stuff? Like the back of their hand. Can they put it into a form that is teachable to their level of students? Education is about communication, and many very technically minded, highly intelligent people don't really communicate well. I'm also curious what school you attended that didn't require a significant investment in education courses and student teaching time to allow you to graduate with a full-fledged education degree. I'm an engineer, and I subbed after college for a while (had to pay the bills), and I still found it challenging to communicate with the students.

        Also, confidence IS good for a worker or student to have. It can land you the good contracts, the good projects, and the good positions. But if confidence is ALL you have? You will fail. And you will never again get any of those things. Too many people have high confidence in nothing of worth. You are only as special as you are useful.

        Last note (sorry for another rant): A reality check is meant to keep you from making mistakes due to a bad mental model of reality. I've known many people who sabotage themselves in their first year of college by not taking it seriously, and thinking they were special enough, or smart enough (without studying), or talented enough (without practice) to get through smelling like a rose. And after their first semester (less handholding with your grades), they find out they've failed 3 out of 5 classes they were taking, have lost the scholarship they had earned, and now are in a GPA and money hole for the rest of their college careers.

        I'm not trying to say that they don't deserve some celebration for passage into adulthood, but part of that should be that reality check. "You, despite how you feel, are an adult now in the eyes of the law. Every action you make now has personal consequences. Congratulations, you have succeeded in the practice round that is high school. Next round is the real deal."

        June 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  89. JO

    About time someone tells folks you don't get a trophy just for showing up.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  90. FatSean

    The teacher doth protesteth too much. Sounds bitter and angry. I loved the patronizing bit about focusing on the achievement and not the reward. I guess this guy doesn't cash his reward/paychecks?

    June 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Ezradams

      The teacher's achievement was teaching! Good teachers make significant achievements everyday of their careers. Paycheck? Try buying a house and raising a family on a teachers starting (for that matter, first 15 years) salary...good luck. Teachers do not get enough credit.

      June 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • RS

      He's right, even in the universe of graduating seniors the kids at any particular school are nothing special because there are thousands of graduating seniors, nothing special. The ony way a person can be exceptional or special is through exceptional or special actions and achievements (true achievements not the everyday kind).

      June 12, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  91. dan Frabrezzilop

    Refreshing and so true....Between the helicopter parents and lack of communication skills (thanks to texting) these kids will suffer for it in the real world.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  92. sam

    He is absolutely right. Graduating highschool is a bare minimum achievement. Maybe it will make kids realize that they actually need to work for things.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  93. Boo

    Nice dose of reality...painful but true.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  94. Roxanne

    Lady Jessica:" I'll shield him as well as I'm able"

    Reverend Mother Mohiam: " Shield! You know well the weakness there! Shield your son too much , Jessica, and he'll not grow strong enough to fulfill ANY destiny!"

    Excerpt from "Dune" by Frank Herbert

    June 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  95. Krisli

    This country offers to much to soon, when a man/woman encounters difficultis he or she can become their best, work, sweat , strugle,when you do these things the taste of being a better person will help your travel in life

    June 11, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Roxanne


      June 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  96. MS. s

    Yes someone told the truth. Thank you.

    June 11, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  97. Roxanne

    My Mom ( may she rest in peace) spoiled me and I was the worse for it. Well meaning parents are WEAKENING their kids by coddling them. Thus, these kids have no clue how to survive in the REAL world ( and I am not reffering to an MTV show). What happens when Mummy and Daddy die and no longer there for their kids? The kids are screwed!

    June 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  98. charles

    great, its what they need to hear

    June 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  99. Sy2502

    Refreshingly honest commencement speech. Enough with this idiocy people keep feeding their kids about how special they are, how they are better than everybody else, how they are destined for great things. Kids are people like everybody else, and follow the same statistics as everybody else. A small minority is special. Most of them are average and mediocre. Your kid is probably the latter. Deal with it.

    June 11, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  100. Terry Miller

    The best commencement speech ever...!!!

    June 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Roger Martin

      I have to agree with his speech.As far as "fluffing" their feathers,thats pitiful.They need reality checks far more then they need "fluffing".
      In this age of giving trophies just for showing up so the loser wont feel bad,this speech is just what the doctor ordered!!!

      June 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
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