March 24, 2017

June 28, 2012

Wellesley High grads told: “You’re not special”

This commencement speech, posted over at The Swellesley Report, went the round several works for the obvious truthiness of the statements by the commencement speaker.  Two paragraphs that I particularly liked, though—I guess because they urge people not to be shallow and to recognize that death is coming—weren’t quite as popular, so I’m excerpting them here:

As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.  Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison.  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.

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer.  You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–quite an active verb, “pursuit”–which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube.

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“Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about.”  So what would one do about a spouse they’re not crazy about?  Sounds like a pro-divorce message to me.

[1] Posted by Jill C. on 6-28-2012 at 02:49 PM · [top]

It could be read that way.  I saw it as “don’t marry somebody you’re not crazy about” and “don’t work at a place you’re not crazy about”—but it could be interpreted to mean “and divorce if you *do* marry someone you’re not crazy about.”

[2] Posted by Sarah on 6-28-2012 at 03:16 PM · [top]

If you listen to radio news or comment, or if you watch television news, or if you read newspaper editorials, you cannot have missed the graduation speech given by David McCullough, Jr., English teacher at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts.  Much attention has been given to his theme:  “You’re Not Special”                                           
Buried within that twelve-minute talk there’s an idea that could have missed the notice of many in the media.  Let me read it.

“No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it …  Now it’s “So what does this get me?”  As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.” 

I confess; I tell young people and their parents to begin thinking about their college-admission resumes in Junior High, and that being an Eagle Scout or earning the Girl Scout Gold Award goes a long way toward getting into the college of their choice.

The same theme motivates many politicians, as the next four months of electioneering will make painfully evident.  It’s not about helping swing-state farmers or undocumented youth (worthy causes they may be) or agreeing with evangelical Christians or right-to-life or right to end it.  It’s about the number of votes the candidate expects to gain by his or her pronouncements, and the commentators will be quick to chime in with their estimates of the running tally. 

Is that what drives our relationship with God? …  Is it only the reward that prompts us to good works? …  Like the Pharisees, should we be keeping a tally sheet? … Will we accumulate enough points to pass the screening committee of saints? ... Will we make the selection list as we parade past Samuel? … I think, not.

“ . . . for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7

[3] Posted by SkyFox on 6-28-2012 at 10:07 PM · [top]

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