“You’re Not Special” Commencement Speech!

This commencement speech, from Wellesley High School in Massachusetts, USA, is getting a lot of attention and with good reason:

I only went looking for that video on youtube AFTER I noticed this blog post by author and blogger, Chris Brady, when signing into WordPress on the “Freshly Pressed page”.  I highly recommend clicking on it and reading the commencement speech for yourself.  A lot of truth in those words.


4 responses to ““You’re Not Special” Commencement Speech!

  1. I really enjoyed his speech, mashaAllah.

  2. There’s only one real criticism I can level against this speech and that’s that it might have been a bit ambitious considering his audience. Telling a group of secondary school graduates “you’re not special” was always going to attract the assumption that this was a bitter and twisted man taking great pleasure in pounding graduates into the ground.

    Of course, that’s not what this speech is about at all. And “special”, in this speech, means “entitled”, as far as I can see. And that’s a good message to put out, so long as it’s not put out in some lofty, condescending, “all students are deluded” kind of way. And I definitely agree with him that “special” isn’t something to be aspired to. Your dreams should be your aspiration and “special” should be a by-product. I think my favourite line is about climbing the mountain, not so that the world can see you but so you can see the world. The way I’m reading that is as though he’s saying chase your dreams because they’re your dreams, because you believe in them, not because of how they’ll be perceived by others. Fine, if you want to be a doctor, a scientist, an engineer, go for it. Chase it for all you’re worth. But do it because that’s what you want to do, what you love, not because those are the graduate jobs that will command respect.

    I think there’s some guidance on the very definition of “special” there too. Because really, what is “special”? You can’t decide “special” on a single set of criteria. If “special” means that you have to make some ground-breaking discovery, then there aren’t many special people out there at all. If “special” means that you have to be very generous with your money, that means that no-one struggling with financial issues can ever be special. “Special”, quite frankly, is often in the eye of the beholder, and I’m fine with that. “Special” doesn’t have to be something big and impressive. “Special” can be as simple as what you are to yourself and what you are to those who are close to you.

  3. nicolajames,
    Thanks so much for sharing your deep thoughts on this. The video definitely gives one food for thought, doesn’t it?! I agree with everything you’ve written here. Thanks for visiting! 🙂

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