Friday, June 15, 2012

Never Too Old to Graduate

As we head into graduation season, I'd like to think the commencement remarks made by an English teacher in Massachusetts mark a turning point in our attitudes toward our kids and indeed, toward ourselves.

More than a million people have now watched the speech given by David McCullough Junior at Wellsely High just outside Boston. It's been posted on Youtube, and unlike the cute kitten videos so many of us love to watch, it contains wisdom we would do well to take to heart.

Nine times in McCullough's speech, he told the kids, "You're not special." In a wealthy enclave in one of the wealthiest parts of the wealthiest country in the world, it just might have been the first time some of those kids heard such a sentiment expressed.

McCullough went on to tell the graduates they should climb mountains to see the view, not to be seen. They should do good works in foreign countries in order to do some good, rather than to feel good. They should go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross Paris off their bucket list.

I've noticed in my conversations at parties and gatherings, more and more of us do stuff so we can tell others that we have done it. We tweet rather than talk, we post rather than partake.

McCullough also told the kids to savour achievement instead of accolades and remember that praise should be only a happy consequence, not the reason for action.

His advice is good stuff for all of us, even if it's been 25 or 40 years since you last wore a mortarboard.

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