Back in June, David McCullough Jr. made headlines for the commencement address he made to graduating seniors at Wellesley High School in Boston. Before that day, he was probably most famous for being the son of the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian. In other words, he was kind of like the rest of us, plodding along in relative obscurity.
The speech spurred outrage among many when McCullough dared to declare to the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed future fill-in-the-blanks of America what many of us think but few dare say to our prodigy:
You are not special.
The guy is absolutely right. It didn’t take me long to figure this out as it applies to my life. The only times my parents thought I was special was when I provided them free plane tickets or vacations. Otherwise, I’m just your average, normal person with my fair share of ups and some quiet downs. Yes, we are all special in some cliché or insignificant way that will do nothing to help us parlay that into overseeing a company of 500, becoming a good citizen or parent, or running a country.
I’ve thought about this speech off and on over the past few months and only wish that the theme of it could be repeated when and where we need it most. More importantly, I wish that I could have the courage to announce it. Imagine standing patiently in line at the bank, in an airport or at a lovely restaurant. Now picture the people who barge in and demand service ahead of all others because of their mistaken belief that they are “special.”
Mathematically, I’d like to point out that for every person who values his importance above all others and uses the line, “Do you know who I am?” as if it really matters, there are probably 100,000 other equally (or perhaps more or less) important people who run important companies and do important things and are no more special than the person who is doing the yelling at any given moment.
Note to those people: You’re not special at all. You’re annoying.