I have a tiny bone to pick with Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough’s assessment, “You’re not special.”
You’ve probably heard about McCullough’s “You’re Not Special” commencement speech. Delivered on June 1, the speech quickly went viral.
It’s not hard to understand why this speech appeals to folks. Much of what we teach our children and how we treat them hinges on overprotection. We work very hard to prevent bad things from happening to them. We do all we can to ensure their success. We treat them as if they are, well, special.
They may get the idea they are entitled to a life of ease without frustration. But the real world doesn’t work that way.
If you’ve ever struggled to earn a paycheck, overcome a hardship, or climb out of a dysfunction, you know life can be tough. The world is no respecter of persons when it comes to fairness. The sun rises and the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous, the special and the ordinary.
As an occasional helicopter parent, I agree with the gist of McCullough’s speech. But it troubles me for another reason.
I cringe because the speech’s implication is as dangerous as what it argues against.
“You see, if everyone is special, then no one is,” said McCullough. In order to be special, we must do something special. Our worth depends on our performance.
And if no one is special, then is every one replaceable? Disposable even? If only those who perform and do something special—if only those have worth—who’s to say what’s to become of the rest of us?
Our children, including the young adults graduating from Wellesley High School this year, are special to their families. Or at least they should be. They’re special to their country as our best natural resource. Or at least they should be.
Most assuredly, they’re special to God. So are you and I.
With God, your worth doesn’t depend on what you do or don’t do. He created you, so you have intrinsic value. He loves you, so you have worth. He died and rose to save your life, so your life is beyond price.
Maybe it’s semantics. I wish McCullough would have said, “You’re not entitled.” Of course that doesn’t sound nearly as provocative as, “You’re not special.”
And I suppose he’s right. Performance is our measure in this world’s economy.
Thank God it’s not our measure in His eyes.
God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT
Stars by Switchfoot, the acoustic version because that’s how we roll.