“If Everyone Is Special, Then No One Is”
This commencement address, delivered by English teacher David McCullough Jr., is being called the “You Are Not Special” speech.
…do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.
You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.
Wise words not just for private life but for the world of public policy too, where politicians have sought to turn achievements like a college degree and homeownership into entitlements with disastrous outcomes.
We cannot create equal outcomes with public policy, because we as a people are not all equal in terms of work ethic, ability or desire. The best we can hope for is equal opportunity, where each citizen is free to achieve as much as he or she can.Tags: entitlements, higher education