The commencement speech recently given by David McCullough at Wellesley High School has caused quite a stir. In the speech he tells the graduates that they “are not special.” That is not, of course, all that he said to them. He went on to inspire them to be contributors rather than stars.
Some day I may write a book called, You’re Not Special; I’m Not Special. Since I first read A Course in Miracles’ premise that most human misery derives from the egotistical need to be special I’ve been intrigued by the profound contrast between specialness and uniqueness.
No one is, or should be, special; all of us are, and must be, unique. I do not want to be recognized or acknowledged for my specialness, but for my uniqueness. My uniqueness is God-given; I can’t take credit. My yearning for specialness is ego-driven and separates me from others.
Authenticity, when it exists, springs from a person’s uniqueness. So often, though, our addiction to specialness causes us, usually unconsciously, to attempt multiple and varied manuevers to “improve upon” our unique selves so that we will be treated as special. Never works, not for long.
I hope the graduates at Wellesley understand the significance of the gift they received from Mr. McCullough. I suspect most of them will soon forget, and embark on the quest to become “somebody special.” My hope for each of them is that they will have true friends along the way who appreciate their individuality while chuckling at their misguided attempts to be, and be treated, as special.