Have you heard about the high school teacher who told graduates that they weren’t special in his graduation speech? Apparently there is a lot of buzz — and some upset people — because of it.

I really think it’s amazing. Here are some excerpts from his speech:

“Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians … 37,000 class presidents … 92,000 harmonizing altos … 340,000 swaggering jocks … 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs,” he said in the speech published in the Boston Herald.

He added: “Even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you.”

McCullough makes a statement on parents who overdo it in a modern society focused on collecting achievements. “You’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble wrapped … feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie.” But he adds in a video on Wellesley Channel TV YouTube page, “You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. … We have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.”


I think this is by far the best part of it:

“The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life is an achievement,” and he encourages graduates “to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.”


This last sentence resonated with me… I think he hit it on the head and while running the NYRR Women’s Mini 10K this morning (recap soon!), this was going through my head.

The thing that makes us special as runners is that we each have different goals, achievements and experiences. While there may have been 6,000 or 7,000 of us running the race this morning, it became special because we did it to fulfill something for ourselves. In running (unless you are an elite competing against others), we are our own worst enemy. Our own challenger. Our own critic. And that’s why, when you cross the finish line and get the medal that you worked so hard for, it feels great.



Yes, everyone gets a medal. But we celebrate that medal for such different reasons. For some, its losing those extra pounds. Others, its a new PR. And some even celebrate the fact that they’ve done what they once thought impossible. We aren’t keeping score and because someone may run faster than you doesn’t mean that they are a winner and loser, like it is in other sports. You are only competing against yourself. And that’s what makes running so special.


What do you think about his graduation speech? Do you think it’s too harsh? Why do you celebrate your medal (or finish)? 

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