sunset from space

Humility is beautiful

Sometimes it’s uplifting to know something’s “gone viral.”

In his commencement address, teacher David McCullough Jr. at Wellesley High School (Massachusetts) demonstrates wisdom, honesty, and caring consideration as he reminds young people they’re “not special.” Bravo for this eloquent speech (which you can view or read here), as this is something our young people dearly need to hear.

Those of us who teach or otherwise work with college students can attest that while many are confident, unfortunately, some are over-confident, with an entitled, unreasonable expectation of above-average grades for mediocre work (and a companion, self-defeating tendency to complain about high academic standards and rigor).

It’s also clear that students who truly succeed must achieve some humility and realize the necessity of hard work. The harvest awaits: a good college education encourages maturity as students study stones left unturned, and finally consider what really matters in life and what’s worth pursuing.

This is an important point of the graduation speech: it implores young learners to do for the good of doing and not for the accolades. Mr. McCullough also notes

“The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer.”

Indeed, achievement as a goal can quickly get lost, as students take college courses to “get them out of the way” and seem focused heavily on getting the credential rather than cultivating what that credential should signify.

Finally, the speech encourages students to turn outward:

“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” 

This refreshing message certainly should apply to the general pursuit of knowledge; may it travel far and wide.

Image: Sunset on the Indian Ocean, taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). By ISS Expedition 23 crew (NASA Earth Observatory), via Wikimedia Commons.