Not Your Typical Commencement Speeches
Something you don’t plan to hear during your high school or college graduation is that “you’re not special”. But, in fact, that was the primary message David McCullough had to deliver in his commencement speech to the graduates of Wellesley High School. David Foster Wallace and George Saunders also shared unusual, but thought-provoking messages to their respective graduating classes. With each of these unorthodox speeches comes insight into common human fallacies, whether it be selfishness or negligence or egocentrism.
Although these speeches have been given very recently (within the last ten years), they all carry extremely powerful messages that should be considered and adopted for years to come. David Foster Wallace, who struggled with depression for nearly 20 years and eventually succumbed to it in 2008, shared quite a gloomy message for what normally is a cheery day in a person’s life. His speech dealt with the egocentrism that lives inside all people, whether they acknowledge it or not. He explained one of the most commonly frustrating scenarios we experience, being stuck in traffic after a long day of work, and how it always feels like everyone is in our way. But he instead asks us to consider how these other drivers are being affected by US. Perhaps the driver who recently cut you off had a sick child he was rushing to the hospital and YOU were in HIS way, for example. He tells us that once we live our lives in a way that fosters kindness and patience and consideration towards others, we will feel more fulfilled. Likewise George Saunders shared a plea for kindness. He shared his prediction that as we grow older, we gradually become kinder. So, he asks, if that is to happen, why don’t we just hurry up and start right away? Finally, David McCullough told graduates that they aren’t as special as they think they are. This is something quite uncommon to hear at your graduation. However, we all have our braggadocios...
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