Table Talk: Lessons From David McCullough Jr.'s Viral 'You're Not Special' Graduation Speech

What Everyone Can Learn From "You're Not Special"

This week's Family Dinner Table Talk, from HuffPost and The Family Dinner book:

It's the end of the school year, and countless public figures -- from Maria Shriver and Jane Lynch to Mitt Romney and President Obama -- have already shared their thoughts about life, work and the meaning of achievement with graduating college students across the country.

But a Massachusetts English teacher has stolen much of the spotlight from these authors, actors and politicians with his high school commencement remarks. David McCullough, Jr.'s speech, delivered at Wellesley High School, already has more than a million views on YouTube, and it's generated a whole slew of on- and off-line commentary. Its message to graduating high schoolers? "You're not special."

Contrary to what you might expect, McCullough's goal isn't to crush his students' dreams of success in the wider world. Rather, his message is about humility, and the importance of taking pride in yourself, rather than only finding joy in public recognition. "Climb the mountain not to plant your flag," he says, "but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air, and behold the view."

Indeed, the core of McCullough's advice is this: "Don't wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out, explore; find it yourself; grab hold with both hands." If public praise follows, so much the better. But don't count on it -- and don't ever let it be the sole measure of your success.

Questions for discussion:

  • Do you agree with the points Mr. McCullough makes in his speech?
  • Whose approval means the most to you? A parent's? A teacher's? A coach's? Your own?
  • Do you think it's good to be told that you're not perfect, or to be shown when you've done something wrong?
  • What's the thing you've done recently that you are most proud of -- whether or not it was recognized by anyone else?

In her cookbook, The Family Dinner, Laurie David talks about the importance of families making a ritual of sitting down to dinner together, and how family dinners offer a great opportunity for meaningful discussions about the day's news. "Dinner," she says, "is as much about digestible conversation as it is about delicious food."

We couldn't agree more. So HuffPost has joined with Laurie and every Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner, our editors highlight one of the most compelling news stories of the week -- stories that will spark a lively discussion among the whole family.

Do you have info to share with HuffPost reporters? Here’s how.

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