I loved listening to this graduation speech (here is the video) and made sure I forwarded it on to J right away. Coming from a high school teacher makes it so much more significant than the rant of a disgruntled parent. Each time, an adult makes J feel like is she "special", I cringe a little inwardly. I have to fight my natural instinct to tell them to stop. She just about as special as a million other kids and it is very important that she realize her place in the grand scheme of things. In the least it will stave off a lot of disappointment that comes in the wake of misplaced expectations but more importantly, it will give her the impetus work hard at achieving her goals. I long for them to applaud her tenacity and her attention to detail instead. Recognizing, rewarding and encouraging those qualities may actually help her get ahead in life and find success. Everything in that speech is quotable (and kids would be served well to read and re-read it until they learn to tune out all everything they hear about being special) , but here is my favorite part :
In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?” As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.