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June 11th, 2012
07:21 PM ET

Letters to the President #1239: 'You are not special'

Reporter's Note: I write to President Obama every day. Not that I think that makes me special or anything.

Dear Mr. President,

Perhaps you were taken aback by the title of this page. Please don’t be. It was not aimed at you, but rather in tribute to that spectacular high school graduation speech given by David McCullough Jr., an English teacher.

I took a little time to read his speech in its entirety and, unlike a lot of the lukewarm yogurt that is spooned out at graduations, this really hit home with me. I won’t try to summarize his thoughts, because I think they deserve a complete reading, not a Spark Notes synopsis.

Suffice to say that I utterly agree with his notion that one of the afflictions of our society is the tendency for everyone to think he or she is special in a “I deserve a trophy, I deserve great grades, I deserve to have life handed to me on a platter simply because I am alive” way.

While I’ve always had the greatest respect for the inherent importance of each person’s life (especially to that person, ha!), and the need for us to strive for all men being created equal, I’ve also seen overwhelming evidence that we don’t stay that way.

Some people do much more with their lives than others. They study more. They work harder. They throw themselves more completely into the human experience, and if they are really great at all that then maybe, possibly, they will actually become…special. They will elevate themselves to a point where other will look at them with respect and honor. It doesn’t matter what field they choose. I have seen special doctors and politicians, but I have also seen housewives, wheat farmers, and 4H Club sponsors who are as special as human beings can be.

In my world, it is an earned accolade; one that must be bestowed by others, not self-awarded, or handed out like candy just because you showed up for the game.

That’s why I liked this guy’s speech so much. It seemed less like a point of view and more of a simple recognition of what life itself shows us; being special involves a lot more than someone patting you on the back and saying the world is your oyster. Even if it is, you’re going to have to work to crack the shell.

Hope all is well at your house. Busy weekend at ours.

Call if you can.

Regards,
Tom

soundoff (One Response)
  1. Neil

    Although I'm not a Obama fan, I agree with this guys letter and be extension, the original speech.
    I tell my children that just because you're alive, does not mean you deserve to anything. You must earn respect, honor, friendship and most of all, trust. Trust from the people around you. If you let someone give you everything, you owe everything to that someone.

    Well written letter.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:16 am |