This is from the commencement speech at Wellesley High School and it’s one of the most powerful things I’ve read in quite some time. David McCullough delivered a rare brand of sense to a room full of 17 and 18 year olds. It’s worth reading the entire thing (link here), and I almost hesitate to offer a part of the piece without context, but here is a portion from the end that aptly stands alone:
Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct. It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things. 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. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly. Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.
Because everyone is.