Are you special? (5×8 – 6/11/12)

Graduation generalizations, who would pull a woman from a burning car, eliminating property taxes, waiting on the Supreme Court, and remembering the Minnesota weekend.


Don’t read anything into the choice for this week’s Monday Morning Rouser. Unless you want to.

1) GRADUATION GENERALIZATIONS

At graduation time, there’s always at least one commencement speech that gets passed around and gains traction via social networking, presumably because people agree with the message.

This is this year’s viral commencement speech:

You get a lot of generalizations at this time of the year and the underpinning of this one is a sense that all kids are spoiled individualists who think of themselves as special. This speaker had a single message: they’re not.

I would disagree. The graduate who was abandoned by parents and cleaned floors and worked other jobs and graduated with honors (I posted a video about her last week) is special. So is a similar story of a young man that was posted in the Star Tribune on Saturday.

Some people are special; some are not. That’s a fact that makes for a lousy commencement speech.

It will destroy many people to know that graduating from high school with honors is special. It takes hard work, work that a lot of other people didn’t want to do. We forget that in our instinctive rush to dismiss kids as merely “people still getting their bottoms wiped by mommy and daddy” (as one commenter on the video said), there are some great kids worthy of praise and admiration, who we should welcome to adulthood with open arms.

I don’t know where all of the kids at Wellesley High School (or any other high school) are going to end up, some are going to be bright stars and some are going to struggle to survive; that’s the nature of things. Some will handle the struggles, some will not. All will face people who tell them they’re nothing and they can’t accomplish the things they’ll end up accomplishing.

Some will listen to that prediction; some won’t.

Check with me in 20 years; I’m guessing that most every graduating class will have someone who accomplished things that made them special, based largely on the kind of person they already were when they were 18.

The speaker chose the wrong word. Swap “entitled” for “special” and he’d be on to something. Being special and being entitled are not the same thing. Most people who are “special” understand this.

The video is racing across the Internet. But as commencement speeches go, it was nothing special. And the idea that a classroom educator can spend an entire year in a classroom and not find anything special therein, is a sad commentary of a different sort.

You know what would’ve been a great speech? This one:

Related: A hockey coach in Canada has been suspended for allowing kids to study for exams rather than attending the opening ceremony of a hockey tournament. Kids today, eh?

2) HI, NEIGHBOR!

Who would risk their lives to pull a woman they don’t know out of a burning car? Lots of people, apparently.

3) PROPERTY TAXES UNDER REVIEW IN ND

North Dakota voters will decide tomorrow whether to eliminate local property taxes. Palmer Reising has been one of the most visible supporters of the measure, the Fargo Forum says, although he might’ve gone too far at a parade recently when he dressed up as the “tax man” and took the candy that parade participants had thrown to kids.

He’s also never paid property taxes. And he’s from Cincinnati.

Related: The predicament of local government. What’s the net effect on the long term, of the short-term things cities do to grow? (streets.mn)

4) WAITING ON THE SUPREME COURT

This might be the week the Supreme Court issues its judgment on the national health care law. Will it matter? Today, the largest health insurer in the country — Minnesota-based United Healthcare — will announce it’s keeping elements of the law no matter what the Supreme Court may say. (Washington Post)

Related: What you need to know about the health care ruling. (CBS )

5) MINNESOTA MOMENTS

Not ready to give up a Minnesota summer weekend? We’ve got your back…

At the other end of the spectrum, the Blue Angels were in Minnesota over the weekend (can we please retire the Lee Greenwood?) …

On Saturday, Northern Spark lit up Minneapolis…

Minnesota is the state of awesome.

Bonus: Can public radio still take risks? Yes.

TODAY’S QUESTION

A recent poll suggests that only 44 percent of Americans approve of the job the Supreme Court is doing. Today’s Question: What branch of government do you hold in the highest esteem?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Mandatory labeling of GMOs.

Second hour: BackStory is a public radio program and podcast that brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today. On each show, renowned U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths.

Third hour: Charles Wheelan’s unique commencement weekend speech to Dartmouth class of 2011 is now a book, “10 ½ Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said.”

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California about all the world’s hot spots, as well as his new book, “It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership.”

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Many U.Ss troops have left Iraq and Afghanistan and are heading to college campuses back home. Making the transition from warrior to college student is far from easy. But NPR will report that veterans aren’t the only ones struggling. The college staffs have a hard time making the adjustment, too.

Dan Olson talks with Salah Fattah, an Egyptian American, and founder of Amwaaj, a classic Arabic music group.

  • Elaine Love

    Thanks for the Mister Rogers video, Bob. His gentle kindness is a rare and wonderful thing. Used the kids to watch him every day, years ago!

  • D. Andrew Boss

    Bob,

    Thank you. Can’t watch a Fred Rogers clip without crying each and every time. I miss his gentleness.

  • BenCh

    I think there is an important fact about commencement speeches- most people forget them. I had one for high school, undergrad, and just a month ago one for graduate school. If you asked me and a correct answer was worth one million dollars, I couldn’t tell you who the speaker was or even what the speech was about.

  • John P.

    I had a pretty memorable commencement speaker; former Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. I have no idea what he said, but he did say a lot as was Hubert’s tendency.

    We all have moments when we can be special. Some people just take advantage of more of them.

  • Jim Shapiro

    One of the wonderful paradoxes of life is that everyone is special, but no one is unique.

    Just ask Mr. Rodgers.

  • kay smith

    I nominate Craig Finn as the new Joe Cocker in the so-awkward-it’s-cool arm movements category.