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'You're Not Special' writer, teacher McCullough to grant rare appearance at Wellesley library

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  December 5, 2013 10:00 AM

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David McCullough Jr., the Wellesley High School English teacher who gained nationwide attention -- and a book deal -- from his 2012 "You're Not Special" graduation speech, will speak at Wellesley's public library tonight.

The free lecture, which takes place from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. is one of the few events McCullough has agreed to do in the months following his national fame.

The Wellesley teacher, who is the son and namesake of historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough, has been quite busy penning a book of his own, which is due to release in April 2014. In his book, titled "You Are Not Special … And Other Encouragements," McCullough will elaborate on his now-famous speech exploring how, for what purpose, and for whose sake we're raising our kids, according to publisher HarperCollins.

McCullough, who finished his manuscript in March, returned to teaching at Wellesley High in September. He described the past year's writing experience as an opportunity too special to pass up.

“It’s been energizing and therapeutic,” McCullough previously said of the writing experience. “I suddenly empathize with kids having a mountain of homework.”

McCullough's 2012 oration earned him a total of over 2.1 million hits on YouTube to date, accolades from conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, and an analysis from Psychology Today.

“I remain stunned by it,” McCullough previously said of his sudden notoriety. “I got swept up in the tornado.”

In his 12-minute speech, McCullough urged his former students to rise from their coddled lives to work hard and enjoy each moment.

"Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view," he said. "Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you."

However, McCullough sparked attention as he took very real examples of his students' successes and rendered them meaningless to prove his point.

"Contrary to what your U9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mr. Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you, you are nothing special," McCullough said in his speech.

"...[You] will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself," he said in his oration. "The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special. Because everyone is."

For more information on tonight's event, visit the library's website.

Follow us on Twitter: @yourwellesley, @jaclynreiss

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at

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