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English teacher behind viral video: 'Kids have to stumble'

Veteran English teacher David McCollough.

The English teacher behind a viral video defended his speech to Wellesley High School seniors, saying it was not meant to belittle students, but to exhort the Class of 2012 to pursue distinctive lives.

"These kids were headed out the door, we were about to release them into the wild, and I wanted to give them something that they would bring with them and might prove helpful," David McCullough Jr. told NBC’s Nightly News on Monday. "It's also what I've been saying for 26 years in the classroom, so there was essentially nothing new in my message."

McCullough, who readily admits he doesn't have a Facebook account, said he wasn’t ready for worldwide reaction after a video of his unusual speech went viral last week.

In his commencement address to Wellesley High School earlier this month, McCullough delivered some sobering words: "None of you is special. You are not special. You are not exceptional."



The educator also called the graduating students "pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble wrapped... nudged, cajoled ... feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie." 

'You are not special,' English teacher tells graduating Mass. students

McCullough rattled off statistics, saying numbers were stacking up against the graduating class. He said half of the class would be divorced and life wasn’t going to revolve around their every whim.

Wellesley High School teacher tells graduating students "you're not special."


He told NBC News it was important for teens to embrace failure rather than always striving to avoid it. Creativity, he added, should be for the good of others because "selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself."

"I really was speaking just to those 400 something kids, and I, perhaps naively, had no idea that the entire electronic world was eavesdropping, and that's part of what has been so startling to me about the reaction," he told NBC.

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