This is an analysis of Twain’s and McCullough’s addresses.
1) Being told I would be expected to talk here, I inquired what sort of talk I ought to make. They said it should be something suitable to youth–something didactic, instructive, or something in the nature of good advice. Very well. I have a few things in my mind which I have often longed to say for the instruction of the young; for it is in one’s tender early years that such things will best take root and be most enduring and most valuable. First, then. I will say to you my young friends–and I say it beseechingly, urgingly–
2) Always obey your parents, when they are present. This is the best policy in the long run because if you don’t, they will make you. Most parents think they know better than you do, and you can generally make more by humoring that superstition than you can by acting on your own better judgment.
3) Be respectful to your superiors, if you have any, also to strangers, and sometimes to others. If a person offends you and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. That will be sufficient. If you shall find that he had not intended any offense, come out frankly and confess yourself in the wrong when you struck him; acknowledge it like a man and say you didn’t mean to. Yes, always avoid violence; in this age of charity and kindliness, the time has gone by for such things. Leave dynamite to the low and unrefined.
4) Now as to the matter of lying. You want to be very careful about lying; otherwise you are nearly sure to get caught. Once caught, you can never again be in the eyes to the good and the pure, what you were before. Many a young person has injured himself permanently through a single clumsy and ill finished lie, the result of carelessness born of incomplete training. Some authorities hold that the young ought not to lie at all. That of course, is putting it rather stronger than necessary; still while I cannot go quite so far as that, I do maintain, and I believe I am right, that the young ought to be temperate in the use of this great art until practice and experience shall give them that confidence, elegance, and precision which alone can make the accomplishment graceful and profitable. Patience, diligence, painstaking attention to detail–these are requirements; these in time, will make the student perfect; upon these only, may he rely as the sure foundation for future eminence…A final word: begin your practice of this gracious and beautiful art early–begin now. If I had begun earlier, I could have learned how.
5) But I have said enough. I hope you will treasure up the instructions which I have given you, and make them a guide to your feet and a light to your understanding. Build your character thoughtfully and painstakingly upon these precepts, and by and by, when you have got it built, you will be surprised and gratified to see how nicely and sharply it resembles everybody else’s.
This is an excerpt from the Wellesley High School faculty speech to the Class of 2012 (Jackie Stinson said this was okay to use per fair use guidelines) delivered by English teacher David McCullough, Jr. How would it feel to hear these words from a teacher you respected at the culmination of your high school career? Why would he say such things? Take a moment now to jot down your initial reaction.
Then, keeping in mind what you have learned about satire, stop and think about what he is really saying. Why would he say such things? Write down your ideas.
Now, read McCullough’s closing remarks:
“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.
“Congratulations. Good luck. Make for yourselves, please, for your sake and for ours, extraordinary lives.”
How do these words help explain his initial meaning and illuminate the issue he is attempting to bring into question with his earlier comments? Write down your thoughts.