In short, I always knew that I needed much more than ceremonies and accolades to believe myself valuable in any meaningful sense. It had to come from measurable accomplishments rather than from the mere potential thereof.
It doesn't help that the ego-massage tools available today are far more powerful than any that have previously existed. These days, kids can socially engineer their own behind-kissing universe, adding Facebook "friends" who "like" every thought, while casting off or "unfriending" those who don't fit a kid's self-perception.
No one in this little universe of a kid's own creation will even so much as criticize their horrible spelling, because this virtual universe will ultimately come to reflect who that person perceives himself to be, and his level of intelligence or lack thereof. No one who's a flake in real life has Facebook friends who'll ever impose critical thinking upon him. The person will see himself reflected positively in a tranquil virtual sea of blissful ignorance and mediocrity.
This is how the world has come to be flooded with overconfident uselessness -- with the kind of people who demand that the "one percent" spread the wealth while refusing to take the harder road of identifying their own talents and finding ways to prove their own worth, never mind what the "one percent" happen to be doing with their own lives. As far as these self-absorbed souls are concerned, the world simply has yet to recognize their greatness in the same way their parents and Facebook friends have done -- and that's mostly Wall Street's fault.
Some critics of McCullough's speech have said that telling kids how unspecial they are before they enter the real world is just mean, because they're bound to discover their lack of uniqueness very quickly when they emerge from their protective bubble.
Wrong. It's not like they're going to have some sort of epiphany. They'll just find someone else to blame.