J. K. Rowling at Harvard

Through a friends' blog about another friends' graduation (congratulations!) I got to J. K. Rowling's speech at Harvard Commencement. I'd read somewhere she was the speaker, but hadn't got to try and find it. I confess that in my own Commencement I didn't attend the "afternoon" speech some famous actor (forgive my memory) gave, the "afternoon exercises" I think they call that part of the ceremony.

Rowling gave a great speech that weaved her life story with ideas of failure, imagination and somehow compassion. I didn't quite get how she linked the latter two.

She started by remembering her own Commencement and life at age 21. Then came failure and it pushed her forward. She doesn't invite Harvard overachievers to fail, but invites them to think of themselves as a lot more than academic achievement or a CV. This definitively resonates with my doubts about going for a doctoral degree... I doubt it so much, I think I just admit I don't want it or really need it.

Then came imagination... somehow connected to compassion. I didn't know she had worked at Amnesty International. She talked about this stage of her life and invited the graduates, privileged citizens of "the world's last superpower" with an elite education to work for those who suffer war, torture and discrimination. No one (and Rowling herself said it) expects a commencement speech to change someone's life, and a few will probabaly just remember the mention of a "gay wizard" in 20 years, but the speech is wonderful example of her witty writing and the life lessons someone who has been in the "rock bottom".

You can watch it, read it or download it here: http://harvardmagazine.com/go/jkrowling.html

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