Aravind

J K Rowling’s Commencement Address at Harvard

In Uncategorized on June 14, 2008 at 11:40

Rowling recently addressed the Harvard students on Graduation Day, and wow, what a speech. She has such insight, and such a command over the language, that it is something that every fresh graduate _has_ to read.

Some amazing excepts:

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

What a line!

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.

 

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.

 

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.
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  1. Amazing! I particularly liked this line:

    “You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity.Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.”

    The last para was a bit of a let-down though.

  2. @Vijay: You thought it was a bit cliched or what?

    There is one more line in there that makes us realize how lucky we truly are:

    “Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown academically.”

  3. @Aravind: Ya I hate it when people go out and talk stuff like help the poor and so on. As long as it is something from your own life, it is good saying it. But the general stuff like that, nah..

    And as for that line, wasn’t that meant directly to the Harvard students because they’re um, harvard students?

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