J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Speech
Posted on June 7, 2008 at 8:00 am
One of my favorite authors spoke about one of my favorite subjects when Harry Potter author Joanne Rowling addressed the graduating class at Harvard University. Many commencement speakers urge the new graduates departing from the ivory tower to succeed in the real world, but Rowling encouraged them to fail and not to neglect the importance of fantasy.
I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that has expired between that day and this.
I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called ‘real life’, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.
Graduates are usually applauded for their achievements, but Rowling advised the hyper-performing graduates that it is a mistake to measure success or failure based on grades and awards. She was frank about the pain of her own failures and about what she learned from them.