J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Commencement address →

I really like to listen to graduation speeches. You can feel that something strong is happening. Both the audience and the speaker make this so special. The graduates compose our future leaders, the people who are going to drive our world in the future years. And the speaker is often a well-known figure of the current leading-force of the world. The fact that a member of the current successful generation gives a speech to the future generations is full of sense and makes it so special.

Most of the times, it deals with success and how to achieve it. Every sentence has been prepared and therefore every bit makes sense. This one by J.K. Rowling is a great piece to read or to listen to. I highly recommend it for two reasons:

  • Failure is key to J.K. Rowling and I am glad she did not exploit it as the start of its romantic fairy tale. However, she addresses a thoughtful message. Failure is nowhere pleasant as some could try to make you think, but failure inevitably trains you to become successful.
  • Rowling cleverly addressed a strong message to the future powerful people of the world.
    Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. (…) The great majority of you belong to the world’s only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

On top of that, Rowling uses humor to gives us a bit of envy and joy. For these reasons, her address joins directly my top list of inspirational speeches, still led by Steve Jobs’ Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish address at Stanford (2005).

I’m glad Harvard gives everybody an access to this interesting material, by the way.