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Rowling urges graduates to Imagine a Better World at Harvard Commencement, challenging them to use their gifts for greater good


By WcP.Life.Coach - Posted on 05 June 2008

'Harry Potter' Author J.K. Rowling receives honorary degree at Harvard University Commencement 2008

(quote)

CAMBRIDGE - Acclaimed author J.K. Rowling, whose boy wizard captured the interest of countless readers with the "Harry Potter" series, urged Harvard graduates yesterday to use their imaginations to create a better world. In an earnest, personal speech, the British author reminded students that their talents and opportunities carry "unique status and unique responsibilities," and challenged them to use their gifts for the greater good.

"That is your privilege and your burden," she said. "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," she continued. "We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: We have the power to imagine better."

Rowling makes her way to the stage before commencement address at Harvard University, June 5, 2008 in Cambridge, Mass.

Recalling her work in her 20s at Amnesty International, where she heard the experiences of political prisoners under totalitarian regimes, the 42-year-old Rowling extolled the transformative "power of human empathy" to forge collective action. "Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation," she said. "In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared." "Those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters," she added.

Rowling, who was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree, also stressed what she called the "benefits of failure," recalling a dark period in her late 20s, that while painful was also liberating. "I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea," she said. "And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."

Rowling began her remarks in light-hearted fashion, quipping that the invitation to speak was not only a great honor, but had helped her lose weight through the anxiety of preparation. "A win-win situation!" she said. "Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners, and fool myself into believing I am at the world's best-educated Harry Potter convention."

Harvard graduates raise their gavels during commencement ceremonies

Rowling was introduced by Harvard president Drew Faust, who welcomed "witches, wizards, and muggles of all ages" and, with a chuckle, said she recognized she was merely "the warm-up act." Some 7,000 students received diplomas yesterday morning in a ceremony marked by tradition and jubilant celebrations. Harvard Yard was thronged for the graduation, which featured a lengthy address in Latin and marshals dressed in coats and tails and black top hats.

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of AP Photo/Lisa Poole and Boston Herald/Stuart Cahill

Original Source: Boston Globe

The entire text, video and audio of J.K. Rowling Harvard Commencement speech can be found online at The Leaky Cauldron.

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