Tuesday, June 10, 2008

J K Rowling: Giving a Commencement Address

In her introductory remarks to her Commencement Address at the Harvard Commencement Exercises, novelist J K Rowling spoke of the challenge of preparing her statement:

“The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I’ve experienced at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! 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.”

“Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.”

“You see? If all you remember in years to come is the ‘gay wizard’ joke, I’ve still come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step towards personal improvement.”

The full transcript and the video recording of Rowling’s address entitled ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination’, may be found at this link.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: J K Rowling