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j. k. rowling

mailimi karıştırırken 2008'de harvard'daki mezuniyet töreni konuşmasını bulduğum yazar.
o zaman pek sevgili pnut göndermiş. secimler, olasiliklar, istekler/ ne istedigini bilememeler, ya yanlis yaparsam korkulari.., demiş. aradan 5 sene geçmiş olmasına mı hala aynı kararsızlık durumunda olmama mı daha çok üzülsem bilemedim ama hepsini okumaya üşenenler için aşağıdaki kısmı ayırdım;
yaşam koçunuz bloodyearth'ten bugünlük bu kadar, esen kalın..

given a time machine or a time turner, ı would tell my 21-year-old self that
personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of
acquisition or achievement. your qualifications, your cv, are not your life,
though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two.
life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone's total control, and
the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.


konuşmanın tamamı aşağıdaki şekilde;

the fringe benefits of failure, and the ımportance of ımagination

harvard university commencement address

j.k. rowling
copyright june 2008

as prepared for delivery

president faust, members of the harvard corporation and the board of
overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates,

the first thing ı would like to say is 'thank you.' not only has harvard
given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea ı've
experienced at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me
lose weight. a win-win situation! now all ı have to do is take deep breaths,
squint at the red banners and fool myself into believing ı am at the world's
best-educated harry potter convention.

delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so ı thought
until ı 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 ı can't remember a single word she said. this
liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that ı might
inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, law or
politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.

you see? ıf all you remember in years to come is the 'gay wizard' joke, ı've
still come out ahead of baroness mary warnock. achievable goals: the first
step towards personal improvement.

actually, ı have wracked my mind and heart for what ı ought to say to you
today. ı have asked myself what ı wish ı had known at my own graduation, and
what important lessons ı have learned in the 21 years that has expired
between that day and this.

ı have come up with two answers. on this wonderful day when we are gathered
together to celebrate your academic success, ı 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', ı want to extol the crucial importance of

these might seem quixotic or paradoxical choices, but please bear with me.

looking back at the 21-year-old that ı was at graduation, is a slightly
uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. half my
lifetime ago, ı was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition ı had
for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me.

ı was convinced that the only thing ı wanted to do, ever, was to write
novels. however, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds
and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive
imagination was an amusing personal quirk that could never pay a mortgage,
or secure a pension.

they had hoped that ı would take a vocational degree; ı wanted to study
english literature. a compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied
nobody, and ı went up to study modern languages. hardly had my parents' car
rounded the corner at the end of the road than ı ditched german and scuttled
off down the classics corridor.

ı cannot remember telling my parents that ı was studying classics; they
might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. of all
subjects on this planet, ı think they would have been hard put to name one
less useful than greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an
executive bathroom.

ı would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that ı do not blame my
parents for their point of view. there is an expiry date on blaming your
parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old
enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. what is more, ı
cannot criticise my parents for hoping that ı would never experience
poverty. they had been poor themselves, and ı have since been poor, and ı
quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. poverty
entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand
petty humiliations and hardships. climbing out of poverty by your own
efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty
itself is romanticised only by fools.

what ı feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.

at your age, in spite of a distinct lack of motivation at university, where
ı had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and far too
little time at lectures, ı had a knack for passing examinations, and that,
for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers.

ı am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and
well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. talent and
intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the fates,
and ı do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an
existence of unruffled privilege and contentment.

however, the fact that you are graduating from harvard suggests that you are
not very well-acquainted with failure. you might be driven by a fear of
failure quite as much as a desire for success. ındeed, your conception of
failure might not be too far from the average person's idea of success, so
high have you already flown academically.

ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure,
but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. so
ı think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years
after my graduation day, ı had failed on an epic scale. an exceptionally
short-lived marriage had imploded, and ı was jobless, a lone parent, and as
poor as it is possible to be in modern britain, without being homeless. the
fears my parents had had for me, and that ı had had for myself, had both
come to pass, and by every usual standard, ı was the biggest failure ı knew.

now, ı am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. that
period of my life was a dark one, and ı had no idea that there was going to
be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution.
ı had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at
the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

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

you might never fail on the scale ı did, but some failure in life is
inevitable. ıt is impossible to live without failing at something, unless
you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all ­ in
which case, you fail by default.

failure gave me an inner security that ı had never attained by passing
examinations. failure taught me things about myself that ı could have
learned no other way. ı discovered that ı had a strong will, and more
discipline than ı had suspected; ı also found out that ı had friends whose
value was truly above rubies.

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 ı
ever earned.

given a time machine or a time turner, ı would tell my 21-year-old self that
personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of
acquisition or achievement. your qualifications, your cv, are not your life,
though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two.
life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone's total control, and
the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

you might think that ı chose my second theme, the importance of imagination,
because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly
so. though ı will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, ı
have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. ımagination is
not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and
therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. ın its arguably most
transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to
empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

one of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded harry potter,
though it informed much of what ı subsequently wrote in those books. this
revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. though ı was
sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, ı paid the rent in my
early 20s by working in the research department at amnesty ınternational's
headquarters in london.

there in my little office ı read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of
totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to
inform the outside world of what was happening to them. ı saw photographs of
those who had disappeared without trace, sent to amnesty by their desperate
families and friends. ı read the testimony of torture victims and saw
pictures of their injuries. ı opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of
summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been
displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the
temerity to think independently of their government. visitors to our office
included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what
had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind.

ı shall never forget the african torture victim, a young man no older than ı
was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his
homeland. he trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about
the brutality inflicted upon him. he was a foot taller than ı was, and
seemed as fragile as a child. ı was given the job of escorting him to the
underground station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered
by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future

and as long as ı live ı shall remember walking along an empty corridor and
suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror
such as ı have never heard since. the door opened, and the researcher poked
out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man
sitting with her. she had just given him the news that in retaliation for
his own outspokenness against his country's regime, his mother had been
seized and executed.

every day of my working week in my early 20s ı was reminded how incredibly
fortunate ı was, to live in a country with a democratically elected
government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of

every day, ı saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on
their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. ı began to have nightmares,
literal nightmares, about some of the things ı saw, heard and read.

and yet ı also learned more about human goodness at amnesty ınternational
than ı had ever known before.

amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or
imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. the power
of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees
prisoners. ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are
assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and
will never meet. my small participation in that process was one of the most
humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand,
without having experienced. they can think themselves into other people's
minds, imagine themselves into other people's places.

of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is
morally neutral. one might use such an ability to manipulate, or control,
just as much as to understand or sympathise.

and many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. they choose to
remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never
troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are.
they can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close
their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally;
they can refuse to know.

ı might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that ı do
not think they have any fewer nightmares than ı do. choosing to live in
narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its
own terrors. ı think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. they are
often more afraid.

what is more, those who choose not to empathise may enable real monsters.
for without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude
with it, through our own apathy.

one of the many things ı learned at the end of that classics corridor down
which ı ventured at the age of 18, in search of something ı 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. ıt expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the
outside world, the fact that we touch other people's lives simply by

but how much more are you, harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other
people's lives? your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the
education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique
responsibilities. even your nationality sets you apart. 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.

ıf 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.

ı am nearly finished. ı have one last hope for you, which is something that
ı already had at 21. the friends with whom ı sat on graduation day have been
my friends for life. they are my children's godparents, the people to whom
ı've been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind
enough not to sue me when ı've used their names for death eaters. at our
graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of
a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we
held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if
any of us ran for prime minister.

so today, ı can wish you nothing better than similar friendships. and
tomorrow, ı hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you
remember those of seneca, another of those old romans ı met when ı fled down
the classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient

as is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what

ı wish you all very good lives.

thank you very much.

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