I knew there should be a way to tie the last post into books and here it is: J.K. Rowling. The author of the Harry Potter series was the most recent speaker at Harvard graduation and I was sent a copy of her speech (best parts below).
Personally I don’t care much for her writing but I do love those type of books (I can’t imagine how many times I’ve read Lord of the Rings and I read literally just about every piece of literature related to Star Wars in my youth). It’s just her unimaginative prose that leaves me cold. Her deft story crafting is undeniable and I won’t say I haven’t seen the movies (and read the first two books when I was baby-sitting) but I can’t embrace the books (don’t throw anything at me, please, Harry Potter lovers).
In any event, in the face of her success, she was invited to give this address and managed to be fairly average for the most part but at least saw through through the (literal) pomp and circumstance to what was important:
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 rest of it dodders along through thoughts on “failure” and “success” and is interesting to read, check out the full text here. I recall Bob Wright, CEO of NBC and a Holy Cross grad, talking at my graduation and honestly I can’t remember a single word he said (no offense Bob, I just wasn’t there for you) but Rowling’s effort isn’t too bad… maybe I would’ve listened harder in light of mere bemusement about the true nature of “success” that she was the speaker at Harvard’s graduation.