哈利波特》作者在哈佛大學畢業典禮上的演講

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摘要

福斯特主席,哈佛公司和監察委員會的各位員工,各位老師,家長、同學們:

首先請允許我說一聲謝謝,哈佛給予我的不僅僅是無上的榮譽,還有連日來因為一想到這個演講,帶來的恐懼和恐懼導致的的陣陣噁心讓我減肥成功。這真是一個雙贏的局面。現在我不得不深呼吸,眯著眼睛看著眼前的大紅橫幅、安慰自己只是在世界上最大的矮人的大會上。

發表畢業演說是一個巨大的責任,我的思緒一下子回到自己的畢業典禮上,那天做報告的是英國著名的哲學家Baroness Mary Warnock。通過對她的演講的回憶,對我寫今天的演講稿,給予了極大地幫助,因為我不記得她說過的任何一句話了。這個發現讓我釋然,讓我不再有任何恐懼:我可能會無意中影響你放棄在商業,法律或政治有前途的職業,而為眩暈的愉悅成為一個『gay精靈』天真(有疑問)。

如果在今後幾年您還記得是’gay精靈’的笑話,說明我已經超出了Baroness Mary Warnock。可實現的目標:個人提高的第一步。

哈利波特》作者在哈佛大學畢業典禮上的演講

今年6月5日是哈佛大學畢業典禮,請來的演講嘉賓是《哈利波特》的作者J.K.羅琳女士。

她的演講題目是《失敗的好處和想像的重要性》(The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination)。我讀了一遍講稿,覺得很好,很感染人。

她幾乎沒有談到哈里波特,而是說了年輕時的一些經歷。雖然J·K·羅琳現在很有錢,是英國僅次於女皇的最富有的女人,但是她曾經有一段非常艱辛的日子,30歲了,還差點流落街頭。她主要談的是,自己從這段經歷中學到的東西。

二、

失敗的收益和想像力的重要性
暢銷書哈利波特的作者在哈佛畢業典禮上的演講

全文如下:

福斯特主席,哈佛公司和監察委員會的各位員工,各位老師,家長、同學們:

首先請允許我說一聲謝謝,哈佛給予我的不僅僅是無上的榮譽,還有連日來因為一想到這個演講,帶來的恐懼和恐懼導致的的陣陣噁心讓我減肥成功。這真是一個雙贏的局面。現在我不得不深呼吸,眯著眼睛看著眼前的大紅橫幅、安慰自己只是在世界上最大的矮人的大會上。

發表畢業演說是一個巨大的責任,我的思緒一下子回到自己的畢業典禮上,那天做報告的是英國著名的哲學家Baroness Mary Warnock。通過對她的演講的回憶,對我寫今天的演講稿,給予了極大地幫助,因為我不記得她說過的任何一句話了。這個發現讓我釋然,讓我不再有任何恐懼:我可能會無意中影響你放棄在商業,法律或政治有前途的職業,而為眩暈的愉悅成為一個『gay精靈』天真(有疑問)。

如果在今後幾年您還記得是'gay精靈'的笑話,說明我已經超出了Baroness Mary Warnock。可實現的目標:個人提高的第一步。

其實,我為今天應該告訴你們什麼,已經殫精竭慮。我曾問自己,我想在從畢業到現在的21年,我學到和了解到什麼重要的教訓。我已想出了兩個答案。在這個美好的一天,當我們正聚集在一起,慶祝您取得的畢業的時刻,我已決定與你們談談失敗的好處;另一方面你們站在'現實生活中'門檻上,我要歌頌至關重要的想像力。

這些似乎是不切實際或似是而非的選擇,但請原諒我。

讓一個已經42歲的人回顧在她畢業時的21歲,是一個稍微不舒服的經歷。可以說,我人生的前一部分,我一直掙扎在我自己的雄心和身邊的人對我的期望兩者之間取得平衡。我一直深信,我唯一想做的事,是寫小說。不過,我的父母,兩人都來自貧窮的背景和沒有任何一人上過大學,堅持認為,我過度的想像力是一個令人驚訝的個人怪癖,絕不可支付按揭,或安全的退休金。

他們希望我拿到一個職業學位;我想學習英語文學。最終,我去學習現代語言。事後看來,這是一個沒有人感到滿意的妥協。我放棄了德語和逃到古典文學的殿堂。

我不記得是否告訴我的父母,我是學習古典文學,也許他們很可能在我畢業那天第一次發現。在這個星球上的所有科目,我認為他們認為在沒有比希臘神話學更糟糕的了。

我想澄清一下:我不會因為他們的觀點,而責怪我的父母。埋怨父母、怨天尤人是有一個年齡界限的。你的父母為驅使你走向錯誤的方向;但是當你自己可以控制方向的時候,責任在於你。另外,我不會批評我的父母希望我絕不要經歷貧窮。他們是貧窮的,我也一直很貧窮,我非常同意他們:貧窮絕不是一個崇高的生活經驗。貧困帶來的恐懼,壓力,有時是絕望;這意味著屈辱和苦難。用您自己的努力擺脫貧困,這確實是一件對自己而言驕傲的事情,但貧窮本身只有對傻瓜而言才是浪漫的。

我自己在你們的年齡,最害怕的不是窮,而是失敗。

我在您們的年齡,明顯缺乏在大學學習的動力,我花了太久在咖啡吧寫故事的時間,而在課堂的時間很少。我有一個通過考試的訣竅,並且數年間一直認為我的生活在我的同齡人中是成功的。

現在,我不愚蠢假設,因為你們的年輕,天才和受過良好教育的,就從來沒有困難或心碎的時刻。才華和智商,從來沒有讓人對命運的反覆無常有所準備;我也不會假設大家這裡都享受沉著和滿足。

但事實上,你是從哈佛大學畢業,您不是很熟悉失敗。您害怕失敗與渴望成功。事實上,您構想的失敗可能和一般人的對成功的看法不會太遠,你們已經站在一個如此高的地方。

最終,我們所有人都必須自己決定什麼構成失敗,但如果你讓,世界是相當渴望給你一套準則。因此,我認為公平地說,從任何傳統的標準看,在我畢業僅僅七年後的日子,我的失敗達到了史詩的規模。一個非常短命的破裂的婚姻,失業,一個單親家長,像在現代英國的窮人一樣,只是還沒有無家可歸。我的父母對我的擔心和我對自己的擔心,都在眼前。按照慣常的標準,我是我知道的最大的失敗者。

現在,我不打算站在這裡告訴你,失敗是好玩的。這期間我的生活是完全黑暗的隧道中,更不知道代表作為一種童話故事的革命,來面對如此多的新聞媒體。我都不知道有隧道有多遠,並在相當長的時間,任何盡頭的光明都只是一個希望而不是現實。

所以為什麼我要談的好處失敗嗎?只是因為失敗意味著剝離你不必需的東西。我不在偽裝自己,我就是我,並直接把我的所有精力放在對我而言唯一重要的工作上。如果不是我沒有在其他領域成功過,我可能就不會發現,在一個我相信我真正屬於舞台上取得成功的決心。我獲得了自由,因為我最害怕的已經發生了,但是我還活著,我還有一個我深愛著的女兒,我有一個舊打字機和一個大的想法。所以谷底,成為我的生活重建的堅實的基礎。

你可能永遠有像我經歷的那種失敗的程度,但有些失敗,在生活中是不可避免的。生活不可能沒有一點失敗,除非你這麼謹慎,您可能過著一點也沒有失敗的生活-在這種情況下,預設你是失敗的。

失敗給了我內心的安全,是我從通過考試中沒有得到過的。失敗能教我的關於自己的東西,舍此別無他途。我發現我有一個堅強的意志,比我曾經懷疑的更多的原則,我也發現我的朋友,其價值是遠在紅寶石之上。
從挫折中得到知識,會使你明智和更堅強的。也就是說,您比以往任何時候有能力生存。你從來沒有真正認識自己,或通過逆境的檢驗認識到您的朋友的力量。對所有人而言,這種認知是一個真正的禮物,這是痛苦的勝利,比我取得的任何資格有著更高的價值。

給我是一部時間機器,我會告訴21歲的自己,個人的幸福在於知道生命是不是一個獲得或取得的核對清單。你的資歷,你的簡歷,都不是你的生活,雖然你會遇到很多人和我同齡或者更老一點的人依然混淆兩者。生活是困難的,複雜的,超出任何人的控制,謙恭地知道這一點,將使你歷經滄桑後能夠更好的生存。

你可能會認為我選擇了我的第二個主題,想像力的重要性,因為這是重建我生活的一部分,但事實並非完全如此。雖然我永遠捍衛睡前的故事的價值,我已經學會的價值想像在更廣泛的意義。想像力不僅是獨特的人類能力:設想還不存在的事物,是所有發明和創新的源泉。這是改造和揭露的能力,使我們能夠對從來都沒有分享到的人類的經驗共鳴。

其中一個影響最大的經歷,在我寫哈利波特的生活之前,但大部分是在我隨後寫在那些書籍里。這些新發現為了付房租,我20多歲的主要工作是在大赦國際的倫敦總部的研究部門。雖然我在午餐時間是悄悄寫故事。

在我的小辦公室,我看了人們匆匆寫的從極權主義政權偷運出來的信,冒著被監禁的危險,告知外面的世界他們那裡正在發生的事情。我看到他們的照片,這些已經消失無跡的人,由他們絕望的家人和朋友發送到大赦國際的。我看過的證詞,酷刑受害者的照片,看到他們受傷。我打開筆跡、目擊證人的供詞、即決審判和處決,綁架和強姦犯的檔案。

我有很多的合作者是被前政治犯,他們已離開家園流離失所,或逃往流放,因為他們大膽的獨立思考。來我們的辦公室的訪客,包括那些來提供資料,或以設法找出那些被迫留下的同志發生了什麼事的人。

我將永遠不會忘記一個非洲酷刑的受害者,一名當時還沒有比我年紀大年輕男子,因為他在故鄉的經歷已成為精神病患者。當他在攝像機前講述被殘暴的摧殘的時候,顫抖失控。他是一個高我一英尺的男人,卻好像作為一個脆弱的兒童。我的工作,是護送他到地鐵站,這名生活已被殘酷地打亂的男子,小心翼翼的握著我的手,祝福我未來的幸福。

而且只要我還活著,我會記得,走一個空蕩蕩的的走廊,突然到,從背後的門裡,傳來我從未聽過的尖叫的痛苦和恐懼。門打開,研究員探出她的頭告訴我,為坐在她旁邊的青年男子,調一杯熱飲料。她剛剛給他的消息:為了是在報復他自己對他的國家的政權的批評,他的母親已被捕及執行槍決。

在我20多歲的時候,我工作的每一天,都在提醒我是令人難以置信的幸運。生活在一個民選政府的國家,律師和公開審理,是所有人的基本人權。

每一天,我看到更多的有關的惡人的證據,為了獲得或維持權力,對自己的同胞犯下的暴行。我開始做噩夢,那些我看到,聽到和讀到的事情。
在國際特赦組織,我也了解到更多關於人類的善良,在比我以前想像的要多。

大赦動員成千上萬的人,他們並沒有因為他們的信仰而受到折磨或監禁,而為那些遭受這種不幸的人奔走。人類同理心的力量,引發的集體行動,拯救生命,並釋放囚犯。個人的福祉和安全有保證的普通百姓,攜手合作,大量挽救那些他們不認識,也永遠不會見面的人。在這一過程中我微薄的參與,是我富啟發性的生活經歷。

不同於在這個星球上任何其他的動物,人類可以學習和理解沒有經歷過的東西。他們可以設身處地思考。

當然,這是一種能力,就像我的虛構的魔法世界,這是道德上中立的。一個人可能會利用這種能力去操縱,或控制,也有很多人選擇去了解或同情。

很多人一點也不喜歡行使他們的想像力。他們選擇留在他們自己的舒適的範圍內,從來沒有麻煩的去想想如果自己出生在別處。他們拒絕聽到尖叫聲,或籠子里的偷窺;他們可以封閉他們內心,只要痛苦不觸及他們的個人,他們可以拒絕去了解。

我可能會受到誘惑,去嫉妒那樣生活的人,除了我不認為他們會比我做更少的噩夢。選擇住在狹窄的空間,可導致某種形式的精神廣場恐懼症,並給自己帶來恐怖。我認為不願想像看到更多的怪物,是可怕的。

更甚的是,那些選擇不同情的,可能激活真正的怪獸。通過我們自己的冷漠和它勾結,犯下徹底的罪惡。

我18歲的時候,在古典文學中的學到的很多事情,得到的那些我不能界定的東西,如希臘作家普魯塔克所說:我們內心的實現將改變外在現實。

這是一個驚人的聲明,但在我們生活的每一天無數次被證實。我們與外部世界的有不可推卸的關聯,事實上,我們以我們的存在接觸的其他人的生命。

但哈佛大學的2008級的畢業生們,多少人可能去觸及其他人的生命?你的智力,您的辛勤工作能力,你已經獲得了和受到的教育,給你獨特的地位,和獨特的責任。即使您的國籍把你與別人分開了,你們絕大部份屬於世界上僅存的超級大國。你們表決的方式,你們生活的方式,你們抗議的方式,你們給你們的政府帶來的壓力,具有的影響超出了您們的國界。這是你們的特權,和你的負擔。

如果您選擇使用您的地位和影響力,去代表那些沒有發言權的人,發出聲音;

如果您不僅選擇權力去證明自己,也去幫助那些沒有權力的人;

如果你有不如你的生活設身處地的想一想,那麼,您的存在,不僅成為你家庭驕傲,而是無數因為你的幫助他們的日常生活發生好的改變的人的驕傲。我們不需要魔法來改變這個世界,我們已經擁有了所需要的所有的力量,我們有能力想像會更好。

我的演講也接近尾聲了。對你們,我有最後一個希望,也是我21歲就要一直在思考的。畢業那天的坐在我身邊的朋友將是我終身的朋友。他們是我的孩子的教父母,是我在遇到麻煩是可以求助的人,是當我使用過他們的姓名作為食死徒的名字而不會起訴我的朋友。在我們的畢業的時候,我們因為無邊的愛聯繫在一起,我們有共同的永遠無法再來的經歷,當然,如果我們中的任何人競選首相,那些今天的照片那將是極為寶貴的。

所以,今天我可以給你們的,沒有比同伴的友誼更好的祝福了。明天,我希望即使你還記得不只是名字,你還記得那些塞內加(盧西烏斯•安奈烏斯,羅馬斯多葛派哲學家),我在退出職業生涯後,另一在舊羅馬 的古典文學中搜索的古老智慧:
生活就像是故事一樣:不在乎長度,而在於質量,這才是最問題的關鍵。

祝福大家生活愉快。

非常感謝大家。

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination

J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling Harry Potter book series, delivers her Commencement Address, 「The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination,」 at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.

Text as prepared follows.
Copyright of JK Rowling, June 2008

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 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.

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

I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I 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』, I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.

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

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

I was convinced that the only thing I 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 I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages. Hardly had my parents』 car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor.

I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all subjects on this planet, I 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.

I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I 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, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I 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 I 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 I had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and far too little time at lectures, I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers.

I 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 I 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. Indeed, 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 I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I 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 I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I 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 I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It 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 I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I 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 I ever earned.

Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I 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 I 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 I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In 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 I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International』s headquarters in London.

There in my little office I 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. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I 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.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I 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 I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I 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 happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I 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 I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

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

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I 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.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I 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 I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I 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. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people』s lives simply by existing.

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.

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, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

I am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children』s godparents, the people to whom I』ve been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when I』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, I can wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:
As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
I wish you all very good lives.
Thank you very much.

Original article and the video:

https://harvardmagazine.com/go/jkrowling.html