Harry Potter Author Gives Harvard Commencement Address

Excerpt: “…the 42-year-old author confessed that ‘I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. ‘Rowling came up with two themes, captured neatly in the title of the address itself: ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination.’ Failure came fast. ‘A mere seven years after my graduation day,’ she said, ‘I had failed on an epic scale.’ Shattered by the end of a brief marriage, jobless, and a single mother, Rowling said she was ‘as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.’ But adversity uncovered personal strengths that immediate success or comfort might never have revealed: her strong will, ‘more discipline than I had suspected,’ she said, and ‘friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.’ Failure also stripped away the inessential, said Rowling, who signed her first (and very modest) book contract in 1996. What was essential had remained. ‘I was set free,’ she said. ‘I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored; and I had an old typewriter and a big idea.’ Rowling finished writing the first Potter book in Edinburgh coffee shops. ‘Rock bottom,’ she said, ‘became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.’

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