Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling gave the commencement speech at Harvard this year. Harvard Magazine lists the full text of the speech as well as a Quicktime video. Rowling focuses on two themes – failure and imagination. On failure,
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.
There is too much to say, and not the words to express, when the one who has loved you without restraint since before you were born finally passes. Nana I thank you for the years of love that was sometimes more than I could accept, for your prayers when I was sick and disheartened, for your unwavering faith in me and in all of your grandchildren. For the tennis lessons, the checks that helped out every Christmas, and for your brilliant example of hospitality, grace and dignity.
I just called your home and had a long talk with Bob who told me that you passed away on Thursday. My dear radiant Steve, I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet that I won’t be hearing your bubbling voice or seeing your laughing eyes as you impart your words of playful wisdom. What serendipity it was to meet you so many years ago at one of Elisabeth’s parties – you all dressed in white like a happy little guru – Baba Ganesh. Our sitting in ET’s room and your teaching me a meditation to transform the anger I had over some guy. Do you remember?