My favorite commencement speeches. Part 1: Joanne Rowling


Many American universities have a beautiful tradition of commencement speech being delivered by a notable professional at the graduation ceremony. In my opinion, this tradition makes university a memorable event rather than a boring waiting procedure until you get your diploma and have some food. Commencement speech also turns graduation ceremony into a kind of lesson, the last lesson that you receive at university. Its purpose is to see students off to their life journey and say best wishes for their future life. In this post, I would like to introduce you to two commencement speeches that are worth reading to all young students and future professionals.

The first commencement speech was delivered by Joanne Rowling, a famous British writer, author of famous “Harry Potter” books. I admire Joanne Rowling for her talent to fill her books with a kind spirit which makes them stand out among the best fantastic fiction literary works. I also admire her for her life story: she struggled with poverty and loneliness,  being a single mother with little support. Despite these difficulties, she was able not to lose her belief in good and bad, she was able to dream and she did not let the creative light inside her go out.  So, she is definitely worth listening to 🙂

In her speech before Harvard students in June 2008, Joanne Rowling speaks about two things: why failure can lead to success, and the importance of imagination. She reveals a secret of success: failure gives you a freedom. Rowling describes how failures in her life led her to engage in writing, which she always loved, despite her parents’ wish for her to live an average life and have stable though typical career. She says: “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 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.”

So. Joanne Rowlings Lesson No. 1 is: DON’T BE AFRAID OF FAILURE


Furthermore, Rowling describes how her work at Amnesty International influenced her life views: she met many people who suffered from humiliation and torture because of their political views. But along with this, she met thousands of people who expressed their goodwill to help other peple: ” 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.”



Finally, Rowling speaks about the importance of imagination: it can help us understand feelings of other people, and refusing to notice sufferings of others leads to “mental agoraphobia”. Her Lesson No. 3 is: IMAGINATION IS IMPORTANT


I am grateful to Joan Rowling for this speech, because these are really great words of wisdom.


1. JK Rowling, June 2008,

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