Very Good Lives
Very Good Lives is the commencement speech given by J.K. Rowling— renowned author of the Harry Potter series—to Harvard University’s graduating class of 2008. Rowling decides to focus on two key points during the speech: the benefits of failure and the power of imagination.
Rowling explains that realizing our biggest fears is the best way to enable ourselves to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Some failure in life is inevitable, she says, and it gives us an inner security that cannot be gained in any other way. Failure allows us to grow and get to know ourselves and the strength of our relationships better. She notes that without failure in her marriage and finances, she would not have had the courage to spend time writing the first Harry Potter book.
Imagination, on the other hand, is one of the most powerful tools a person has according to Rowling. She says that this isn’t because it allows us to envision that which is not, but because it allows us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have not shared. Much like a failure, she believes imagination is an important tool that allows us to grow as people. Rowling emphasizes that unlike any other creature in the world, humans have been blessed with this power to learn and understand without having experienced and they should utilize it to its fullest extent.
Rowling shares personal examples throughout the speech of how she embraced failure and used her imagination to learn from the hardships of others during the most difficult times of her own life. She dares the graduating class to do the same in their quest to live a “good life”.