You may know already that J.K. Rowling spoke at Harvard's commencement last week. What I somehow did not expect was that some Harvard graduates did not think she was of high enough caliber to speak at their commencement.
Harvard's previous commencement speakers have consisted of Nobel prize winners, political leaders, and business powerhouses. It's safe to say that Rowling will probably never earn a Nobel for her work, but does that actually devalue it?
I would expect deeper thinking from a Harvard graduate. It's absurdly short-sighted to write off her work as meaningless because it's children's literature or fantastical fiction. Even Harvard's president stated that "No one in our time has done more to inspire young people to … read." Really, is there anything more powerful than the reading we do as children? I wonder if anything those graduates read during their college experience effected them as much as the first time they encountered Where the Red Fern Grows or Anne of Green Gables.
Harry Potter roped in people of all generations, but especially captured the imaginations of children. In thinking about the structure of the Harry Potter books, what is most amazing is the complexity of the culture that Rowling created. She delves into politics, discrimination, and freedom of speech. That world is just as real as ours.
Better yet, and somehow denied by the graduates who couldn't appreciate their fortune in seeing Rowling speak, is that by allowing children to be part of such a complex world, she is pushing her readers to be the future Nobel prize winners, political leaders, and business powerhouses. Or, if they're lucky, the next J.K. Rowling.
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Watch or read J.K. Rowling's speech