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Analysis of J.K. Rowling's Harvard Commencement Speech

             Thousands of people, old and young, graduates and non-graduates, came to watch the famous author of the Harry Potter book series, J.K. Rowling, come forth and present herself to many young Harvard University graduates, in June of 2008. She was to give an important commencement speech that would use three key elements in order to persuade the Harvard students, who sat before her, to take on her advice on the "benefits of failure" and the "importance of imagination" (Rowling). Although she seemed nervous, J.K. Rowling gave a powerful speech. She executed some rhetorical aspects such as purpose, voice, and ethos.
             Rather than wasting their time by giving a monotone, boring speech she talks about her own life experience of how she was the biggest failure she knew and how she was living poverty. This shocked some listeners, as she is one of the wealthiest people living today. She talks about how failure was something that she had feared but had to accept while being in college and that the students sitting in front of her would have to accept it at one point in their lives as well. She then began to talk about how imagination is something that separates us as human beings. Even if we have not experienced things that others had experience, we can imagine it in our minds; the emotions one is going through, and put ourselves into their shoes.
             Purpose is a crucial tool because it keeps one organized and focused on why they are saying what they are saying, without going off topic and losing the audience. The purpose is also to tell a story or convey insight and explain what has happened in her life, which is exactly what J.K. Rowling does. Rowling organizes her speech into four parts: introduction, failure, imagination, and her conclusion. She does not go off topic, but instead sticks to the order of these four topics so that her audience can follow along. As she goes farther into her speech she then goes into more detail by telling her own story, "Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me" (Rowling).

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