Rhetorical Analysis Of J. K. Rowling's Speech

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Author of the Harry Potter series and philanthropist, J.K. Rowling, delivered a commencement address to the Harvard graduates of 2008 to elaborate on the “fringe benefits of failure and the importance of imagination” (Rowling). In her speech, Rowling aims to convince her audience how beneficial failure is in the long run as well as how advantageous it is to have an imagination, “The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive…Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned” (Rowling). With the intent to persuade her audience to let go of that fear of failing Rowling states,…show more content…
As Rowling thanks Harvard for the opportunity and executes a gay wizard joke to display her lightheartedness, she leads us in with the importance of formalities. The tone shifts to a more serious one when she says, “looking back to the 21-year-old I was at graduation is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year old that she has become” (Rowling). In saying that, Rowling reassures graduates that the discomfort and fears that they may be feeling and having at the moment will progressively be overridden by the credentials they have earned from such a prestigious school and other things they are bound to accomplish down the road. Rowling accentuates this by sharing her expectations versus the roadblock in her way, “I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that would never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension, I know the irony strikes with the force of a cartoon anvil, now” (Rowling). Through her reassurance, Rowling’s authenticity is displayed as she stresses that a person’s past or struggles should not dictate their destiny. Moreover, Rowling exposes her vulnerability to her audience and gives them a chance to see that the benefits of…show more content…
To assemble her philosophy Rowling mentions, “Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone” (Rowling). If that is not enough to convince people to voice their opinions, what will? Last but not least, Rowling’s call to action, “The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden” (Rowling). In this light, Rowling takes the expands on the idea that the future is in your hands to develop an empowering message. Rowling could have just said that it is up to the scholars to make a difference, but analogies are more effective and meaningful in this

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