We Do Not Need Magic

I’ve just finished watching JK Rowling’s address to this year’s graduates from Harvard, and I strongly recommend that you watch it too. It was funny, powerful, moving and inspirational – everything you could want and more from a commencement address.

One of the key phrases for me was

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

Isn’t that just incredibly empowering? The woman who, for the last decade, has brought the wonder of magic to the lives of children and adults alike, strips away the fiction to reveal that we all hold the potential to make a difference to both our own lives and to the lives of others.

Whether you are graduating this month, whether you graduated years ago, whether you intend to graduate in years hence, or whether you chose a different route entirely from that of academia, watch this (20min) clip and take her advice to heart. The key themes are of failure and imagination, and your life may well be richer for having taken the time to listen to what she has to say about both.


Vodpod videos no longer available.

If you had been in JK’s shoes, what would your message have been? What advice would you like to give to those just starting out? What advice was given to you that you’ve since found valuable?


June 9, 2008. Inspiration.


  1. Alina Popescu replied:

    I believe that’s the greatest piece of advice someone can start out with. It’s important for everyone of us to know we are powerful enough to change the world a little, even if it’s actually a small portion of the world.

    The best advice I ever got, in different forms and from different people, was to stay true to myself and what I believe in. It’s a really rewarding strategy.

  2. Nick Cernis replied:

    Fantastic speech — it moves through a whole range of emotions in a very short time and ends with a wonderful message. That long shot about 8-9 minutes in really does look like something straight out of Hogwarts, though!

    If I had to give that speech, I’d have told them all to do what they love. So many of life’s stresses and strains are solved by finding work you love and complimenting them with hobbies that keep you smiling. I think that’s especially relevant to an audience of Harvard graduates, too…

  3. 2bestrong replied:

    A great speech and a good post. I would suggest to live with passion. Passion at work and passion at play.
    To be passionate about you and about what you do can lift your spirits and energize your efforts.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Joanna Young replied:

    Amy, I don’t think my attention span will take me through 20 minutes so thank you for summarising the message! It’s a very powerful one.

    We don’t need ‘magic’ to make a difference, to be heroic… we just need to recognize and realise (=make real) the powers we already have.


  5. Karen Swim replied:

    Amy, thank you so much for finding and sharing. I will watch the video when my brain is not so muddled but I love what you summarised so far. We don’t need magic – very powerful message! Just what I needed to hear today. Thank you Amy!


  6. David replied:

    I disagree slightly. I would say that if we use the power inside ourselves, we find out magic exists.

    And sometimes it takes a magic moment to realise that we have that power.

  7. Lune replied:

    Wow, it must have been amazing to be there.

    I certainly believe in a ‘magic moment’ too, David – I try to notice as many magic moments as possible during my day – Eckhart Tolle and Jill Bolte Taylor have helped me so much in this respect and it is all about the little things, nothing huge. Things that you observe and record here, Amy.

    I have read your blog for a while now and love it……so here is my first comment to you! I also wanted to let you know that I have tagged you to write about ‘Places I have called home’ for my meme on NaBloPoMo this month. Here are the ‘instructions’ on my blog:
    hope you enjoy delving into some memories,
    look forward to reading the results,
    Lune x

  8. Jacqui Lofthouse replied:

    Thank you so much for sharing that Amy. It is an extremely powerful speech that will remain with me. It achieves what any great speech must in that it causes one to stop and reflect and potentially change.

  9. Karen Wallace replied:

    Hello Amy,
    It’s been a while since I caught up on what’s happening in your world, so I was delighted to have time this evening to drop on by… and even more delighted to find you referring to JK Rowling’s commencement address – that I had just written about!

    I haven’t watched the clip, but I did read the transcript and was very moved. I was hit initially by her talk of failure, and how that enabled her to do what she was meant to do (write).

    But I see that your impression, the power to imagine better, is equally powerful and life-changing. What a speech!

    Karen x

  10. Bo replied:

    Rowling’s speech to Harvard was perfect. I love that she talked about failure to these high achievers.

    But as far as failure goes, I truly believe if you do your best you cannot fail, because your best is always good enough. It may not be someone else’s measure of best, but that isn’t ever your problem.

    Trying to always be THE best – that’s a real set-up for frustration. What a person sees as failure is often a step on the path to success.

  11. Susan Helene Gottfried replied:

    Yep, I totally love that quote, all right. As a writer, it’s something I, too, live by. If we imagine it, we can achieve it. Or we can do our best to try to achieve it, anyway.

  12. shellim2008 replied:

    I loved the overall theme that her speech covered of failure…it was perfect especially coming after all of the hoytie toytie speeches of the other Harvard-ites about success and doing well, and success etc. JK was perfect.

  13. Nadine T. replied:

    I love that speech, and I’m discovering some facets of JK that I didn’t suspect. Great woman. Thank you Amy for spotting it.

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