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So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.
Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Actually, I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today.
The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to think independently of their government.
What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure. Even your nationality sets you apart. Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity.
And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and fool myself into believing I am at the world's best-educated Harry Potter convention.
Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation.
In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, christian dating lawton oklahoma it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.
They can think themselves into other people's minds, imagine themselves into other people's places. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet.
They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. Visitors to our office included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind.
That is your privilege, and your burden. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy. Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential.
Looking back at the year-old that I was at graduation, is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the year-old that she has become. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success.
The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale.
Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. 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. Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. So today, I can wish you nothing better than similar friendships.
Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure.
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Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone's total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes. 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.
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