Our Potter Potential

The following speech was written by a friend of mine at my high school. He presented this same speech to our class and I felt so moved and motivated by it that I asked him of it would be okay if I posted it for all you guys to enjoy as well. I hope you like it!

Matthew F. Johnson
Original Oratory
Our Potter Potential

​“Dear Mr. Johnson, we are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.” (YESS!) Unfortunately, a letter stating these famous words has not been delivered to me by an owl of any sort. So then why would I and millions of Harry Potter fans desperately hope for that specific piece of parchment to be dropped into our hands? Maybe, we want to join the Wizarding World because, in the Harry Potter books, the exceptionally successful characters were once just average children. Through exhausting effort and self-discovery, these young wizards evolve into the fantastic heroes we admire. They make us hope and crave that we too can become someone extraordinary. In the critically acclaimed book, The Success Principles, author Jack Canfield writes, “The most pervasive myth in the American Culture is that we are entitled to a great life- that somehow, somewhere, someone… is responsible for filling our lives with continual happiness” (3). This generation is not entitled to anything, we must teach ourselves to diligently prepare for all of our aspirations. So together, let’s dash through Platform 9 ¾ and board the Hogwarts Express that will take us to our three main points. First, we will analyze this generation’s entitled mentality. Second, we will decipher the ingredients that create true success. And lastly, through self-improvement, we can finally grab the coveted golden snitch: Our full potential… I really love Harry Potter.

The children born after 1970 have been deemed the “Entitlement Generation.” Jean Twenge, a well-respected psychology professor and the author of Generation Me, conducted a study on this age group, in which she claims, “These young people were raised on a daily regimen of praise and flattery from their baby boomer parents and from teachers who embraced a self-esteem-boosting curriculum.” Over time, the frequent compliments to these children become no longer a kind gesture, but an expectation of greatness. Jean Twenge goes on to explain that, on average, today’s adolescents have no work ethic, are losing their basic communication skills, and are more prone to be crushed by life’s inevitable failures. However we cannot change or erase the faults of an entire generation. We need to recognize that overcoming tragic failures with dedication and perseverance will only make our triumphs that much sweeter.

Professor Snape once grumpily growled, “I don’t expect many of you to appreciate the subtle science and exact art that is potion making.” As with potions, accomplishments do not just appear or happen without preparation. There is a meticulous art and a delicate science behind achievement as well. In this fast-paced and sometimes greedy world, success can be squished into a tiny little bubble of meaning. When an individual is able to spend obscene amounts of money, society usually labels them as “successful”. However, these materialistic aspects are destined to eventually fade. Think of all the groundbreaking visionaries such as Benjamin Franklin, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King Jr. who will forever be immortalized in history for the differences they made in the world. That is the ultimate peak of success, not being rich or famous, but leaving behind a legacy that will never be forgotten. The reason our dream lives seem so elusive is because no one can predict the actual outcomes and we fear any drastic changes. In his article, Unconscious Guilt and the Fear of Success, Dr. Mark Miller explains, “Along with success comes a great deal of pressure– not only to live up to past acomplishments but also to continually surpass them.” However, as intellectuals, we must now comprehend that our personal definition of success should not be defined by other people’s opinions or expectations. True success is something we earn on our own. If this generation rises to its full potential, our constructive contributions to the world will, at last, be noticed.

So, now, let’s win the Quidditch game by catching the golden snitch and by seizing our solutions. The entitlement generation is definitely not perfect, but we’re not disappearing anytime soon. Our society needs to stop criticizing this generation and finally trust them to keep America in capable hands. To move courageously forward, we must embrace the positive aspects of what the entitlement generation has to offer. We young people are not afraid to speak our minds, we are comfortable with the world’s ever-changing technologies and ideologies, but most importantly, we have big ideas. With fortune 500 companies outsourcing their menial labor to foreign nations, The United States needs to remain the powerhouse of innovation. A November 2007 article of the Boston Globe entitled “The New Me Generation” states that, “American laws are very supportive of entrepreneurs… What we need now… are waves of young people who are willing to push their own ideas and who aren’t afraid of failing. Like them or not, these young, brash kids with the grandiose plans are our future.” The solution to this generation’s problems is to learn how to work hard, conquer their insecurities, and mature through self-improvement.

Quote: “It matters not what someone is born… but what they grow to be!” (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, chapter 36, page 708, paragraph 5, line 3) A little more than a year ago, I weighed just under 300 pounds. I kept procrastinating with my fitness, thinking that somehow all the pounds would just fall off one day when I grew up. I felt entitled to a healthy life, like many of us do, without actually putting in the effort. But then, one day, I realized that I was the only person that was going to get my life… literally… in shape. I developed my own fitness routine and when it comes to my diet, I avoid all white grains, packaged foods, and desserts. Every day I choose not to give up because I want to accomplish losing weight… for me. By this point, I have surpassed my goal and lost over 90 pounds! And gained some muscle too. I have never been more proud of something I have worked for and I can not wait to see how much further I can go. Making the decision to completely alter your life for the better is, in itself, a lofty goal. But trust me, make today the moment you decide to reach for the success you deserve.

There is no quote that better proves my plea than one spoken by the author of Harry Potter herself. In her 2008 Harvard University Commencement Address, J.K. Rowling proclaimed, “We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.” So, whether your idea of success is having the perfect career, marrying your one true love, or just happily refraining from screwing it all up, YOU can make that dream a reality. Understand that this generation’s feelings of entitlement, also give us a responsibility and a determination to achieve greatness. Know that working hard and never giving up are the only ways to let your life grow to what you want it to be. Take control of your insecurities and make them your past through self-improvement. And finally, stop thinking that success is some sort of mysterious fairytale that only a rare few are allowed to live- because, your dizziest daydreams could develop into the new, innovative ideas that will change the world. In a way, we all wish for a Hogwarts Acceptance Letter. That easy ticket that will take us on the train ride to the successful, magical lives we’ve always hoped for. But this is not the Wizarding World. In order to achieve our dreams we need to put in all the effort and continuously strive to reach our full potential, or, as I like to call it, our Potter Potential.

Canfield, Jack. The Success Principles. New York City: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005. Book.
Helpern, Jake. “The New Me Generation.” The Boston Globe (2007). article.
Miller, Mark. Shame and Psychotherapy. 3 March 2012. 15 Janary 2013. http://www.columbiapsych.com/miller_fear_success.html
Twenge, Jean M. Generation Me. New York City: Free Press, 2006. Book.


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