As the world goes to see the final installment in the Harry Potter film series, let us celebrate the wonderful woman who brought us so much joy. This week’s hero is J.K. Rowling.
Rowling is appropriate for celebration on TSM for many reasons. Besides crafting a wonderful series of books that encouraged a generation to read (despite being challenged in libraries across the United States), she used those books to encourage people to be honest, fair, and and true to themselves. Using her magical world, Rowling addressed poverty, oppression, politics (compare the Ministry of Magic to the Bush administration), slavery, and racism. By showing the noble side of a nerd like Longbottom or the true friendship of an outcast like Luna, she encourages her readers to take a look at their preconceptions and judge people by the depth of their character. In the character of Professor Albus Dumbledore, Rowling also created a wise, compassionate gay role model for LGBTQ youth and their straight peers. Not insignificantly, her work has also inspired those who have voiced her characters to do good works themselves, as characterized by the charitable work of Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter of the screen.
The wonderful Ms. Rowling has not stopped with her books. As a woman who wrote her first book as a single mother living in poverty, she understands the power of the money she now has and is committted to using it for good. In 2000, Rowling established the Volant Charitable Trust, which uses its annual budget of £5.1 million to combat poverty and social inequality. The fund also gives to organisations that aid children, one parent families, and multiple sclerosis research. Rowling said, “I think you have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.” She engages in substantial other philanthropic work.
Rowling has also contributed heavily to the British Labour Party, recognizing the dangers of a Tory government. Responding to Prime Minister Cameron’s patronizing plan to give couples that do not divorce a £150 tax credit, she said:
Nobody who has ever experienced the reality of poverty could say “it’s not the money, it’s the message”. When your flat has been broken into, and you cannot afford a locksmith, it is the money. When you are two pence short of a tin of baked beans, and your child is hungry, it is the money. When you find yourself contemplating shoplifting to get nappies, it is the money. If Mr Cameron’s only practical advice to women living in poverty, the sole carers of their children, is “get married, and we’ll give you £150”, he reveals himself to be completely ignorant of their true situation.
Cheers to J.K. Rowling for bringing the world joy with a message, for compassion and giving, for providing a voice for social justice. Rowling through her actions, deeds, and novels gives the world a moral compass to adhere to and emulate.