The power of words

November 4, 2009
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In reflecting on the events of my life that have impacted me, I returned to the night of August 1, 2006. I found myself in Row G of Radio City Music Hall in New York City sitting by my mother, not at all tired, although we had flown from Las Vegas to Syracuse the day before, and my family had driven five hours to the city for “An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp,” a charity event with readings by three authors. The excitement rushing through me kept me awake and alert; I was standing and applauding a tiny blonde woman with amazing silver snake shoes as she prepared to read.

The Harry Potter series was my gateway drug into my intellectual puberty. I was so fascinated by the Harry Potter world that my mother began taking me to academic conferences focused on the books. Beginning with The Witching Hour in 2005, through Lumos, Prophecy, Portus, and Azkatrz in 2009, I have attended presentations about the Latin etymology of terms and spells, the mythical tales of the artifacts, and the idea of literary alchemy. These books opened my eyes to the whole world, and to knowledge itself. They were the stimulus that kept my brain working over the summers. More importantly, they helped me adopt the philosophy useful in school and beyond, that there is always another way to do something, or to perceive an issue. With uncertainty and doubt, comes innovation and new ways to look at problems that may result in new, different, faster and easier solutions. And all this came from a little “magic,” from a book that many people see as a series for children.

Along with fans and students from many countries, I attended lectures about Ms. Rowling’s ability to beautifully craft the saga, with every painstakingly small detail connected to something else. For example, Dr. John Granger, a “Potter Pundit” who has written several critical and religious-based analyses of the books, reminded the audience that Harry’s (and his mother Lily’s) green eyes owe a literary debt to Dante’s Beatrice. From Jonathan Swift to Chaucer to Dickens and Austin, I learned that like all great books, Rowling’s stories fostered a connection across mind, body, and soul. Although the series has been criticized by those who believe it corrupts children and teaches witchcraft, I was able to hear discussions by those who purported that, like the Bible, these books teach wonderful messages if one goes beyond the literal level to the allegorical. It is my generation’s shared text; all college freshmen are familiar with the stories, and that gives us a set of common beliefs and ideas that can serve as a springboard to new learning.

As I sat surrounded by avid fans and scholars of John Irving, Steven King, and J.K. Rowling, it gave me hope that this country will not be consumed by the mundane. With so much emphasis on physical aspects of life, and the material and sexual focus of the messages thrown at us by the media, it would be easy to become jaded or depressed. But I am not worried. I have been surrounded by 6000 people, all of whom paid good money, not for a sporting event or a concert, but to hear authors read their work. I have evidence that words on a page can change not only my life, but the world.

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This article has 157 comments. Post your own now!

Alex10 said...
Oct. 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm
Anyways- I'm really not into writting you seem like a crazy good type of writer. My Point is I know a lot of topics to write on about for college essays. You could help me as I could help you. :]
Alex10 said...
Oct. 10, 2011 at 12:35 pm
New but Thirsty for knowledgee
BryanCMU said...
Oct. 8, 2011 at 10:35 pm
The essay is well written; however, it tells me very little substantive information about the applicant. As a college admission officer, I want to know more about you as a person. It is wonderful that you showed your passion for reading HP novels, but you have shown a very narrow and limited view as to who you are as a person. Focus more on writing an essay that tells me who you are than how well you can write.
0110KatieL replied...
Oct. 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm
Hello, My names Katie and I was wondering if you could tell me alittle bit about what I should put on a college essay, and preferiably what is the most important things, to have on there. I have an strong thirst for knowledge and I would hate to not be able to get into college because of something i missed.
Sdf S. replied...
Jun. 14, 2012 at 12:12 am
thx for teh lowercase i
dee8 said...
Oct. 3, 2011 at 12:28 pm
Vocab in essays is fine as long as it doesn't sound pedantic. I didn't pick up on that at all.
Blue Satin said...
Oct. 3, 2011 at 10:51 am
Im 17 years old, and I think this essay is amazing.  Not only because of the perfect adjectives he used to make it, but also because of the topic he wrote about. It open minds that there is more beyond everything you read if you analyze it. Great essay and great vocab!! Dont let anyone else make you change any part of your essay if its not for good.
Hassan aly said...
Sept. 30, 2011 at 1:18 pm
i read you article it was fantastic, innovative and very creative piece of writting.
Magikster said...
Sept. 29, 2011 at 9:51 pm
Astounding play of words! However, it's *"Stephen*, not 'Steven' King. Aside from that, brilliant work!
Suzy2015 said...
Sept. 23, 2011 at 10:41 pm
I think it was absolutley astounding. Do not let the others down you on your extensive vernacular. If it is you, it is you! I thought it was a beautifully written essay. Well done!
Danny132 said...
Sept. 19, 2011 at 8:07 pm
I gotta say you dont come off as a teen, it sounds more like an intellectual essay thats been edited by a million people but hey, if thats how you really sound then go for it.
read it outloud and if it doesnt sound like you modify it so it so it does.
EnochDreams said...
Jun. 21, 2011 at 11:54 am
Very good. I love Harry potter and actually own a book called "Harry Potter for God". Its some BS. Harry Potter is a story much the same as any other. Religious people just like to gain control over anything they can. Keep up the good writing!
cdmswimmer9 said...
Jun. 7, 2011 at 11:23 pm
I agree, the essay is good. But you need to take what you wrote and apply to you. And maybe tone down the higher level words, it doesn't sound like a teen wrote it. You might have an extensive vocab but I kind of got muddled in the big words towards the middle. You want to make it easy to read. 
EnochDreams replied...
Jun. 21, 2011 at 11:52 am
If he is a feshman in college, those are the kind of things he will need right?
ItsAshMal This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 12, 2011 at 9:27 pm
having a larger vocabulary will only make a college essay more attractive, as far as I've read.
cdmswimmer9 replied...
Jul. 14, 2011 at 2:06 am
You want to seem your age. It's about your voice and truly expressing yourself so that the colleges can get a glimpse at who you are as a person because test scores and grades lack the ability to show that. Throwing in big fancy words can make you seem unreal and fake unless it truly matches your writing style. In this case it doesn't match. You can leave them in, but I suggest really trying to emphasize your actual voice so that colleges don't get the wrong impression. They don't want to be imp... (more »)
musicluffler replied...
Sept. 18, 2011 at 6:24 pm
I had absolutely no problem understanding the essay, and I'm 17.  He sounds exactly like his age and I don't think any phrases in this essay come off as unnatural at all.  Not a single word in this essay is uncommon, with the exception of 'allegorical'.  Perhaps you should take a cue and read more yourself.
2oijskl83s replied...
Nov. 5, 2011 at 3:24 pm
There is no way to say the voice in this essay doesn't match the speaker unless you know him personally. I think the vocabulary is understandable and eloquent and I'm sixteen.
Jessica G. replied...
Nov. 11, 2011 at 9:33 am
I'm fifteen and I understood the essay perfectly. I think you're not giving the writer enough credit. It doesn't seem to me as if they were trying to sound smarter than they are. I thought the good vocabulary showed the writer's unique voice and intellectual curiosity. Isn't that what colleges want in an applicant?
That_BookaholicGirl replied...
Aug. 21, 2012 at 10:15 am
I am 17 and I had no problems reading this essay. I didn't even realize there were "big words" until I read this comment. Why should someone have to dumb down their essay because it doesn't seem "their age'? if it's who they are and how they write. I thought the whole point of a college essay was to be yourself. 
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