Famed Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech in 2008 has just been published. Some of her thoughts are apt as World Fair Trade Day (May 9) approaches.

“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.”

This speaks to the heart of Fair Trade, a global movement of millions of people – farmers, artisans, consumers – who dream that a world of greater equity, justice and compassion is possible.

J.K. Rowling challenged her Harvard audience to cultivate empathy alongside the power of imagination.

“Many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. 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.”

Wherever there is Fair Trade signage – on product packaging or a shop front – there is a prompt to our imagination and empathy with the producer whose work is so often under-valued in the commodity economy in which we live. Did you know that every cup of coffee needs 70 beans?

From her own university days J.K. Rowling recalled the Greek author Plutarch: “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” She commented, “That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people’s lives simply by existing.”

How right! Whenever we make purchasing choices wearing the lenses of imagination and empathy, we can touch the lives of Fair Trade producers ever more strongly.

Paul Renshaw
May 5, 2015