Nigerian-born and world celebrated novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie made history at Yale University’s graduation festivities last month, becoming the first African to deliver the university’s Class Day speech ahead of the school’s 318th commencement ceremony.
Adichie, the author behind hit works such as “Americanah” and “We Should All Be Feminists,” urged the students to be frontiers of social justice and gender equality. In her speech, she narrated an encounter with a man who said that his wife must submit herself to him.
“The world is full of people like that man. Is it necessarily my responsibility to educate them? No. Do I want to?” she said. “Yes. Why? Because I think it’s worthwhile to give people the benefit of the doubt. Because I think it is worth trying to change a person’s mind if that would lead to a greater human good.”
Sharing an Igbo expression that translates into English as “things are not standing well,” the Adechie, who is an alumnus of Yale told the class that from her perspective, “things are not standing well” in America.
“Wherever you might be on the ideological spectrum, things are not standing well if fear is in the air that Americans breathe. Should America be a country where fear is always an option for children in school? Where a child might never come home because that child has been murdered by another child with a gun? Should America be a country where black people live in fear of their lives because members of the police do not seem to think of them as full human beings? Should America be a country where women are in fear of not having full autonomy over their bodies?”
Though it’s not custom for the college to host commencement speakers, Class Day has been a long-held tradition by the university in which students are addressed by notable figures.
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