Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie just became the first African ever to deliver the Harvard University Class Day Speech which is a major feature of the university’s annual graduation events. Class Day speakers are selected by the students themselves.
Previous speakers include last year’s speaker, former US Vice President under President Obama, Joe Biden; former President Bill Clinton; Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg; Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mother Teresa; legendary music producer Quincy Jones; Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke; CNN Host Christiane Amampour; and Corretta Scott King, the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who delivered the very first Class Day speech in 1968 (Dr. King accepted the invitation before he was assassinated in April of that year, and his wife spoke in his place.)
Chimamanda’s speech on Wednesday at Harvard, included the importance of seeking to tell the truth in today’s world.
She also spoke about while it is very important for people to be outraged, that it is crucial for one to understand the context in which an event took place or a statement was made- and the intent of the protagonist or speaker- before becoming offended or outraged.
She exhorted the graduating students to be courageous in speaking the truth, as it may often mean that one is criticised for it, but that they will be able to gain true satisfaction from having maintained their integrity.
‘There is nothing more beautiful than to wake up every day holding in your hand the full measure of your integrity,’ she said.
She received a standing ovation from the audience of approximately eight thousand people