Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the renowned novelist behind hit written works such as “Americanah” and “We Should All Be Feminists,” made history at Yale University’s graduation festivities over the weekend.
On Sunday, Adichie, who is from Nigeria, became the first African ever to deliver the university’s Class Day speech ahead of the school’s 318th commencement ceremony, the university confirmed to The Hill.
During her address to students, Adichie touched on a number of topics, including her commitment to social justice and gender equality.
At one point in her address, Adichie described an encounter she had 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.”
Adichie, who is also an alumna of the university, also encouraged students to ask themselves what they think America should be during the address.
“Wherever you might be on the ideological spectrum, things are not standing well if fear is in the air that Americans breathe,” she said.
“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?” she said.
“What should America be?” she continued. “Conceptualize that America and then make the case for that America, not only in obvious ways, such as how you vote, but also in smaller ways: how you treat other people, how you think of other people … the acts of kindness you do, the people you chose to listen to and to hear. And today, hearing people can often be the best way of showing them that they matter.”
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.
A number of prominent figures have served as speaker for the annual ceremony, including Sen. Cory Booker, former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, Tom Hanks and former Vice President Joe Biden.