A handful of lessons from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Yale University’s 2019 Class Day Speech.
It was late Sunday night. Both of us have been busy from late the previous night. The early hours of the new day of a new week were rapidly counting up. The FM radio station on the phone was on. I joined her to listen to a lively ministration from a Christian pastor. After the pastor’s message, without a break, a recorded speech from a female speaker came on.
Neither her name nor the title of the speech was introduced, but we were all ears as her clear and articulate voice relentlessly broke through the stillness of the night. Who could this mesmerizing speaker be? I already had a guess on my mind. Less than 30 minutes later, the speech was over. Googling her name along with the name of the university mentioned in her speech, her name and the speech soon flashed up on my screen. I guessed correctly.
Besides listening to some of her Ted Talk speeches, I have bought and read several Nigerian acclaimed writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels — Americannah, Half A Yellow Sun, That Thing Around Your Neck, We Should All Be feminists. It turned out that the speech from the “unknown speaker” was her homily to the graduating students of her alma mater, Yale University, in 2019.
Three lessons kept me riveted at first, but I have since watched the YouTube and as well did a transcription of her speech.
Serendipity launched me into discovering these invaluable lessons on that night. Join me as we take back-seats you in the hallowed walls of that graduating Ivy League class of 2019. After all, it’s never too late to know better and start acting better forthwith.
- Being confident in life is a continuous journey and never a destination. I repeat, confidence is a journey, a continuous journey, and not an absolute destination.
- Engage with the world as it is. Otherwise, you won’t really get anything done. And while at it, always have as your Guiding Light a Clear Vision of what the world should be.
- Stay open to changing your mind. It is often a sign of growth. Be open to the possibility that you might be wrong. Make room for some agility in your thinking. This shows that you know that when it comes to life issues, there are complicated shades of gray involved everywhere, every time.
- Marry being idealistic with being pragmatic. It helps to think of puritanism as too expensive (at times). Politics could be awful in some sort of ways, but refusing to take part is not the answer. Sometimes you have to get in there to work towards changing things to what you wanted them to be.
- Learn to listen and really hear. Truly hearing people can often be the best way of showing them they matter.
- Never apologize for existing or for taking up space in the world or for having a well-considered opinion.
- And remember, you do not have to make room in your life for people who wish you harm.
- Don’t Silence Yourself. Always honor the doubts that you have on the answers you received to the questions that you have, whether those questions originated from you or others.
- Don’t be that person who attacks or demeans others just because you are unable to convince them.
- Through your words and actions, let the people you admire and love know that you love them. We do not always recognize what is beautiful in ourselves and in our spirits until others point them out to us.
- Don’t forget to show kindness — people hardly ever forget small acts of kindness.
- And to always nurture, your ambitions seek to be successful, but while at it, always keep in mind, that there are hollows in life that success will not fill.
I have shared these lessons as I understood them. You can view the full speech here.
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I originally published this story here.