Three Ivy League universities in the United States recently celebrated bestselling writer and speaker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as she was awarded honorary doctorate degrees.The award-winning author, who has built quite the reputation for her oratory prowess received the three awards within 10 days.
She was at American University (Washington, DC) on May 11 to receive an honorary degree and also deliver a commencement speech for the university’s College of Arts and Science. Adichie returned to Washington on May 18 to receive another honorary degree from Georgetown University and to deliver a commencement speech for Georgetown College, the largest and oldest of the four Georgetown schools, which grant undergraduate degrees.
The prolific writer was on hand for Yale’s University in New Haven, Connecticut 318th commencement ceremony, where she received her third honorary degree.During her Yale class day address, which inspired a standing ovation, Adichie talked about the state of affairs in the United States, metaphorically using Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” in her description of the current US sociopolitical climate.
She went on to suggest that a spate of recent mass shootings, incidents of police brutality and legal restriction of female reproductive rights have contributed to a national climate of fear. She also shared some critical career and life advice, touching on topics as varied as the importance of not abusing power and learning how to offer a genuine apology.
In speaking about corporate leadership, she encouraged the 2019 class to transform corporate traditions. “If you’re one day enrobed in corporate power, please hire women as executives and not just in human relations. Change corporate culture. Have an on-site day-care. Make paid family leave standard and ordinary.”
Adichie encouraged students to be mindful of the privilege afforded them by their Yale education, noting “a Yale degree makes you more likely to become a person who in different capacities will be responsible for policies and actions that will affect the lives of millions of people”.
Social psychologist and current Yale president Peter Salovey in a message to Adichie said, “The students of the class of 2019 have lived their four years on campus in a time of unprecedented reckoning with some of the greatest challenges that a society can face. Far from being daunted or defeated by the responsibility, they have been galvanised by it, determined to prepare themselves to lead the world forward with positivity. In you, they recognise and revere a voice that speaks for their generation-a voice of hope, strength, and of much-needed change. You have demonstrated to them the boundless potential of interrogating the past, engaging with the present, and investing in the future. As an intellectual and as a fearless advocate for humanity, you model to them the best selves that they are striving to become.”
Adichie is the first African to deliver a class day speech at Yale. She joins an exclusive list of class day speakers, which includes former US first lady and 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton,, former United States vice president Joe Biden, erstwhile United Kingdom Prime Minister, Tony Blair renowned television journalist, Barbara Walters and Oscar-winning actor, Tom Hanks among others.