Acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie GRD ’08 will be this year’s Class Day speaker.
Adichie has written bestselling books including “We Should All Be Feminists,” “Americanah” and “The Thing Around Your Neck,” which have been translated into more than thirty languages. Adichie was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2015 and one of Fortune Magazine’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders in 2017.
Adichie graduated from Yale in 2008 with a master’s degree in African history.
“The committee cannot imagine a better speaker to commemorate our four years at Yale than Adichie,” members of the 2019 Class Day Committee wrote in a Sunday evening email to the senior class. “She is an inspiring global citizen whose words, teaching, and social activism have had an indelible impact on the diaspora and broader contemporary culture.”
Unlike the majority of Class Day speakers in recent years, Adichie is not a politician. Four of the five most recent Class Day speakers — former Secretary of State John Kerry ’66 in 2014, former Vice President Joe Biden in 2015, former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power ’92 in 2016 and Democratic nominee for president in 2016 Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 in 2018 — served in former president Barack Obama’s administration.
In an email to the News, Class Day Planning Committee member Shuyu Song ’19 said that there are no formal criteria for choosing the Class Day speaker.
“The selection process centers around those whom we believe will give a memorable and meaningful address to the class,” Song said in the email. “Given Adichie’s extraordinary experience and poignant literary commentary, we have no doubt that her participation in Class Day will be a memorable part of this day of celebration and address concerns that are relevant to our class as we reflect on the changes that we have witnessed on this campus in the past few years.”
Adichie graduated summa cum laude from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2001 with a degree in communication and political science. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and honorary doctorates from Haverford College, Williams College, the University of Edinburgh, Duke University and Amherst College, among others.
In 2008, Adichie received a fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation, by which she was recognized as “a young writer who illuminates the complexities of human experience in works inspired by events in her native Nigeria.” Adichie published her first collection of stories, “The Thing Around Your Neck,” in 2009, followed by “Americanah,” which was released in 2013. The New York Times selected “Americanah” as one of the 10 Best Books of 2013, and in 2017 the book was selected as the winner of the New York City mayor’s office’s One Book, One New York program.
Adichie’s 2009 TED talk titled “The Danger of a Single Story” garnered upwards of 15 million views, making it one of the top 10 most-viewed TED videos. In 2012, Adichie delivered a TEDx talk “We Should All Be Feminists” about her views on gender and sexuality. Parts of the talk were later incorporated into Beyonce’s 2013 song, “Flawless.”
In October 2014, Adichie was the keynote speaker for the celebration of the 45th anniversary of the Afro-American Cultural Center’s founding. With the theme “Inspiring Global Leadership in the 21st Century,” the event aimed to showcase “prominent individuals” who have passed through the cultural center, according to the University website.
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