Chimamanda Adichie named Harvard class day speaker

Chimamanda
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [Photo: Watch Jaro]

Acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been selected by the Harvard College Class of 2018 to address the graduating seniors as part of the annual Class Day celebration on May 23, the day before Harvard’s 367th Commencement.

“We are honored to welcome Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as our Class Day speaker,” said First Marshal Berkeley Brown ’18, co-chair of the speaker selection committee. “Her eloquence and perspective as a writer and public speaker have inspired audiences to look beyond stereotypes and social norms to recognize our common humanity.”

Adichie, whose work has been translated into more than 30 languages, is the author of the novels “Purple Hibiscus,” which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; “Half of a Yellow Sun,” which won the Orange Prize; and “Americanah,” a 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award winner, which she finalized during a fellowship year at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Her most recent book, “Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,” was published in March 2017.

A compelling storyteller and influential cultural critic, Adichie has delivered two landmark TED talks: “The Danger of a Single Story” in 2009, and her 2012 TEDxEuston talk “We Should All Be Feminists,” which started a worldwide conversation about feminism and was published as a book in 2014.

“In her captivating TED talks, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie urges us to better understand one another’s stories and to plan for ‘a world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves.’ This is a powerful message for our class to hear as we reflect on our time at Harvard and prepare to write the next chapter of our stories,” said Jerry Nelluvelil, co-chair of the speaker selection committee.

Adichie is also the co-founder of Farafina Trust, a Nigerian nonprofit that promotes reading, writing, social introspection, and engagement with society through the literary arts.

The Harvard College Senior Class Committee has invited a guest speaker for Class Day since 1968. Prior to that, the honor was given to University affiliates, such as deans, faculty, or classmates.

The first invited guest was Martin Luther King Jr., who accepted the invitation shortly before his assassination.

His widow, Coretta Scott King, delivered the speech in his absence and also became the first woman to give a Class Day address at Harvard.

Since that time, speakers have spanned fields including politics, social activism, journalism, film, comedy, and more.

In addition to Adichie’s address, Class Day includes award presentations and student orations. All of the events will take place in Tercentenary Theatre in Harvard Yard beginning at 2 p.m. and will be streamed live online.


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