Protect and Value The Truth – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Says During Harvard Class of 2018 Address
Have the courage to tell the truth. At a time when truth can feel up for grabs and political journalists debate whether to call a lie a lie, award-winning Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stressed the importance of truth during her Class Day speech on Wednesday to graduating Harvard seniors, not just for the nation but for themselves.
“At no time has it felt as urgent as now that we must protect and value the truth,” she said to applause on a gloriously sunny afternoon in Tercentenary Theatre. “The biggest regrets of my life are those times when I did not have the courage to embrace the truth.”
Telling the truth doesn’t mean loudly judging others or starting arguments, and it doesn’t mean that life always works out, because it doesn’t, she cautioned.
Part of the effort involves being able to detect flatterers and manipulators, an important life skill, said Adichie, who was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in 2011-12. “But having that detector means you must also use it on yourself, and sometimes the hardest truths are those we have to tell ourselves,” said Adichie, who recalled how an early manuscript of hers was rejected by publishers and how it took time to face the truth that it simply wasn’t good enough.
Years later, that’s hard to imagine. Adichie’s writing caught the literary world by storm from the start. “Purple Hibiscus,” her 2003 debut novel, and “Half of a Yellow Sun” (2006) were both widely acclaimed. Her 2013 bestseller, “Americanah,” won the National Book Critics Award for fiction. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker and Granta. Along with that success, Adichie’s reading from her 2013 essay “We Should All Be Feminists,” questioning the socialization of girls but not boys to value marriage, shot her into the pop culture mainstream after Beyoncé sampled a passage in her hit song “Flawless.”
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