Award-winning author and feminist icon, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Wednesday joined other prominent speakers at the finale of the 2022 edition of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) annual meeting. The 2022 edition of the CGI U annual meeting started on the 11th of April and ended on Wednesday the 13th of April with one of the finale plenaries featuring Adichie and former US Secretary, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Speaking at the virtual meeting, they discussed the essential role of storytelling in finding common ground as a vehicle for representation and as an agent of change.

Adichie identified talent as one of such vehicles of representation. Adding that “talent alone is not enough. I think that talent is just a starting point but then you have to decide to put in the work”. She also touched on the importance of seeing oneself reflected in the future as it helps picture the worthiness of one’s story.

The CGI University

In 2007, former US President, President Bill Clinton launched the Clinton Global Initiative University as a platform to engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world and bring them together to develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. Over the years, the university has organized the CGI U annual meeting which is always hosted by President Bill Clinton, Secretary Hillary Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton.

The CGI U current class of 2022 according to Secretary Clinton represents 34 states in the USA and 70 countries across the world, including 40 students from Nigeria with 2 being from Nsukka where Adichie was born. Answering the question concerning the roles students of the 2022 class and young students globally can play in ensuring there is increased representation in storytelling, Adichie harped on the importance of listening.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“It is not enough to tell stories; we have to be willing to hear other people’s stories,” she said, noting that she even reads stories of other people she disagrees with because she wants to know what they think, and also understand the world better.

“I would say to young people, try and listen more. Tell your stories, don’t be apologetic about who you are especially when you are a person who comes from a part of the world that is not sort of considered the center” she added.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie t-shirt fashion

On tips for students who wish to become published writers, Adichie shared that the ability to write well is important. “Read more, and reduce your time on social media’ she said. The work is not in writing but in rewriting. “It’s important to use details. It’s important to use an active voice. This kind of detailed writing is better for everyone as it helps us understand more”.

“For people who want to write, you have to remember that you are going to have difficulties. The whole process of creativity is that you will struggle and it’s important not to give up”.

Secretary Hillary Clinton

Clinton praised the resilience shown by students in the face of uncertainty caused by the pandemic, noting that a lot of students missed ritual passages, graduation ceremonies, and lectures. Faith is a good way to propel us to keep going. “Keep going, get up when life deals you blows. We’ve all faced different life situations and tragedies that we have to come to grips with if we are to keep going” Secretary Clinton encouraged.

In her final note, the globally celebrated author of Half of Yellow Sun said “It’s important if we sort of keep truth as the focus of the way we occupy space in the world. Being dedicated to truth. I believe that everybody’s stories matter”.

Prominent leaders

Alongside Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a powerful array of prominent leaders graced the lineup of speakers which included Fmr. US President, Bill Clinton; First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden; US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy; President and CEO, American Association of Community Colleges, Dr. Walter G. Bumphus; and Chelsea Clinton.

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