Nobel Prize Winner Wole Soyinka Delivers 2016 Commencement Address

PHOTO COURTESY OF WESTMINSTER COLLEGE.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WESTMINSTER COLLEGE.

BY COURTNEY GALLAGHER 
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF 

Nigerian playwright, poet and activist Wole Soyinka, the first black African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, delivered the commencement address to the graduating class on May 7.


After receiving an honorary doctorate degree from President Benjamin Akande, Soyinka gave his speech titled “A Checkpoint on the Versus Syndrome,” which cautioned against a “we versus others approach” to interactions.

“The versus is a deep-rooted conditioning to be encountered on global and localized levels,” Soyinka said, explaining that it takes “such forms as ‘those who are not for us, are against us’; ‘my enemies’ enemy is my friend’; and other time-warped wisdoms.”

In his address, Soyinka spoke about crossing a watershed and said his words could be viewed as a signpost, secretive promise or inspiration, but also as a cautionary guide.

“The stream that flows from the accumulated waters of a watershed should not be permitted to dry up, to be polluted, or reversed to dissipate in arid land,” he said. “It should flow forward, outward and irrigate that earth that belongs to and nourishes all humanity.”

Soyinka concluded by telling the class of 2016: “Whenever you’re confronted by seemingly insurmountable obstacles in your own onward journey, always recall that you already possess that armor of invincibility that reads ‘yes, we can.’”

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