Cheers and applause greeted renowned poet Benjamin Zephaniah as he delivered an inspirational speech to graduates.
He had just accepted an Honorary Doctor of Letters – his 17th honorary degree – from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), awarded in recognition of his literary career and the impact he has had upon students not just at DMU but around the world.
Last year, he came to DMU as part of the annual Cultural Exchanges festival where he met and talked to students and gave advice on writing and performing.
This week, he was once again giving advice, but this time it was to urge students to “have poetry in their lives”.
He talked about being racially attacked as an eight year old in Bimingham, and how in his 20s in London in the early 1980s he faced National Front supporters.
He said: “Bigots don’t have any poetry in their lives. We need more poetry. It’s a great thing. It brings people together. It gave me a voice – the young me, who was dyslexic who felt it was not being listened to by the establishment, I used poetry to tell the world how I felt.
“I still had a lot to say and I started saying it on the streets it gave me a voice. Not everybody can be a poet, but if there’s one message that I have or everybody here today – the young people, families, friends, even some of the academics – you should have some poetry in your life. It’s a way of reaching out and touching people.
“This university is a good place. I know it is because I know people who have graduated from here and I know people who have taught here. People leave here and go on to change the world and I hope some of them will go on to be great leaders in the world. Whoever you are and whatever you do, please please have some poetry in your life and preach the peace. Thank you.”
Posted on Thursday 22nd January 2015