Welcome back to Binghamton University New York Times Bestselling author Julie Lythcott-Haims is the keynote speaker for the second time at Family Weekend. Over 1,700 Lythcott-Haims books, how to raise an adultdistributed to Binghamton families during orientation this summer, her keynote focused on the book’s strategies for developing young people to be self-sufficient, resilient and successful.
“This book provides supportive information that encourages parents to give their students the space to become more independent and confident in their abilities – and to benefit from the growth that results,” said B-, who sponsors Lythcott Cindy Cowden, Chair of the Healthy Steering Committee – Heims is visiting. “By allowing young people to make their own choices, encounter challenges and opportunities, and yes, fail occasionally, parents can help their students build resilience and responsibility and prepare them for life beyond the classroom.”
Lythcott-Haims also wrote Your Turn: How to Be an Adulta guide to becoming an adult in the 21st century, and Real Americans: A Memoirdetailing her experience as a black woman in America.
Following her address at the Family Weekend Welcome, Lythcott-Haims hosted a book signing and discussion at the University’s Multicultural Resource Center. Discussions focused more on her personal struggles as an adult to learn how to love herself as a biracial black woman, but the themes of resilience and personal growth were consistent with what she had previously said about her parents and family.
Despite the growing number of parents and students, Lythcott-Haims took the time to walk around the room asking people to introduce themselves and complete the phrase “Knowing me is knowing…” By the end of the discussion, she had memorized everyone’s name.
Lythcott-Haims’ genuine concern for those around him is evident. Her entire career has revolved around helping people and using her own life experiences to help others on the path to self-love and success. As she explained, she wanted to make room for everyone in the room and build mutual respect.
“We all need to do a better job of showing others how important they are,” Lythcott-Haims said.
While she knows how to show others how important they are, she admits she faces a huge personal struggle in showing herself how important it is, a theme she explores Real Americans: A Memoir.
Lythcott-Haims’ struggle centered on her identity as a biracial black woman in America. Lythcott-Haims was born in Nigeria to a black father and a white mother, and moved to the United States when he was three years old. She was baffled by the American reaction to her parents’ interracial relationships and biracial children in 1969. As she thought, her father had a problem, her mother had a problem, and she had a problem. She quickly lost her childhood innocence by realizing her family was “wrong.”
She was the only black student at a Wisconsin high school, and she was successful—she was the student body president, maintained high grades and had many friends—but not everyone was happy with her success.
On her 17th birthday, a student wrote racist remarks on a birthday sign on a Lythcott-Haims locker. She was ashamed to tell anyone and kept quiet about it until she was 44, when she was working on her Ph.D., when she wrote a poem in her English class.
After becoming Stanford’s dean of freshman and undergraduate advisors, Lythcott-Haims still felt she had to prove her worth as a young woman and a black woman, she said. She eventually realized that the constant struggle had made her hate being black.
It took time to dispel that hatred and fully accept herself and her culture, but she raised her two children with the kind of self-love she hoped she would cultivate. That’s all she discusses – find yourself, love yourself, and complete your journey.
“No one can help you love yourself,” she said.
She explains that everyone deserves to be cherished, but above all they learn to value themselves, and that requires a personal journey of growth, learning and failure – for many, a self that begins as a young adult A journey of growth in college. She believes in “putting in the work” and says that if people do it, they belong anywhere, which is a key ingredient to success in adulthood.