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Dave Chappelle tells Allen University audience you ‘gotta keep your ethics intact’

The comedian spoke at a school auditorium named for his great-grandfather

Last month, comedian and actor Dave Chappelle walked into the newly renovated Chappelle Auditorium at Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina, after having admitted to CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King that he “had never connected with this part of [his] life” before that day.

Chappelle stopped to admire the work of Bishop William D. Chappelle, whom the auditorium is named after. William Chappelle was a pastor, businessman, former Allen University president, and — more importantly — his great-grandfather. According to WLTX19, the space, which opened in 1925, was originally the city’s largest gathering place for African-Americans during the Jim Crow era. The auditorium recently received a $2.9 million renovation and was rededicated last June.

After being awarded the key to the city by Columbia mayor Steven Benjamin, Chappelle stopped by the auditorium to speak to an audience filled with students, faculty and members of Chappelle’s family about the decisions he’s made in his own life and the importance of staying true to yourself.

“I’m most renowned for what I didn’t do,” Chappelle said. “I’ve made decisions in my career that a lot of people have called insane. In 2004, I had a $50 million deal on the table and in a crisis of conscience, flipped the table over and walked away. I went to South Africa. Everyone said I was running away from the money, that is not true. In fact, I still want that money … Sometimes you do what you think is best, whether anybody understands it or not.

“Right now, there’s this thing where ethics aren’t what they used to be,” Chappelle said. “This idea that people are trying to replace the ideas of good and bad with better or worse, and that is incorrect. You gotta keep your ethics intact, because good and bad is a compass that helps you find the way, and a person that only does what’s better or worse is the easiest type of person to control. They are a mouse in a maze that just finds the cheese, but the one who knows about good and bad will realize he’s in a maze.”

Watch the video of Chappelle’s full speech here.

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.