Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Dare to Take

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie overcame adversity and discrimination to deliver a powerful speech at her commencement at Wellesley College.


Three weeks ago, my father was kidnapped near his home in Nigeria, and for a number of days, my family and I went through the kind of emotional pain that I have never known in my life. We were talking to threatening strangers on the phone, begging and negotiating for my father’s safety, and we were not always sure if my father was alive. He was released after we paid a ransom. He’s well. He’s in fairly good shape, and in his usual lovely way, he’s very keen to reassure us that he’s fine.

I’m still not sleeping well. I still wake up many times at night in panic, worried that something else has gone wrong. I still cannot look at my father without fighting tears, without feeling this profound relief and gratitude that he’s safe, but also rage that he had to undergo such an indignity to his body and to his spirit.

That experience has made me rethink many things, what truly matters and what doesn’t, what I value and what I don’t. Think about what really matters to you. Think about what you want to really matter to you. Please do not twist yourself into shapes to please. Don’t do it. If someone likes that version of you, that version of you that is false and holds back, then they actually just like a twisted shape and not you. The world is such a gloriously multifaceted, diverse place that there are people in the world who will like you, the real you as you are.

My mother and I do not agree on many things regarding gender. There are certain things my mother believes a person should do for the simple reason that the said person is a woman, such as occasionally nod and smile, even when smiling is the last thing you want to do; such as strategically give in to certain arguments, especially when arguing with a non-female; such as get married and have children.

Now I can think of fairly good reasons for doing any of these, but because you are a woman is not one of them. Never, ever accept because you are a woman as a reason for doing or not doing anything. I speak because I think our time on earth is short, and each moment that we are not our truest selves, each moment we pretend to be what we are not, each moment we say what we do not mean because we imagine that is what somebody wants us to say, then we’re wasting our time on earth. I don’t mean to sound precious, but please don’t waste your time on earth.

Now girls are often raised to see love as only giving. Women are praised for their love when that love is an act of giving, but to love is to give and to take. Please love by giving and taking. Give and be given. If you are only giving and not taking, you’ll know. You’ll know from that small and true voice inside you that we females are so often socialized to silence. Don’t silence that voice. Dare to take.