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Home » Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at 2015 Wellesley College Commencement (Transcript)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at 2015 Wellesley College Commencement (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech at 2015 Wellesley College Commencement on Friday, May 29, 2015.

Listen to the audio version here:


Oh, you’re going to make me cry. So, hello class of 2015! Congratulations! And thank you for that wonderful welcome, and thank you President Bottomly for that wonderful introduction.

I have admired Wellesley, its mission, its story, its successes for a long time, and I thank you very much for inviting me. You are ridiculously lucky to be graduating from this bastion of excellence and on these beautiful acres. And if the goddesses and gods of the universe do the right thing, then you will also very soon be the proud alumnae of the college that produced America’s first female president!

GO HILLARY! I’m truly, truly happy to be here today. I’m so happy to be here, in fact, that when I found out your class color was yellow, I decided I would wear yellow eye shadow.

On Makeup and Gender Injustice

But on second thoughts, I realized that much as I admire Wellesley, even yellow eye shadow was a bit too much of a gesture. So I dug out this yellow, yellowish head wrap instead. So, speaking of eye shadow, I wasn’t very interested in makeup until I was in my twenties, which is when I began to wear makeup.

Because of a man. A loud, unpleasant man. He was one of the guests at a friend’s dinner party in Lagos.

I was also a guest. I was about 23, but people often told me I looked 12. The conversation at dinner was about traditional Igbo culture, about the custom that allows only men to break the kola nut, and the kola nut was a deeply symbolic part of Igbo cosmology.

I argued that it would be better if that honor were based on achievement rather than gender, and this man looked at me and said dismissively, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re a small girl.” I wanted him to disagree with the substance of my argument, but by looking at me, young and female, it was easy for him to dismiss what I said. So, I decided to try and look older.

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