I was thrilled when the Headmaster of my daughters’ boarding school asked me to give a chapel talk on the topic “Why Read” over Parents Weekend. What a lovely invitation! What an honor! I worked quite hard to write a speech that I thought might be interesting to parents and students.

I practiced it in front of one daughter to get her feedback. Having worked on it for weeks, I thought it was – you know – pretty good.

When I finished, she had an odd expression on her face. She seemed to be struggling with competing emotions. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Mom,” she said. “But you need to throw that away and start over.”


“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I don’t want to hear a bunch of book reviews,” she explained. “You’re gonna lose your audience in the first couple of minutes. You’ve got to say something real.”

I was still a little bit in shock at this point.

“Like – why did you read so much as a kid? Why do you read so much now? Why are books so important to you? You’ve got to put yourself out there.”

“But – ”

“I’m just telling you,” she said firmly. “You’ve got to be vulnerable if you want anyone to pay attention and if you want to have any impact.”

It was time for my husband to take her back to her dorm. I got ready for bed and got underneath all the covers.

“Are you okay?” my husband asked when he got back.

“I’m okay,” I said.

The next day, I started over.

Click on the link below if you’d like to hear my testimony…


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My sincerest thanks to Tad Roach for inviting me to give a chapel talk at St. Andrew’s School and for creating a countercultural community of kindness, radical empathy, listening, learning, questioning, and integrity. #ethos #BryanStevenson

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Mary & I at St. Andrew’s

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