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A Recap of TEDx SemesteratSea – "Anchors Away: From Ideas to Action"

Blake Frank, John Rosenberg and student drummers opened the event with an original musical composition.

The shipboard community packed the Union to listen to seven smart, savvy, gutsy speakers as they shared insightful information and inspiring ideas during TEDx SemesteratSea, whose theme was “Anchors Away: From Ideas to Action.”

Student Aaron Schulze was the host for the evening, which included an original piano composition by John Rosenberg. The MV Explorer‘s “artist in residence” was accompanied by student drummers and Blake Frank, the son of TEDx founder Lara Stein, who was also on the ship and welcomed the audience with a brief history of TED and TEDx.

TEDx Founder Lara Stein welcomed the community to TEDx SemesteratSea.
TEDx founder Lara Stein welcomed the community to TEDx SemesteratSea.

Kicking off two hours of TEDx Talks, Jessica Steele, a junior at the University of Florida, presented “The Death of ‘Poor Me’.” Exemplifying incredible poise, Jessica discussed sexually and physically abusive relationships she was in as early as 16 years old. She shared this intimate story in order to have a conversation about the misconceptions of the definition of “rape.” Jessica explained how she was able to overcome the mental trauma associated with her abuse, and eventually get past a cycle of self-hatred through counseling at college.

Jessica shifted her focus from “being outward to “being inward,” by taking control of her past and not letting it define her. Jessica encouraged listeners who may also struggle with past events: “Open up. Talk to someone about it. Don’t let your past dictate who you are today. Let it be a chance and opportunity to grow.” Hundreds of listeners in the Union gave Jessica a standing ovation for her bravery and inspiration.

Jessica Steele gets a standing ovation from the crowded Union.

Next up, Stephen Deaderick a Summer 2014 voyage resident director and PhD candidate at Ohio State University, told the audience that for too long he was letting other people define who he was — rather than taking the time to figure it out on his own. “Nobody knows you better than yourself,” he said.

He shared four questions that helped him better figure out his sense of self: “What teaches you? How do you make meaning? What really matters to you? How do you move in the world?” Stephen encouraged listeners to “Press Pause,” stop and take the time to reflect and think about what really matters to you — not your parents, not your teachers, not your friends. He quoted Mahatma Gandhi: “There’s more to life than increasing its speed.”

Stephen Deaderick encourages the audience to "Press Pause."
Stephen Deaderick encourages the audience to “Press Pause.”

Cosette Haugen, a student at the University of Minnesota, presented “Being an Open Book,” in which she discussed her diagnosis of depression. She noted that 1 in 4 adults will face some sort of mental illness in any given year, yet there is still a stigma about it — in schools, at workplaces, and in society in general. Cosette chooses to be quite open about her depression — and anxiety and obsessive compulsive tendencies — because talking about it, getting the help she needs, helps her feel less alone.

Cosette would like to see bring discussion about mental illness “out of the dark and into the open.” She said, “We should all feel safe enough to live like open books. It’s impossible to be judged by your cover when you open up your pages to the world.”

Cosette Haugen says she's an "open book" when it comes to her mental illness diagnosis.
Cosette Haugen says she’s an “open book” when it comes to her mental illness diagnosis.

Next, Andrew Sayer, a senior at Providence College, presented his provocatively titled speech, “Tolerance is a Dirty Word.” He noted, “Saying I tolerate you means that it’s okay you exist.” Laws that prohibit slavery, give women the right to vote and gays the right to marry “widen the definition of who is to be tolerated,” said Andrew.

Instead of focusing on “tolerating” differences, Andrew explained we must “shift from tolerance to acceptance,” which he suggested should start in the schools with an educational policy that stresses acceptance of all cultures, religions, sexual identity and race. “A global community will not come when all people are the same, but instead, when we fully accept and celebrate everyone‚Äôs meaningful differences.”

Andrew Sayer says "Tolerance is a Dirty Word."
Andrew Sayer says “Tolerance is a Dirty Word.”

Joining us on the ship for the evening was¬†Andr√© No√´l Chaker, a Helsinki resident who originally hails from Montreal, Canada. The busy speaker, attorney, book author and singer presented “Three Finnish S’s,” in which he helped the non-Finns in the room (all of us but two Finnish interport lecturers!) better understand the Nordic culture.

Sauna, the first “S,” represents openness in the Finland. The sauna is pervasive in Finnish culture — families sauna together, as do work colleagues: “You may find yourself naked next to your boss,” he said. Santa Claus, who hails from Finland’s Lapland, represents the ultimate enduring enterprise, said Andr√©, who gave several examples of how entrepreneurship is alive and well in Finland. Finally, Sisu, which is a Finnish word for “courage on steroids,” also represents Finnish culture. “The greatest form of courage today is to embrace your own identity… your own uniqueness and authenticity,” said Andre. “Embracing your identity gives us the self-confidence we need to be successful people… and nations.”

Andre Noel Chaker discusses "Finland's Three S's."
Andr√© No√´l Chaker discusses “Finland’s Three S’s.”

Could you imagine not buying one new item for an entire year? Summer 2014 voyage Resident Director Kristin Skarie did it, and she wrote a book about it, too: A Year of Nothing New: Tools for Living Lean and Green. Kristin, the founder and president of , revealed that during her year-long experiment she did purchase new food — she wasn’t prepared to grow her own for an entire 365 days — and she did purchase cleaning products for her home, but she sought all-natural variety and back-to-basics items like vinegar and baking soda. She also came up with monthly challenges for her sustainability project, including a rule where she would only have one light on at a time in her house, she would only wear six clothing items for 30 days, and she wouldn’t buy any food wrapped in plastic packaging.

Kristin said the shopping experiment became a values realignment. Now, when she thinks about purchasing an item she first goes over these questions in her head — and encouraged the audience to do the same: “Do I want this? Do I need this? Do I have this?”

Kristin Skarie went a whole year without buying anything new -- and then wrote a book about it.
Kristin Skarie went a whole year without buying anything new — and then wrote a book about it.

Our final speaker for the evening was Amber Johnson, a professor at Prairie View A&M, who said two years ago, “I will train to be the next American Ninja Warrior and learn to love my body.” At the time, she was an overweight, busy mother of two young children who couldn’t do one pull-up. But she “spoke” her fitness goals out loud to an online community of 10,000 women who were also making known their own athletic goals in an Under Armour sponsored competition called, “What’s Beautiful.” At the end of the competition, she was one of four women to be named an Under Armour ambassador.

Then Amber realized she needed to make good on her stated goal of competing on the NBC television show American Ninja Warrior.¬† She trained for months for the event with a veteran Ninja Warrior. “Every day I showed up to train there was an obstacle I couldn’t do. But I focused on what I could do,” said Amber. She made it to the TV show…. and failed on the obstacle course within about 30 seconds. But she came up smiling: “Even if pain and failure are your teachers, you must learn from them.” She ended her TEDx Talk with, “Success. That is your future if you say, ‘I will’.”

SAS faculty member Amber Johnson competed on the TV show American Ninja Warrior.
SAS faculty member Amber Johnson competed on the TV show American Ninja Warrior.

“Anchors Away: From Ideas to Action” was the third TEDx SemesteratSea held on the MV Explorer since 2011. With such a successful event on the Summer 2014 voyage, buoying the ship with energy, excitement, camaraderie and conversation, it most certainly won’t be the last.

TEDx speakers and host are all smiles after a superb event.
TEDx speakers and host are all smiles after a superb event.
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