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Hold Your Head High and Live Fully

Dear Chris, 

Here’s the article from the West Morris Mendham Patriot like I promised.  Thank you so much for coming to Mendham. A lot of us really enjoyed hearing you speak, and we hope you’ll come back and lead a discussion with us sometime.  

After you came, I went and bought Six Questions of Socrates. It kind of contributed to an epiphany I had around Thanksgiving. It let me see that I really needed to change how I was handling my life. 

My mother died in the end of August after a long battle with cancer, and I think, in some ways, I was going with the idea that I had to live up to exactly what we had said I was going to do with my life. I realized, though, that not everything was going to happen like we said – it’s not how life works. And if I was going to try to live how we predicted, it would mean I’d have to live and die with relatively unimportant events. Instead, I had to focus on making sure I was happy with what I was doing, and be sure I wasn’t compromising myself for fear of veering off my “plan in life,” which, I also realized, is something kind of ridiculous for a sixteen-year-old to have. 

The only thing that would matter to my Mom was my happiness, and she fought for that for nearly sixteen years. To quote Tamara, a woman you quoted in “What is courage?”, it’s more important than ever to keep our heads held high, and life fully, till the moment we die.”

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m happy.

Thanks for coming and bringing Socrates Café to Mendham. Please come back and speak with us.

Best, Maddie Taterka

Taterka,  MHS Socrates

Note: Maddie is spending the summer in Ecuador with Global Routes this summer.  She is working with her Global Routes peers and living and working with the intimate and insular Ecuadorean community of Guagua Hurco to construct what is called a casa comunal, a place for important community meetings and events, as well as school.

Dear Christopher and Cecilia,

Just recently, at the downtown Central location of London (Ontario, Canada) Public Library, we celebrated our 2nd anniversary of our Socrates Cafe in our location (we meet monthly). During this time, several moderators have emerged from the group (one of whom is our official town cryer!) and we've developed a core but fluid membership, with topics chosen by the group.

What I'd really like to express is how very moving some of these talks can get. An atmosphere of real trust and listening has evolved and even amidst diverging opinions, there is a sense of cohesiveness that feels almost spiritual at times.

Recently, I received a phone call from the English teacher of a school that caters to young adults from China. The teacher noticed that her students were very reluctant to speak and could she bring 20 or so of them to the next Cafe to help "open them up". This was very interesting to me, because we've had two men from China attend already, and both were very moved by how, in our circle, everyone was able to talk openly and share their thoughts and feelings with each other. One older Chinese man said to the group: "you know, in China, there is no incidence of depression ,yet we have a very high suicide rate". The other said that he was very honored to be able to listen to such a wide range of opinions, that this would never happen where he came from. It was very gratifying for me to be able to provide a vehicle wherein someone from a very oppressive culture might have an opportunity to express himself in ways that he might not otherwise.

Anyway, I thought I would share with you one of your success stories - and let you know the benefits of our Cafe here are far greater than just the sharing of ideas, rather they also include the joining of human beings, from all ages, all walks of life, and many cultures. Far from having our ideas separate us, the sharing in the circle appears to be joining us in an almost magical way.

Many thanks to you both for initiating this and your support for those who are carrying your torch, as it were.

Sincerely,

Jacqui Denomme
Information Assistant - Social Sciences
London Public Library
London, Ontario, Canada

My name is Tyler Crawford. I'm 17 and currently in my senior year of high school in Tarpon Springs, FL.

Recently; rather, a few months ago, I got involved in the local Socrates Cafe at Palm Harbor Library. Surprisingly enough, I had seen an advertisement for it the day before its first meeting. A twist of fate, perhaps.

First of all, I just want to say that the concept behind Socrates Cafe is absolutely magnificent. After I had learned of it's concept, I was amazed that such a thing had not happened earlier. I've also read the book Six Questions of Socrates which was a very large inspiration for me.

So, as the new school year started, I was very interested in the idea of starting a socrates cafe. I was a little worried that students might not be interested, but one thing led to another and I ended up getting a club sponsor and about 4 teachers interested. After awhile, I had 3 people interested--then 4--then 7--and the number keeps rising.

Our first meeting was short, and basically just an intro. But our second meeting, we jumped into a discussion. Since nobody had thought a topic, I asked the participants "What is a just war?" to break the ice. It took a little while to nudge them into the conversation, but before we knew it, we had talked about the question for an hour and a half.

I thoroughly enjoyed being a facilitator, and I've decided that after the club gets more comfortable, I'm going to rotate co-facilitators every meeting so people can get a chance to question the group. It's going along beautifully. I've been the President and Founder of the Debate Team and Model UN club at my school for 3 years, and was very frustrated with the concept of debating. I was absolutely desperate to find a way to encourage free discussion without having to defend your views or having to be a master of spin. For 3 years, I had not experienced the amount of enthusiasm from Debate and Model UN that the Socrates Cafe concept has given me in 2 weeks.

I've been so excited, that I actually went to the local library just to tell the Socrates Cafe facilitators that work at the library that I had started the club.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Tyler

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