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Cleo Wade is a speaker, a writer, a vegan and a host of other things, but at the Graduate Lincoln on Thursday night, she was primarily an advocate of friendship and community.

The author of the bestseller "Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life" got the idea for her "Courageous Love Tour" after spending two afternoons in a Manhattan park offering "free, peaceful, loving conversation" out of a booth bearing a sign that asked, "Are you OK?"

"This year, no matter the age, background, gender, the one thing I heard from pretty much every single person is that they were having a really hard time connecting with other people and having a really hard time finding friends," Wade said. "After seeing and hearing such heartbreaking stories about the loneliness so many people were feeling, I called my business partner, and said 'I really want to create a project where we have free community spaces around the country.'"

The idea had a positive reception but was passed off as something to be tried at a later date.

Wade persisted.

The idea developed and Graduate Hotels offered to host the gatherings. Tour stops are scheduled at Graduate Hotels locations across the country.

Wade is considered by many to be an "Instagram poet" and utilizes the social media platform to pass positive messages to her 433,000 followers.

"If you asked me what my purpose is in my time on this planet, it is to create gathering spaces for people where they can feel safe and seen and heard and recognized," she said. "If you realize what you're here to do, you really have to ask yourself 'What are the tools I have in my tool belt to achieve that?'"

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She decided her words were the sharpest tool in her belt.

A gifted speaker, Wade gave a TED talk in January of this year and on Thursday said this tour's talk took almost as long to write and prepare.

The effort will be worth it, though, if the tour encourages people to get out and continue to build community and relationships with others even after the tour ends.

"My hope is that it inspires people to do these things on their own," Wade said. "A friend of mine recently said that the best teachers in the world don't make you feel powerful just because they're in the room, they inspire the power within you, you just didn't know how to use in the world yet."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7214 or wstone@journalstar.com.

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Newsroom intern

Newsroom intern at the Journal Star.

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