TEDx Farmingdale's speakers Marie-Elizabeth Mali, left, Lisa Mateo, Sonia Chopro DDS,...

TEDx Farmingdale's speakers Marie-Elizabeth Mali, left, Lisa Mateo, Sonia Chopro DDS, Aleem Arif, Kristen Donnelly, Carol Silva, John Lee Cronin and Mark X. Cronin, on stage at Charlotte's Speakeasy on Saturday. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

George Andriopoulos brought a local version of the international TED Talks back to his hometown of Farmingdale on Saturday, in an effort to "open people’s minds to think in a different way."

Eight speakers in seven presentations took on disparate topics such as the effects of childhood trauma, environmentally sustainable fashion, confronting the effect of COVID-19 on our lives and the critical role of teeth — all loosely adhering to the theme of "origins and evolution."

The event at Charlotte’s Speakeasy was the third annual TEDx event Andriopoulos produced. The first, in 2019, was at Farmingdale High School, and last year’s was virtual.

TEDx events are organized under license from the nonprofit organization TED — which puts together the well-known TED Talks — but TEDx events are organized independently.

Andriopoulos said our politically divisive time makes exposure to new ideas especially important.

"In today’s climate it is so important to hear different ideas and different thought processes than we’re used to," he said.

Marie-Elizabeth Mali, a relationship coach, told the sold-out audience of more than 40 that marine life can teach humans about gender fluidity and gender roles.

Mali, an avid diver and photographer, displayed photos she took of clownfish, which are known as "sequential hermaphrodites," because they are all born male and some change their sex to become female.

"We can learn from nature to be more fluid instead of staying stuck in our current gender constructs believing we have a monopoly … and behaving like we’re separate from nature," she said. "Encouraging people to discern their right roles and authentically express their gender identity in a way that’s true to who they are would go a long way in creating peace with one another and harmony with the natural world. Nature isn’t judgmental."

Mark Cronin and his son John Lee Cronin, who has Down syndrome, talked about forming and growing their Melville-based business John’s Crazy Socks — and how perceptions over who is the driving force behind the business are sometimes mistaken.

"I would hear from people saying, 'Oh, that’s a wonderful thing you’re doing for your son,' " Mark Cronin said.

But John Lee Cronin proposed creating a father-son sock business, Mark Cronin said.

"John was the star," he said. "John was the one who knew how to connect with people, he understood how to grow a business, and he understood what we were really doing."

Former News 12 Long Island anchor Carol Silva said that even after she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in 2019, she retained hope for the future. After she met another person with Stage 4 cancer who had no hope, she asked herself, "How can two people who are essentially at the same place in life … have such radically different reactions to some pretty awful news?"

She attributed her optimism largely to her overall positive outlook on life. And she discussed research that links positive mental health to better physical health, such as a 2013 Johns Hopkins University study that found that those with positive outlooks are less likely to have heart attacks.

Silva recalled how a few months after her lung surgery, she was grumbling about having to shovel snow. But then, she said, she stopped and thought, " ‘Wait a second, I get to do this. I’m healthy enough. I’m alive. I get to do this.’ "

"Shift your perspective," she said, before urging audience members to "choose carefully what you’ll repeat to yourself every day. Forget the mistakes."

Silva ended her presentation with a photo of her jumping in the air with a smile on her face.

"Sept. 20, 2020, I was declared cancer free," she said. "I still am today, and I’m still jumping for joy."

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