Samira Thomas

Storryteller and Curriculum Expert

Introducing: Layla Shaikley

Dear friend and Muslim Shero:

Layla Shaikley's resume reflects her dynamic personality -- she was a NASA intern, the co-producer of the viral YouTube video "Muslim Hipsters: #mipsterz," cofounder of TedxBaghdad, and an entrepreneur -- and she's only 30. While pursuing a masters degree at MIT, Shaikley founded her first startup, which combined development and data to better protect those in conflict zones like Iraq. It was thwarted by the rise of ISIS. Shaikley has since cofounded a software company called Wise Systems, which helps companies make real-time delivery decisions. The company just graduated from TechStars Mobility accelerator in Detroit.

Joe Biden on Colbert

Joe Biden articulates so perfectly something I have felt and believed for some time: the canyons that sorrow creates in ourselves leaves room for compassion, empathy, and depth of life in ways we didn't understand before we were hurt.

"I marvel, I marvel at the ability of people to absorb hurt and just get back up, and most of them do it with an incredible sense of empathy to other people. I mean, it is interesting, the people I find I am most drawn to are people who have been hurt..."

From Iceland, a Lesson

Beautiful, beautiful Icelanders. We have much to learn. “Refugees are our future spouses, best friends, or soulmates, the drummer for the band of our children, our next colleague, Miss Iceland in 2022, the carpenter who finally finished the bathroom, the cook in the cafeteria, the fireman, the computer genius, or the television host.”

Do not despise your Inner World

"Do not despise your inner world."

A beautifully written piece on exploring our inner landscapes, with an important thought for those who shy away from vulnerability and expression. And this:

"As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves. As we grow older, we encounter more and more complex stories — in literature, film, visual art, music — that give us a richer and more subtle grasp of human emotions and of our own inner world. So my second piece of advice, closely related to the first, is: Read a lot of stories, listen to a lot of music, and think about what the stories you encounter mean for your own life and lives of those you love. In that way, you will not be alone with an empty self; you will have a newly rich life with yourself, and enhanced possibilities of real communication with others."

Dylan Roof and Forgiveness

In the sterile environment of a courtroom, something deeply moving happened. Read and listen to their words. These people lost loved ones to violence and hate, and the pain of that is carried in their voices. In their ability to forgive, they are noble in the face of injustice. May they find peace.

Truth and Reconciliation - Canada

In the last week, I have slowly made my way through the Truth and Reconciliation documents. Though I grew up and was educated in Canada, I am sad to say that I never understood the extent to which our Indigenous communities have suffered. We can place the blame of cultural genocide (and actual genocide) on policy, but it is people who dream up these policies and actualize them, and it is people who change them and make right what is wrong. Those in power need to be the kind of people who make right what is wrong. I encourage everyone to read the documents and listen to the testimony at

This is not an issue only for Canadians of European descent, but for everyone who calls Canada home. We cannot continue to act as "settlers who wish the indigenous reality would evaporate."…/truth-and…/article24826036/

Vetrans Find Peace Amongst Sharks

"The entire experience [...] was, for lack of better words, comforting. I felt on my drive home like I just had therapy that targeted my deepest injuries. Injuries that have haunted my subconscious making my life difficult, without really knowing how to soothe the pain. Today, I found peace."

Dare to Disturb the Universe

After a week of attending and presenting at two wonderful education conferences this week in Ottawa, a reminder to my creative/educator friends: continue to dare to disturb the universe and take ourselves lightly.

"The first people a dictator puts in jail after a coup are the writers, the teachers, the librarians — because these people are dangerous. They have enough vocabulary to recognize injustice and to speak out loudly about it. Let us have the courage to go on being dangerous people.

So let us look for beauty and grace, for love and friendship, for that which is creative and birth-giving and soul-stretching. Let us dare to laugh at ourselves, healthy, affirmative laughter. Only when we take ourselves lightly can we take ourselves seriously, so that we are given the courage to say, “Yes! I dare disturb the universe.”"

45 Killed in Pakistan

I feel every devastating loss today. I am in anguish that our world, with all of its beauty, ushers people out in such ugly ways. Some days it is harder than others to hope for wisdom, kindness, love, and peace. But, it is on days like today we realize the vital importance of continuing to strive for these things. On days like today, I am reminded what the world looks like without these things and recognize that they are not frivolous, hippy notions, but they are power, strength, and all that is worth anything in this world. Peace to those we lost, peace to those who will struggle forever with their loss.

Pale Blue Dot - Earth Day

I get goosebumps every time I listen to Carl Sagan describe this mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. Happy Earth Day and may we deal more kindly with one another and preserve and cherish this pale blue dot.

"The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

The Radical Vision of Toni Morrison

I have believed in love at first sight since the first time I saw Toni Morrisonten years ago at Rishma's graduation. She is ever a reminder of the important role of the artist. While so many seek to simplify the magical complexity of life, she writes to "tease and complicate her world." She is beautiful, in the fullest sense of the word, and certainly, she is a radical visionary.