UNI opens up to “most trusted stranger in America”

Six years ago, Frank Warren started an art project. The project had to do with secrets, and little did he know, it would turn his life upside down.

To more than a half million people, Warren is the “most trusted man in America.” He is founder of the PostSecret blog, author of five PostSecret books, two traveling exhibits and the newly created PostSecret App. People from around the world anonymously send Warren their deepest, darkest secret on homemade postcards, the only criteria is it must be completely truthful and must never have been spoken before.

"There are secrets that we keep
from other people,
then there are secrets that
we keep from ourselves."

On Sept. 15, the University of Northern Iowa hosted Warren and his “PostSecret Live” presentation at the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, where not only did students and community members get an exclusive look at secrets that were banned from the books, but were able to share a few of their own.

PostSecret began in January 2005 when Warren decided to print 6,000 postcards. One side was blank, the other had a simple direction on it – write down a secret you have never told anyone. Warren took to the streets of Washington D.C. and passed out his postcards where he ran into a common reaction, “I don’t have any secrets.” So, he tried a different approach, he started a blog and asked people to mail him their secrets.

“Suddenly, my crazy art project didn’t feel so crazy anymore,” said Warren. “Secrets started to trickle in. I accidentally tapped into something and I couldn’t turn it off even if I wanted to.”

Frank Warren's bookSoon, stacks and stacks of homemade postcards were piling up with secrets that were shocking, inspiring, totally outrageous and some that could even save a life. Throughout the process, Warren realized that he wasn’t just soliciting secrets from other people; he was addressing some of the secrets in his life.

“There are secrets that we keep from other people, then there are secrets that we keep from ourselves,” said Warren. “Through this project, I’ve been able to reconcile with secrets buried in my past.”

Then, one day, Warren had an epiphany. He received a postcard from a teenager that was a picture of a bedroom door. The bedroom door had a hole in it. He posted the card on his blog, and soon, more pictures of bedroom doors with holes in them started to appear in his mail. Warren remembered back to when he was younger, when he had a hole in his bedroom door. That’s when he knew the art project his dad thought was voyeuristic and his mom thought was diabolical was more than just secrets. It was an outlet for people who were being abused, had body image issues or suicidal thoughts.

Now, Warren takes the lessons he’s learned from the thousands of postcards he’s received and travels throughout the country to give people a voice. In his presentations, he tells people to approach life, and the secrets that come with it, with an open mind and heart. He reminds people that by sharing a secret and being direct, you can save a life.

Towards the end of his presentations, Warren gives his audience a chance to have their voice, to share a secret, just as he did at UNI. Students lined the aisles and shared secrets that had the venue rolling with laughter while other secrets came from deep within the soul that had the crowd stunned into silence.

Lastly, Warren always ends his presentations with a testimonial.

“If I could go back in time and avoid the pain and suffering I went through as a kid, I wouldn’t,” said Warren. “I would go through it again because I see how everything is connected to the life I have now. “

For more information about PostSecret, visit www.postsecret.com.