On Saturday, September 27, I sat among approximately 2,000 people in the University of Colorado’s Mackey Auditorium gazing at the giant TEDx logo which served as the main scenery on the stage, waiting to be inspired.
Excitement percolated as the audience wondered what we were about to learn, what new ideas would plant seeds for how to build a better tomorrow, and whether any of the talks we were about to experience would soon become viral videos on the Internet. Would we be witnesses to history?
If you are not familiar with the organization, TED is a nonprofit which began in 1984 as a conference bringing together Technology, Entertainment and Design, but today covers almost all topics in many languages. True to its tagline “Ideas worth spreading,” in 2006, TED started making videos of these talks available online, broadening its audience and increasing its visibility worldwide.
Since 2009, TED has offered free licenses to independently organized TEDx events to help “share ideas in communities around the world.” Boulder, a community often at the forefront of progressive thinking and welcoming to new ideas, began hosting its TEDx conferences in 2010, just a year after the TEDx program began. The Boulder event has grown larger each year, and one of last year’s talks by Boulderite Ash Beckham (the Southside Walnut waitress turned “accidental advocate”, as she calls herself) became one of the most viewed TED talks ever, with nearly 2 million online views to date, bringing the event up to a whole new level of prestige. (Check it out at: https://www.ted.com/talks/ash_beckham_we_re_all_hiding_something_let_s_find_the_courage_to_open_up?language=en)
This year the TEDx Boulder event, titled Rivers & Roads, welcomed 12 speakers, 2 musical performances, and 2 locally-relevant video premieres. Topics ran the gamut, including how to book a flight to space, how to find strength in adversity, the importance of forgiveness, and how a moment of crisis can serve as a point for positive change.
Here are just a few highlights from some of the speakers whose words resonated with me most. One was Hunter Ewen’s presentation of music as a visual art. Although I would not describe myself as a musician (notwithstanding a brief stint as a flautist in the eighth grade band), I have always loved and appreciated music. As such, it was fascinating to hear a musician and composer describe his out-of-the-box thinking related to how music should be presented on a page and see him take it far past the black and white grids most of us are familiar with.
Another thought-provoking talk was given by Alan Lewis, who shed light on the food industry and the importance of knowing – and caring – where your food comes from. A foodie myself, I appreciated his thoughtful analysis and candid view of how we should take some responsibility for our food choices without letting ourselves be manipulated by the “fibberati”, as he calls the food industry.
Bobby Stuckey, owner of Boulder’s chic Frasca Food and Wine, discussed the difference between service and hospitality, correctly (in my opinion), pointing out that there is not enough hospitality offered in our society, and that it would make a world of difference if we all put a little more effort into providing hospitality rather than just service.
Finally, the most anticipated talk of the evening by Ash Beckham (the aforementioned local celebrity) did not disappoint. Skillfully weaving together personal anecdotes and bigger picture ideas with compassion and humor, Ash once again challenged us to be true to ourselves, even when it is not easy or convenient to do so.
In an age where we are inundated with tabloid gossip and mindless and/or gruesome news stories, it is refreshing to hear from experts or practitioners in various fields who can help widen our horizons a bit. Several of the videos from this event are already up on the TEDXBoulder Facebook page, and they are releasing new ones each day. I highly recommend checking them out! (See also http://2014.tedxboulder.com/ for speaker bios.)