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Have you met TED?

An IC columnist majoring in mechanical engineering at UT

Published: Thursday, September 22, 2011

Updated: Thursday, September 22, 2011 04:09

If you are unfamiliar with the annual Technology, Entertainment and Design conference, or TEDx, then you are missing out on a great organization. TED began in the 1980s as a conference that invited experts to speak from the three title fields. Today, it has grown into something much bigger — TED has turned into an international force of good.

TED continually gives me hope for the future. People from all disciplines and backgrounds come to the annual conference to share their ideas. Speakers range from the well-known such as Al Gore and Bill Gates to the obscure. Subjects from sustainable architecture and agriculture, marketing and medicine, to war and zoology are fair game.

One talk features John Francis, who witnessed two oil tankers collide near the Golden Gate Bridge. He was so disturbed by this experience, he went 17 years without speaking or using motorized transportation. He earned his PhD in environmental science, and wrote to the university to let them know that he'd be there in about two years —long walk. He taught a discussion class entirely through sign language. The horror struck students got used to his "speaking style," and it was filled to capacity the next semester.  John began writing about oil spills when no one else in the country was. After the Exxon Valdez oil disaster, he wrote regulations on oil spills. John now speaks and drives to share his amazing story, which was one of my favorite TED talks.

The annual TED conference is so popular, it costs thousands of dollars to attend, but the talks are available on TED.com for free. A new one is released every weekday. After religiously watching TED talks for over two years, I have watched over 500 of the 1000 plus talks available. I made a promise to watch every new talk regardless of the title —I figured even if the subject seemed uninteresting, I would still learn something or gain another perspective. 

TED strives to make their ideas as accessible as possible. All of the talks get translated into a variety of languages. TED supports independently organized conferences that keep the same format. While TED tackles global issues, TEDx events allow the conference to be focused. There have been TEDx's on individual topics like health or education and others dedicated to local stories.

Bowling Green State University recently hosted their first TEDx event. I was able to attend and was very impressed with the quality of the conference. The day consisted of 20 speakers; each speaker was allotted 18 minutes to tell their stories. None of the presenters were professional speakers. Some touched on too many ideas, while neglecting to present any take-away message. Some of the speakers were fantastic-they had focused ideas that were engaging and entertaining.

One speaker described her efforts to portray a realistic and healthy image of women by standing in Times Square wearing a bathing suit on national television; another shared his happiness of forgetting his degree and pursuing a career in comedy. A local Toledo man talked about his youth-centered urban agriculture program in which teens that have been prone to violence discover nurturing actions can yield better results than bravado and macho-ness.

I left Bowling Green full of thoughts. I could see why TED is often described as a life changing event. I felt resolved to do some good in this world and leave it a little bit better. I whole-heartedly recommend going to TED.com and checking out some of the talks. I cannot wait until Toledo organizes their first TEDx event.

 

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