Hey everyone! Welcome to our TEDx Middlebury Hub. Rachel, Luke and I (Olivia) are attending the day of events, but don’t forget, if you don’t have tickets, they are live-streaming the speakers in BI220 and online here. We’ll be updating this page throughout the day with summaries of each speaker, including helpful links and our favorite quotes of the day. (PS, apologies if we get a little loopy at the end- writing this now after a bit of a break, I feel like my mind just ran a marathon)
10:08: The day opened with talks from Liz Robinson and the students who made TEDx possible. “Part of the magic in the TEDx experience is the interaction between the speakers and the audience.” The students discuss the theme- “Embracing Risk.”
10:15: Brad Corrigan ’96 of the band Dispatch and now the band Braddigan and founder of the organization Love, Light and Melody spoke first. Brad discussed the influence of media, technology, Hollywood, and industry on the information and stories we hear every day. We get information from a range of biased sources, but people rarely go out and see these things for themselves. He pleads, “has there ever been a time when you feel like the world is being brought to you more than today?” “These are not just movies, they are not just blogs. Everything is coming from a bias…. But don’t take my word for it, go and see!”
10:40: Ernie Parizeau is a Middlebury parent, venture capitalist, and now teacher of entrepreneurship. He talked about his journey from an average high school student and wrestler, to getting in to Dartmouth by convincing the Dartmouth wrestling coach he wanted to wrestle for them (after he got in, the coach told Parizeau “I told them you weren’t good enough to wrestle but you had initiative”), to becoming a venture capitalist who traveled too much to spend with his children, to convincing his firm to open up his own branch in Boston to be with his family. The theme of his talk was embodied in the mantra, “Take initiative, amplify your inner voice, risk failure, and persevere.”He ended the talk with the Calvin Coolidge quote, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.”
10:55: The organizers screened the TED talk From John Wooden on what is true success- not winning, but being happy and satisfied with an outcome. You can watch the video of that talk here.
11:15: Bart Riley ’85, founder of the company A123, asks why it is that we take risks. Is it for a tangible reward like money? An intangible reward like satisfaction? Or is it just for the thrill of taking risks? He says we take risks because we want to do the things we love. His advice: figure out what you love to do… and find someone to pay you to do it. His talk tied in well with Parizeau’s message, urging us to be bold, take chances, and seize the opportunities put before us. His experiences with a start-up company and as a venture capitalist gave him valuable insight into the theme, “Embracing Risk.”
11:35: Adam Greenberger ’93, is a Middlebury graduate and successful investor who co-founded Afina Capital Partners (Ghana’s first private equity firm). He talked about different kinds of risk: cultural, physical, personal, and religious. He began describing the cultural risks he took befriending a Masai warrior and a Chinese man on a NOLS trip to Kenya that he went on after a privileged and protected childhood and college experience at Midd. Then he went on to talk about how it is possible to analyze and talk your way out of any opportunity. Greenberger emphasized listening to your inner voice and not letting the data drive the solution but instead letting it support the solution.
1:00: Shabana Basij-Rasikh ’11 graduated from Midd last May. She was named to Galamour Magazine’s Top Ten College Woman List, in part for her incredible story getting to to Midd including attending a secret school in Afghanistan under Taliban rule disguised as a boy. She talked about her decision to go back to Afghanistan after graduating to live and work at SOLA a private non-profit school of leadership in Afghanistan where 22 students representing 13 provinces attend. Her friend warned, “It would take a single bullet to get rid of you in Afghanistan…just because people there don’t like that you are an educated woman.” But she decided to go anyways where she said, “Because of these girls [at SOLA] I can lead the path that i have chosen to take, its because of the courage of these girls.” She ended with something her father, a general in the Afghan military, told her: “You don’t embrace risk, you fight it.”
1:22: The walls here are covered with pictures of Middlebury kids telling stories of embracing risk. The organizers screened the TED talk that inspired this project, JR’s Prize wish, using art to turn the world inside out. “I wish for you to stand up for what you care about.” You can view that video here.
1:50: Peggy McIntosh is the associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and the SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) project. She introduced her talk by describing her experience at an academic conference in which 17 women began their talks with “apologies.” She had a two fold reaction of anger that women “feel like frauds” for their success but also admits that women may feel uncomfortable because of “the fraudulence of in the public roles we are asked to play.” She discussed the multitude of issues of hierarchy and success in America in which “the top is narrow” and those at the the top are unaware of the established systems that “carry a few to the pinnacles.” She then elaborated on the “internalized oppression” in which many internalize societies’ roles and feel fraudulent when they succeed in an arena in which they are not “supposed” to succeed according society.
2:10: Jeffrey Blount is the Emmy Award Winning, Senior Director at NBC New Washington (way to go TEDx organizers…) Risk, he says, is cold and without any humor. Jeffrey describes how he was raised in a southern town going through integration. How families and communities gathered in fear groups, afraid of the violence, afraid for their lives. He described climbing on the bus the first day of school, terrified. By embracing this risk, they were able to stand up for education, for the American Dream. There is a difference, Blount says, between taking a risk and taking a chance. A chance is much easier. “I took a risk to show my intellect. I did succeed. I competed. I proved I could be as smart as any kid, no matter what the color.” Risk is about “grabbing some hope and a prayer, and embracing those opportunities to make a better you.”
2:35: Dan Choi, a West Point grad who served in Iraq under the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law, came out on national TV after returning home. He gave an impassioned speech today about standing up for yourself, explaining that in order to live the “Love thy neighbor” commandment in the Bible, you have to love yourself first. He said, “Be proud of who you are, have no shame in who you are.” He also spoke about dealing with your adversaries while standing up for yourself. He said, “When you talk about liberation, when you talk about being free, it’s because you have confronted the person who judges you most.” This talk was super intense, if you missed it I would recommend watching it on the Middlebury TEdx’s website when they post them in the next few days.
3:10: Andrea Bartoli “stumbled into” helping bring peace to Mozambique and then “stumbled into” teaching peacemaking at the university level. He began his talk by saying, “When we think about peace we think about something calm, something nice, the tranquility of order.” But then he elaborated on the complexity peace in reality. He said, “How many of the leaders tomorrow are prisoners today? We must promote peace and make the world as it should be, could be.” During the three minutes of open reflection at the end of his talk (they’ve been doing that after every talk), he spoke about the importance of silence to let the power of the words and information of each speaker sink in to a deeper level.
3:33: Evan Lyon is a physician and activist with Partners in Health focusing on the right to health in poor communities, particularly working on HIV and TB care. Over the past hundred years, he says, we have turned a corner in civil and political rights. What Dr. Lyon described, however, is a continued flawed system of health rights. People are still getting unnecessarily sick, are still very isolated and ostracized by things other than bacteria and genetics. Human relationships, economics, and social conditions are what cause us to become sick. One of the riskiest and most important pieces of this work, he says, is not to run from compassion. “Compassion is not charity, it is not sympathy, it is struggling alongside someone so deeply that their problems become your own.” Only by promoting compassion can we begin to break down these structures and systems that create illnesses and begin to make true change.
3:55: The organizers shared a fascinating TED talk from Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, on the functioning of brains in extreme neurological disorders. She tells the fascinating story of her stroke and near-death experience.
4:20 Jeanne Meserve, wife of earlier speaker Jeffrey Blount, talked about her experience covering Hurricane Irene for CNN. She described the rush of standing in a hurricane and “feeling the raw force of nature.” She talked about sitting in her hotel room during Irene after realizing even though the Hurricane had past, the worst was yet to come and thinking, “I was going to die here.” She elaborated on the experience saying,”This made me realize emotionally I was not as resilient as I’d like to think I was.” She talked about our reliance on calling 911, and our misguided confidence that someone will come and bail us out if anything bad happens. But, she said, “In a major crisis they won’t be there, and the bigger the crisis the less likely they will be there.” So, she said, “Risk is a part of your life whether you want it or not. You should get ready for it. Because someday, something, something is going to happen.” She mentioned an example of this on YouTube: Boatlift, which shows how a group of people responded to the 9/11 attacks.
4:40: Amy Kaslow,a senior fellow at the Council on Competitiveness and reporter for various newspapers and magazines throughout her career presented on taking risks in jobs and future careers, a topic particularly pertinent to soon-to-be graduates of Middlebury College. She made a passionate plea for taking risks in jobs, in decision making throughout your life. A lot of people (read: Occupy Wall Street) are unhappy with the economic situation in America, and that makes our choices now all the more important. As joblessness increases and low wages stick around, Kaslow strongly advised for entrepreneurship and innovation in science and technology fields. No matter how unprepared you feel in life, you have to take the plunge.
5:33: Bill McKibben, a climate activist and writer, spoke passionately today about alieviating the risk of climate change on our world today. Climate change 20 years ago was a risk, but now, now it is a certainty. In the last year, he told us, we have seen what happens in the early stages in global warming. Droughts, floods, widespread fires, and hurricanes have shown us that climate change is happening, and it is happening now. Industry and oil companies use the atmosphere as a sewer where they and others can dump their waste for free. Now, McKibben says, we have a Congress that relies more on ideology than chemistry or physics. McKibben is asking us, everyone, to stand up to the challenge and taking the risk of demanding change. Things like going to jail seem less risky compared to the greatest risk of all- doing nothing.
5:50 Phil Kaye started out performing a beautiful poem he wrote called “Repetition.” He then explained that, “I am a full time spoken word poet. The best way to describe that is I tell stories.” He then spoke about his journey to answer the question, “How do you tell a good story?” and pushing that even further, “Why do we tell stories?” By the end of the talk, he came to the conclusion, “We tell stories to feel alive.” He explains, “We like to think our lives are predictable, we think can plot or lives out, but there is this big deep unkown out there. It makes us vulnerable.” And that vulnerability, he said, is what makes us feel alive.”The act of telling a story is an act of vulnerability in and of itself,” he says, and teaches us to embrace the vulnerability and risk. He concluded take the risk and “don’t be afraid to be vulnerable enough to tell your story.” He then ended with his poem teeth. Definitely one of my favorite speakers of the day, he put together a moving and cogent talk.
6:15: Tim Parsons avoids risk when he can. He is the landscape horticulturarist for Middlebury, and the one in charge of taking care of the trees and landscaping on campus. Tim told us that trees die slowly, as they die, they close off their sick part, and it is his job to make sure they dont fall on some kid leaving the grille with a Love Me Tender. He climbs up trees with chainsaws and cuts the dead parts off. While this story in of it self is a story of risk, Tim advocated, through his own actions, that you must be an active participant in your own life. He has a pronounced stuttor, but, he told us, that this talk is not a risk. Sitting on his couch, doing nothing, and learning no new skills, that is the real risk.
6:30: Conor Shapiro is president and CEO of the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides healthcare and education in rural communities in Haiti. Conor described how, initially, he noticed how many people were dying from AIDS, a disease that is treatable in developed countries. Instead of giving up hope on these or many other patients throughout the earthquake, the hopital took in these individuals. Conor’s talk tied in very well with Evan Lyon’s talk on global health and structural violence. In the end of his talk, Conor pushed us not to think cost effectively as we sympathize with those who need our help the most.
7:01: Wow! The full day of speakers has come to an end. I think most people in the audience are both inspired and totally fried. People are now reflecting on the lecture as a whole, and hitting on general themes that came out of the talks like compassion, empathy, and the importance of connecting with the people behind the statistics, headlines, and truisms. Along those lines, much of the advice and abstract thoughts thrown out at us today were helpful and encouraging to us college students as the day we enter the “real” world approaches, but the most powerful moments for me were the personal stories that spoke for themselves and unassumingly hit on the those universal themes mentioned above.