CITY LIFE Amy Young speaking at TEDx Tacoma on Saturday, March 21, 2015. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

Published on April 6th, 2015 | by M. Morford

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A maturing TEDxTacoma shares nuanced local perspective

As a college-level writing and public speaking instructor I have watched, shown, and discussed literally hundreds of TED Talks.

Many, if not most, hover in the territory between useful and inspiring.

But on some level TED Talks are inherently and deeply strange; individuals share their passions and discoveries with one audience seen and another vast, unseen audience far removed in time and space. TED Talks are free to watch online, but fairly expensive to attend in person.

Maria Oszova Johnson (green jacket) and Olivia Anderson team up to speak at TEDx Tacoma on Saturday, March 21, 2015. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

Maria Oszova Johnson (green jacket) and Olivia Anderson team up to speak at TEDx Tacoma on Saturday, March 21, 2015. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

 

In other words, TED Talks are immediate, personal, local, and they aren’t.

Karen Povey speaking at TEDx Tacoma on Saturday, March 21, 2015. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

Karen Povey speaking at TEDx Tacoma on Saturday, March 21, 2015. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

TED Talks have been parodied, mocked, and attacked, but as we all know, mockery and mimicry are perhaps the greatest compliments.

TED Talks, perhaps like no other public forum in human history, explore, explain, and sometimes muddle through the deepest fears, highest hopes, and clumsiest (though occasionally clarified) aspirations. Problems and dilemmas seem, if not soluble, at least approachable when aired publicly.

Our threats – from plastic in our oceans, genetically modified foods, energy production, racism, crime, injustice and many more – may not be resolved, but at least we can name them and by doing that, take something like ownership. TED Talks might be that still pool of decency and encouragement we need, even in an online world.

I’d love to attend a TED Conference, in fact I’d love to give an official TED Talk, but for now I’m content with TED Talks online and my local TEDx.

TEDx is not a TED conference, it is a one-day experience of shorter, more local, more practical and more connected talks.

The presenters of the March 21, 2015 TEDx Tacoma were, almost without exception, touching, inspirational, and memorable. The thing that struck me the most was the abundance of intriguing people we have close at hand.

 

I usually think of Tacoma as relatively separate from the flow of ideas and work in the rest of the country. TEDx proved me wrong. In that one afternoon session we had representatives from JBLM, Microsoft, University of Washington, law enforcement, nonprofits, local business, and much more.

Charles "Chip" Huth speaking at TEDx Tacoma on Saturday, March 21, 2015. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

Charles “Chip” Huth speaking at TEDx Tacoma on Saturday, March 21, 2015. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

 

We heard working people, retired military, and an articulate 11 year old. We heard about programs with a focus on change management and the 7000 Languages project – an effort to save and support the 7000 languages “of little or no commercial interest.”

I look forward to our local TEDx team uncovering ever more interesting and influential people from our rich cultural landscape to share their secrets and discoveries.

Maria Chávez speaking at TEDx Tacoma on Saturday, March 21, 2015. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

Maria Chávez speaking at TEDx Tacoma on Saturday, March 21, 2015. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

 

Although it’s clear that TEDx Tacoma has matured and grown in sensitivity over it’s five year history, at the recent event I still wanted more; I kept wondering, “Where are the young people?” “Where are the college students? The high school students?”

Where are those engaged with local institutions like our parks, our schools, our city, county, and nonprofit agencies?

Where are those who would speak to our deep and rich historical identity?

Where are the local entrepreneurs, poets, artists, visionaries, prophets and critics?

Every one of these expresses their love of their community in different ways – some of us paint, some write or work or suffer, and some of us speak. Some of these people are our neighbors and some of their work is across the world, but either way, they open our eyes to new visions within our reach.

Dean Burke speaking at TEDx Tacoma on Saturday, March 21, 2015. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

Dean Burke speaking at TEDx Tacoma on Saturday, March 21, 2015. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

 

TEDx is the opportunity to do what TED Conferences could never do; put a name and a face and a starting point on local, immediate, and personal hopes, needs, fears, and possibilities.

My suggestion to the Tacoma TEDx team (and perhaps all TEDx teams) is to continue to move in this direction; to speak with local voices, to speak to local concerns and issues, and to open the doors to those who are not already familiar with TED or could not justify the cost.

The goal for Tacoma 2016 TEDx is to fill the Pantages Theater. This could easily be done.

TEDx could give us local, practical and immediate tools, faces, names, agencies, and neighborhood groups to make our communities deeper, richer, safer and more reflective of who we are.

Here is the TED mission statement:

TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, we’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.

TEDx is where hand meets hand, and each individual meets his or her community, and where now emerges from the past and congeals into the future and we become what we never imagined possible.

May it always be so.

See all of John Froschauer’s photographs from TEDxTacoma

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About the Author

Writer, teacher, community story-teller, poet, advocate of the oddities of earthly existence. Scavenger of the unlikely.



2 Responses to A maturing TEDxTacoma shares nuanced local perspective

  1. J F Ward says:

    This review is a nice explication of the TED aspiration summarized in its stated objective:

    “TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.”

    Unfortunately, the simple assertion of community or shared passion does not actually create one. True community, like civilization more broadly, recognizes its rootedness in a reality beyond time and space, a thought captured neatly in this quote from a Wall Street Journal review of Rob Riemen’s book “Nobility of Spirit” (Yale, 2008):

    “‘There can be no civilization without the realization that human being have a double nature…they have a physical, earthly existence but are distinguished from other animals by also having a spiritual being and by knowing the world of ideas’. It is the role of thinkers and writers, he believes, to serve as guardians of our spiritual nature and as custodians of timeless values, cultivating ‘truth, goodness and beauty’ as well as ‘freedom and justice, love and charity’. Therein lies the essence of human dignity and human freedom—the source of the spirit’s nobility.”

    If the TED movement is to have lasting significance, it must move beyond its aspirations to true culture-making that shapes the human spirit.

  2. Daws says:

    as a young person, I don’t feel that young people r deprived of opportunities to talk. we’re loud, savvy with contemporary pop-communication and favored by marketers

    TED is great for introducing conventional, well-tested wisdom and wise people to channels favored by youngsters, lest we institutionalize the teenage tendency to presume the novelty of all personal experience

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