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TED Descends Upon CU


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At universities TED talks can be edgy teaching tools, allowing students to recognize and relate to speakers as they deliver inspirational messages dealing with common problems. This weekend the University of Colorado hosted its 2nd annual TEDxCU event, giving students the chance to attend a talk live. TED has been around since the late ‘80s, and with a reputation for mind-blowing speeches it was no surprise that the show sold out fast—over 300 students and members of the community were in attendance. The theme was “Onwards and Upward,” and the chosen speakers discussed overcoming challenges and persevering to achieve their dreams; with topics ranging from sex to sustainability, there was something for everyone.

Jeff Donaldson opened the event “My Voyage With Fear.” It documented his past dealing with failed business endeavors, lost opportunities and how he eventually learned to stop fearing the unknown. His inspiriting advice moved the crowd, and he ended his speech by asking the group, “What are you missing out on?”

That intriguing question kicked off the night and led the way for more inspirational thinking. TEDx is designed to promote thought and discussion on a local and regionalized scale, and the following talks were a great way to connect the university with the community. A case in point, Toby Russell, CEO of Natural Capitalism Solutions, spoke about sustainable recovery after natural disasters, a talk influenced by his personal experience of the September 2013 flooding.  Noting that everyone was affected by the flooding in one way or another, Russell presented ways to rebuild safer and stronger.

TEDxCU also showcased speakers with ties to the university. A familiar face around campus, Professor Ken Anderson discussed the shear power of data, and the connection between technology and help after a crisis. The smartphone, apparently, has become the strongest tool to understand and overcome a catastrophic event in this century. When Matthieu Talpe, a grad student at CU, explained that he was going to be talking about the relationship between gravity and climate change, he was met with looks of mass confusion and fear of a potential math problem. His speech, however, offered a new take on climate change that made complete sense—and it was refreshing to hear a student’s perspective.

Michelle Weiner-Davis, the director of the Divorce Busting Center, was excited to present her topic to young people on a college campus, she spoke about saving relationships, and not just the ones between married couples, “Humans are hardwired for connection,” she said, and any relationship between two people calls for mutual understanding. Her message was simple, “We have to take better care of each other, it makes the world a better place.” So, TEDxCU paradoxically inspired people to recognize the power of their smartphones and value human connection at the same time.

Students were given a great opportunity to collaborate with amazing speakers from the region because, as per tradition, TEDxCU is put on entirely by undergraduates and graduates from the University of Colorado. From building the set to choosing the speakers, students were in control. When sorting through the speaker applications they looked for “people with interesting ideas that weren’t just pitching a business,” said student Kevin Zell.

TED is about ‘ideas worth spreading.’ And spread they did—during intermission people could be overheard chatting with one another about the talks’ main points, and before long complete strangers were sharing their hopes and fears with each other.

Speakers included Scott Smith; an economist, Jeff Donaldson; with over 20 years in marketing, Andi O’Connor; public speaking coach, Michelle Weiner-Davis; Director of The Divorce Busting Center, Ken Anderson; Associate Professor at the University of Colorado, Matthieu Talpe; PhD. Student at the University of Colorado, and Toby Russell; CEO of Natural Capitalism Solutions.

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