What I learned emceeing TEDxWayPublicLibrary
Last night I had the privilege of emceeing the inaugural TEDx event in my current hometown. (TEDx is an initiative of the TED Conference that allows communities to organize local TED-style events.) TEDxWayPublicLibrary was the vision of Natalie Dielman, program coordinator at our incredible local library (I’ve written before about my appreciation for Way Public Library). Natalie organized a planning committee that threw themselves into the task, and the event was sold out a couple weeks ago.
Our theme was “A Community of Ideas,” admittedly broad, but somehow all five presentations, plus the few TED talk videos we featured, together drove home a message about what we can see and hear in the everyday if we just pay closer attention.
C.R. Kasprzyk, a composer finishing his doctorate in music composition and digital media at Bowling Green State University, gave a gorgeous presentation on “Sustainability and Found Composition.” He played his own recordings of walleye, bats, a glacier, ambient city sounds and more (hear samples on his website), and talked about his compositional philosophy of letting his surroundings direct his work, demonstrating how all earthlings (human and otherwise) are connected. Cory has a effervescent charm that really connected with the audience.
Julie Rubini told her personal story about how she was inspired to found Claire’s Day, an annual children’s book festival and literary outreach program that helps thousands of children in our area, after her young daughter died unexpectedly. She has since published Hidden Ohio, and is working on two other books. She was passionate about the transformative power of bringing authors and illustrators face-to-face with kids.
And last night I saw, in person, one man move the arm of another man using a human-human interface. Tim Marzullo, a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Michigan and co-founder of Backyard Brains, gave a mesmerizing, rapid-fire demonstration (involving bilingual slides and an unscripted device repair) of some of his neuroprosthetic research. In less than 20 minutes, he made an incredible case for inexpensive tech and community maker spaces to foster DIY science around the world.
Our city has a top-ranked public school system, but Tom Hosler, school superintendent, argued from statistics and personal experience that public education needs a new model. Instead of giving kids “faster horses,” a la Henry Ford (“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”) it’s time for real innovation in education – and he has a vision more communities should get behind.
We closed with a rousing call to action from Ken Leslie, former professional comedian and founder of 1Matters.org, a national nonprofit that works to house the unhoused. Once a homeless addict, his life was turned around by the realization that “when you feel you matter to no one, go care for someone.” Preaching the “power of one,” he had the whole crowd smiling in minutes (and had me laughing in the Green Room the second he walked in). Moose fist bump, Ken!
It was a great evening for the 100+ of us gathered around the TEDxWayPublicLibrary stage, discussing together how learning to look closer and listen more attentively makes our community more interesting and more humane. So many people came up to me during the breaks to say how excited they were to have access to such a program right in their neighborhood.
It was a bit of a milestone for me too. I’ve spoken in public many times before, but I’ve never introduced the mayor and anchored a 3-hour live event. As an introvert, I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed the back and forth with the audience, the on-the-fly connecting the threads of each presentation, and the general energy of the event. I was exhausted by the end of the night – and still feeling it today, too, if I’m honest – but so glad to have been a part of it. I’m sincerely grateful to Natalie and everyone at the Way for giving me the opportunity.