Just a few months ago, I learned about the TED conferences. I'm pretty sure I heard about it through a friend on Twitter who was going to one, and the more I looked into it, the more I loved the videos I found on the website. So, I started watching the videos, usually downloading them and sticking them onto my iPod to watch whenever. At some point, I found a few videos that I thought my son, Steven, would like. Turns out, he did: Gever Tulley, Sir Ken Robinson, etc.
So TEDx is just locally organized events carrying on the spirit of TED. I was so excited when I found out that there was one being organized locally. This one was called TEDxTriangleNC, and I am only sorry that I did not get involved in it sooner. It lived up to my expectations and then some.
I should say early that I brought my 12 year-old, Steven, with me. There's a story behind it, and if you want to hear it, just drop me a line, I'll be happy to tell it! I wasn't entirely sure of the speaker/topic list beforehand, but I wanted him to go to one of these inspiring and thought-provoking conferences. Steven was a hit, as basically the only young adult (I don't think I am allowed to call him a child any more!) in the audience. Zach Ward, the MC, caught on to him pretty quickly, and even had him read the lunch menu and acknowledgment.
The early set of talks on technology were particularly fun and relevant for me. Andy Hunt gave a great talk on sketching for mind mapping, basically. I hoped that it spoke to my 12 year-old, because he struggles with remembering stuff :) I was excited to see him talk because as a technical (and passionate!) tester, I certainly know his work, and knew he lives locally, but have never connected with him.
I have to say, though, I was on pins and needles, the hair standing up on the back of my neck, when one guy gave a talk titled, "Where are the fathers?" Here I sat in the audience, next to my 12 year-old son. A child who has basically never known his biological father, a statistic that I have fought since the day I found out that I, at the time a sophomore in college living with her parents, have fought since the day I found out I was pregnant. Here he presented a slew of statistics: most people in jail grew up in fatherless homes, most drug addicts grew up in fatherless homes, a dozen or more of these. "Where are the positive statistics?" I wondered, while I sat, watching my son intently. He later said it was his favorite talk because he could relate to it.
Hugh Hollowell, of Love Wins Ministries, gave a talk about the chronically homeless, and their lack of relationships, that both stuck with me and gave rise to many questions from me. Luckily, I had the opportunity to find him at the after-party and talk with him.
There was also a woman who read a poem she wrote after a horrifying near-car accident, where a car slid across the highway in front of her several times, with her own children and another's child in the car with her (geez, I can't remember her name!). David Beaver talked about the "Overview Effect", experienced by only those people who have the ability to see the Earth from space, and just how minimizing it is for their perspective of our day-to-day issues.
Funnily, I also got to connect with the group of people organizing the local Pecha Kucha night, here in Raleigh. It was great, because I had sent an email and volunteered mine and Steven's services for whatever they needed, and when one of the ladies heard me talking, she realized that I was the person she had been exchanging emails with! *THIS* is a *fantastic* group of people, and I am so excited to have met them, and I look forward to building relationships with them from here on out.
In short, I have decided that I absolutely LOVED TEDx because of this: it exposed me to people who are *passionate* about *something*, most of them involved in things other than software development. I love my software development community and connections there, both remotely and locally, but it was a really amazing experience to have a day to spend with other people who are just *passionate*. I feel like we run into many many people all the time who are just going through the motions, and I feel like finding others who have a passion and follow it is the exception, not the rule, unfortunately. At TEDx, I got to find a *bunch* of these people, and I am exceptionally grateful for that.
OH! I should mention one other thing .... in bringing the token young adult, I got connected with Ashley Cooper, who lives in Asheville, NC, but who is organizing a TEDx *youth* event out there. Of course, I gushed about what an awesome idea I thought that was, and just how much I loved that TED was reaching out to young adults. Before I knew it, she was introducing me to others as the "person who is organizing a local TEDx youth event here in Raleigh!" It makes me chuckle, but seriously, I am going to do that. I am scared out of my mind that I won't have what it takes to organize this, but I *so* want to see it happen. I really think that kids should be seeing these types of things and getting involved, and I look forward to being a part of that locally. If you want to help, *please*, *please* let me know ... I've got a couple of people who have volunteered, but will need plenty more.