I love TED, and I'm surprised that I haven't written about it before on my blog. TED's main objective is to share new ideas in technology, entertainment, and design through a series of lectures. TED conferences are held in various locations, and they are very exclusive and hard to gain access to. (thank goodness so many of the talks are posted online at ted.com) The smartest minds in technology, engineering, biology, etc. come together to discuss their new ideas by means of 'talks'. Being obsessed with innovation, TED is my drug of choice, and I always wished to attend one day.
Well, my big break came when I was snooping around the TED website and I saw a request for applications from students who wished to attend "TEDYouth," the very first conference that TED would do that would be geared towards - you guessed it - youth. Only about 300 kids from the NY would be accepted, and the conference would be broadcast to over 100 locations in 42 countries. I jumped at the chance to attend and sent them an essay without even having my parents proof read it.
I never heard back from TED. I waited over a month. I just assumed my essay wasn't what they were looking for. However, everything changed when the TED people emailed my mom three days before the conference saying that they were trying to get in touch with me via email (maybe I gave them the wrong info?), but I never responded and they needed me to reply so that my spot would not be taken. I think I yelled "YESSSSSS" and my mom emailed them back.
Thus began my epic TED adventure.
Feeling totally out of my league, I got my act together, put on a fierce face, and marched my way over the the Times Center- in heels, no less. Even though I didn't feel worthy of being there, TED thought I was, and that's what mattered.
Many people had already arrived by the time I got there. It was a small space, and everyone was anxious to get in, so there was a bit of weaving your way through crowds and polite pushing. Everyone looked so... smart (if it's possible to look smart). I was just there teetering back and forth on my heels trying to look busy. They had an awesome photo booth set up in the lobby and I used that to pass some time.
(I really like this picture because it accurately depicts how I was feeling.)
While waiting to be let in to the room, I saw a man walking through the crowd talking to various TED attendees. I didn't know who he was until the gentleman in front of me introduced him to his children as "Rives". I turned to my mom and exclaimed "MOM. It's Rives!!!! Rives on 4am Rives!!!" Rives is a poet, and not only has he appeared at TED events 4 times, but he has been on Def Poetry Jam and was a National Poetry Slam champion. I adore him. ("Rives on 4am" is a brilliant talk that you can see here. I definitely recommend it!) My mom tapped him on the shoulder and said "Rives? Hi, my daughter loves you. Would it be okay to get a picture with you?" He was happy to oblige, but to my surprise, after the picture he stayed and talked with me for a couple minutes about... me.
He asked questions like where I was from, what I liked, was I a poet, etc. After four of five minutes he said "Listen, I'm hosting the conference today and I need a co-host for a portion of it. Are you up for it? You would have to introduce a speaker and write a bio..." Well, he said something to that effect. And I said something to the effect of "Y...y....y... yes!? Seriously?"
So, feeling rather surreal, I went with Rives backstage and I got to the conference room early. That's the point where I almost fell of my heels. I sat down in the reserved section--- with all the speakers. MIT's Laura Buchley sat right behind me, along with Mathematician Garth Sundem and spoken word poet Carvens Lissaint (Whom. I. Adore. I have watched his clips on youtube and they've brought me to tears. After the conference I met up with him and he gave me a hug. I LOVE THAT MAN.) With them was also TED's curator Chris Anderson!
The attendees filled into the Times Center, and I started getting a bit jittery. See, not only would I be talking in front of 300+ super smart kids, but I would also be speaking to all the speakers, AND to the thousands of people watching via broadcast in roughly 100 locations. I was feeling the pressure. Nonetheless, I put on a happy face, and asked poor Leah Buechley endless questions about MIT.
As time went on, Rives was letting me know when it was my turn to go up. Three more talks to go... two more talks to go.... you're next, kiddo. It was a shame too, because Chris Anderson gave an incredible presentation that I could pay absolutely no attention to because I so nervous about going onstage. (This talk is entitled "Questions No One Knows The Answers to." However, you can find almost all the answers to them on mormon.com. JUST SAYING.)
Finally the time came and I paraded onstage with Rives- in my heels, no less.. Gahhhhh. It was nerve wracking. He just asked me a few questions about myself, I called myself a technology obsessed fashion nerd, talked about how I hated Biology but loved Robert Full, I introduced Robert Full, and sat down. As soon as I sat down I was congratulated and well wished by everyone around me (who were, of course, these genius TED speakers). My mom leaned over to the poor man next to her and said "I never do this, but THAT"S MY DAUGHTER." Embarrassing. I was glad that I was able to enjoy the rest of the conference, because it was AMAZING. Even though my hands were still shaking from adrenaline for a good half hour.
The rest of the speakers and presenters were incredible.
Kevin Alloca gave an insightful talk about why videos go viral:
(Also, I would like to add that Kevin has the best job in the world. He watches Youtube videos for a living.)
Carvens Lissaint gave this brilliant performance about financial aid, garnering a well-deserved standing ovation:
Adam Savage- the Mythbusters guy! - gave a wonderful talk about inventions. (This was one of my favorite talks of the day- it has really stuck with me.)
David Gallo showed us the amazing surprises that the ocean has to offer. So, story about David- I remember my 8th grade geography teacher showing us one of David's TED talks years ago, and it fascinated me. So getting to meet the man himself was pretty darn cool. He was really nice and he told me a bit about his adventures... you know... visiting the Titanic and whatnot, and having one of the most watched TED talks ever. The best part was when he pulled something out of his jacket pocket and said "See, look at this, this is from the Titanic." This guy has a piece of the Titanic just chilling in his pocket (and he let me hold it).
Sadly, TED hasn't posted these other talks yes, but here are my other favorite speakers:
-Lemon Andersen preformed a chilling spoken word poem, "it ain’t about being heard, just being seen."
-Leah Buechley demonstrated new technology- pens with ink that acts as an electrical conductor. This blew my mind. Like, I was sitting there with my mouth wide open. Think of all the things we can do if we can simply just draw wires! Amazing.
-Juan D. Martinez spoke about how he went from growing up in a dangerous neighborhood to working as a National Geographic explorer. His advice? "Never doubt what you can do."
- For me, Brad Meltzer's talk was the most inspiring. As soon as the video is posted by TED, I'll post it onto here. He told the youth the three ways to change history- dream big, work hard, stay humble.
That, my friends, was my TEDYouth adventure. It was amazing, unreal, and totally awesome.
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