This post is long overdue. On October 29th, I spent a cold, rainy (and eventually slightly snowy) Saturday in D.C with people who are inspired by ideas. I was at TEDxMidAtlantic. It was the first place I've been since college where it was cool to be a nerd (about something). Since one of my professors introduced me to TED, it's been a dream of mine to attend such a gathering. I knew no one and for a while felt like a freshman on the first day of college orientation. Here are some of the things I got out of the deal, besides lots and lots of coffee and Georgetown Cupcake cupcakes.
1. Institutions, by nature, are set up to keep the Status Quo. Expect backlash when you try to do things in a new way. That should, however, never keep you from trying something new. Even if you have to keep trying again and again.- Courtesy of Dr. Jay Parkinson, founder of Hello Health.
2. I was so...umm...excited...chuffed...thrilled...elated to hear Ping Chong speak about his work. i knew nothing about him before this conference. Mr. Chong uses theater to explore a favorite subject of mine: The formation of self-identity for immigrant children and immigrant communities. This "otherness", tip-toeing between 2 worlds and never quite fitting into either. Himself a son of Chinese immigrants to the United States, he talked about how much he struggled with this dual identity until he decided to accept both of them and work with the un-comfortable-ness that goes with the complexities of belonging to both.
I couldn't help but smile the whole way through his entire presentation. He has quite a commending presence.
3. In my position, working with high school students, I'm always thinking of ways to include more student voice into the program. Rebecca Renard works in the DC Public Library. Her talk was on her work with the Summer Youth Employment Program, working alongside youth who often feel overlooked by the community to create resources for teens by teens. I loved her energy on stage.
4. Danielle Brian from POGO brought her perspective from working with both the Democratic and Republican parties to the table. She reminded the audience that partisan lines are drawn thick by the media and other entities who benefit from party divisions. In reality, more would get done if viewers, every day people realized that, if they were to tune out the mud-slinging and the inflamatory portrayal of the "other" party, they would find a lot in common with the person on the other side of the picket line, the aisle or the fence.
5. I close with notes on a fellow Cornell alum (woot!). Duncan Watts is an Engineer turned Sociologist turned Computer Scientist. Ah, to see the brain of this guy. If there's one thing I remember from his talk, it's his "debunking" of the idea that everything is easier than Rocket Science, hence the saying "Come on, it's not Rocket Science". He posits that Social Science might just be harder than Aerospace Engineering. In Engineering, there is more precision than Social Science. You can never predict how people will behave (no matter how hard economists try).
Overall, the intellectual stimulation, the energy and the sense of you-never-know-who-you-might-meet was worth spending a rainy Saturday with a bunch of strangers Can't wait to do it again.
All photos courtesy of TEDxMidAtlantic