Written by: Kendra Poole (student)
I think many would agree that ship days can be some of the best days – especially when there’s something as evocative, moving, and thought-provoking as a TEDx event to attend. Some of my favorite days on SAS have been the days right after port once we’ve reboarded the ship. If you stand on the sixth deck for even fifteen minutes, you’re likely to hear a collection of some of the best, most colorful and most passionate stories about everything from visits to a Bulgarian orphanage to broken bar stools in Italy to rug salesmen in Istanbul. All this sharing seems to be how we process our experiences, how we learn to appreciate them, and how we determine what comes next. All this sharing complements very well TED’s tagline of “Ideas Worth Spreading.”
Semester at Sea’s first TEDx event reminded me of one these ship days: different ideas, different backgrounds, and, most importantly, different stories melding and merging to create an exploration of (to borrow terminology from our speaker Drew Kahn) our shared humanity. SAS’s TEDx speakers expanded upon this general theme: “Live with purpose, work with purpose, travel with purpose” Each speaker (and probably each pianist who performed, as well) approached these ideas from his or her unique standpoint.
Part of the objective of TEDx events is to bring together speakers and artists from different walks of life with different value systems and ideas. Similarly, the goal of Semester at Sea involves diversifying student perceptions of the global community and bringing together people from various backgrounds with varying ideas of how the world works and the how the world should work.
Drew Kahn, a Professor of Theater at Buffalo State College, shared his experiences in Rwanda, titling his talk “Finding Anne Frank in Rwanda.” Kahn talked about the power of theater and story-telling and how and where the arts can heal the affects of, intervene in, and prevent genocide. Kahn emphasized our shared humanity, noting that the human genome project proves we are all 99.9% alike. It was this point that really resonated me. The idea that we all have both the potential for immense greatness and the potential for terrifying failure seemed the perfect platform on which to begin the evening. Kahn communicated that this simple statistic declaring our shared past and shared future is part of the reason we so desperately need to tell stories and hear stories told.
Lyndsi Sherman, a senior at San Diego State University, spoke next and shared some of her tips for a happy, healthy life. John-Paul Sullivan, a Bryant University student of finance and economics, shared his thoughts and plans regarding financial literacy. Tyler Blevins and Shane Sims performed on the piano between talks.
The evening’s final speaker was Jeffrey Frank, the CEO, CFO of Panel Point Systems, who shared his company’s experiences and successes with a new technology aiding the quick, efficient building of homes in Kenya and Rwanda.
I came out of TEDx with more ideas than I could process – ideas of my own, ideas borrowed from others, and ideas that were some delightful and eccentric combination of the two. I feel that Semester at Sea students really are some of the brightest thinkers and to not involve them in a more global network of thinkers and activists would be to do both them and the network a disservice. Part of TED’s mission is to make ideas – and a venue for sharing ideas – accessible to all. I know I’ve had countless ideas generated on this voyage, both in port and on the ship. Some of these are (literally) lost in translation. Others are cooped up in the pages of my journal or immobilized in a photograph. But still others are working their way to my lips, waiting for times like a TEDx event to be voiced.