At last week’s TEXxMileHigh gathering at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Governor John Hickenlooper made a simple request of the people of Colorado: Teach one child how to read.
He told the 1600 or so gathered to hear “20 of the state’s leading thinkers and doers” that half the third graders in Colorado can’t read. “If you can’t read, what can you do?” Hickenlooper asked.
He challenged everyone in the room to go to their local school and volunteer to teach a child to read.
The day-long symposium was focused primarily on themes of sustainability and working together to solve common problems. Speakers were also focused on inspiring audience members to get involved in the world and take “inspired actions”.
What is TED, you ask?
TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.
TED has taken off in the last few years as many TED speeches have been posted online for free viewing. Most speeches run from 5 to 15 minutes, making them accessible even to harried Americans.
TEDx is a local version of TED, organized by local people for local audiences.
A few random thoughts from this year’s Denver speakers:
Bernard Amadei, professor of engineering at CU Boulder and founder of Engineers Without Borders, said the world will not be rid of outer poverty until it vanquishes inner poverty.
He said every person needs a personal mission statement.
Hickenlooper said the United States is unique in that “we own our government. If you are dissatisfied, you have the control to change it.” He challenged people to turn their enemies into friends and to avoid negativity.
Quoting Lincoln, he asked “Do I not conquer my enemies when I make them my friends?”
He said 80 percent of political advertising is negative, but that negative ads only work in the short-term. He said when he began running for governor in January 2010, he initially led in the polls by 10-12 points but as soon as negative ads began airing against him, the race tightened to dead heat, where it remained until the other candidates self-destructed.
In politics, he said, no one cares about the long-term, but only about the next election. “At this point in history,” he said people can disagree but ultimately need to work together. “We don’t have the option to tear each other apart,” he said.
Robyn O’Brien, author of “The Unhealthy Truth” about the state of food in America recounted her tale of going from food industry executive to the mother of a child with food allergies to healthy food activist.
She challenged audience members: “Each of us has something we are uniquely good at. Combine that with something you are passionate about and you have rocket fuel,” she said.
Casey Sheahan, president and CEO of Patagonia, talked about his company’s drive to be more transparent so that customers can learn online exactly how products are made, from what materials, and using what kind of labor. He said people can view their factories online.
Beseeching people to generate less waste and walk more lightly on the planet, he said, “We want you to buy less stuff from us.”
Olympic skier Jeff Olson noted that there is “a big difference between success and fulfillment.”
Perhaps echoing Olson, fellow athlete Allen Lim, director of sport science for the Radio Shack professional cycling team, said that “Ambition is very easy to hide behind until one day you realize that is all you have.”
He challenged people to “reignite” their passions.
Talking about corporate change, longtime Colorado sustainability advocate and author Hunter Lovins said “Hypocrisy is the first step to real change.”
By which she meant that corporations often begin claiming to be
green long before they really are and that as they see consumers respond to their green message they actually start becoming more green.
Below are videos from two national TED events.
Here, Jackson Browne sings “If I could be anywhere”.
Here, in what is billed as the greatest TED talk ever sold, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock talks about the insidious nature of branding and corporate sponsorships: