First Georgetown TEDx Event Examines Power
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 19:10
Power was in the air during Georgetown’s first officially licensed TEDx conference, held Friday afternoon in Lohrfink Auditorium.
The event, which invited participants to speak on the topic of “Power 2020,” was modeled after the popular TED talks, a global set of conferences first organized in 1984 to disseminate ideas about technology, entertainment and design. The Georgetown event was designated TEDx because it was organized independently from the TED company.
The conference was separated into four sections with approximately four to five speakers in each. In total, 16 speakers, three of whom were Georgetown students, explored the theme of power in a variety of contexts.
Kendall Ciesemier (COL ’15) was excited to present “Finding Power in Powerlessness.”
“I had always wanted to speak at a TED-affiliated event,” Ciesemier said. “I thought it was very cool to have the opportunity to do so. I go here, and it was cool to share my story with other students.”
Ciesemier focused on how she learned to grow up with a chronic illness that required her to undergo two liver transplants as well as the non-profit organization she started, Kids Caring 4 Kids, which raises money for children in Africa.
“The premise was that in times of powerlessness, we can find power in service to others and we can be powerful for others,” she said.
Another student speaker, Chase Meachum (COL ’14), focused on the power of communication. He related his experience producing a play in which half the cast spoke in sign language and the other half in words.
“Look at the conversation that we’ve started,” Meachum said of the production. “It’s all around us and it’s silent.”
The final Georgetown speaker, Caspian Tavallali (SFS ’14) discussed a transparent, open forum that he invented where students can communicate investment ideas and become involved in the market buzz.
“Finance has lost the human element, and this is where social media comes in,” he said. “It fills in the holes created by the current financial system.”
Georgetown professors also spoke at the event.
Daniel Blair, a professor in the department of physics, approached the topic through a scientific lens with a demonstration on “oobleck,” a combination of cornstarch and water. His presentation, “Squishy Power,” described the difference between hard and soft power. He engaged the audience by giving everyone a piece of paper and then asking them to crunch it up and pull it back to its original shape, emphasizing that changing the paper made it stronger.
Guest speakers also engaged the audience.
Local bartender Derek Brown had a unique approach to the topic: He focused on society’s use of alcohol in his presentation, “Power Drinking.”
“When we come together and drink, we become equals,” Brown said.
Many of the speakers worked to actively engage the audience in their presentations.
Andrew Yang, founder of Venture for America, a firm that matches start-up companies with job-searching students, questioned the audience’s assumptions about powerful careers.
“[There’s this idea that] you must become a baller before you come back and change the world,” Yang said.
Globalization also featured prominently in the talks. Chief Digital Officer for Forbes Media Mike Smith lectured on the power of media in an increasingly globalized world.
“In the U.S., there are 16 billion searches in Google every month. The way these searches are sold are through auctions to advertisers who then target individuals who have the potential to be interested in their ads,” Smith said.
Maureen Orth, an award-winning journalist and special correspondent for Vanity Fair, addressed globalization’s impact in Latin America.
Orth became a Peace Corps volunteer at age 21 and traveled to Medellin, Colombia, where she built three schools that now support over 1,200 students.
“It is very exciting to see how fast Latin America is developing,” Orth said. “The town I worked in actually became the first Wi-Fi village in Colombia, and I hope that the U.S. and other nations will recognize Latin America’s growing impact.”
Students said they appreciated the talks throughout the day, especially ones that fit their specific interests.
“I really liked Maureen Orth,” Katie Farrell (COL ’16) said. “I found her even more inspiring because I’m interested in Latin American affairs.”