TEDxAU encourages audience to ‘Transform’

The event, which was held on Feb. 27, featured speeches from eleven speakers on a variety of topics

TEDxAU encourages audience to ‘Transform’

Attendants at this year's TEDx event. Courtesy of Frances Burkham, TEDxAmericanUniversity

AU’s third annual TEDx event took place on Feb. 27 at the Katzen Arts Center, showcasing the ideas of eleven speakers on topics including gender equality, identity issues, hunger and poverty, and health and wellness.

The day long event had three sessions, all focused on the overarching theme, Transform. The first speaker, Melissa Bradley, director of the Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiative and Executive in Residence at the Kogod School of Business, spoke about how having women in leadership roles greatly contributes to the success of a company and can be beneficial for all.

“If we are able to change the negative narrative about women and girls and eradicate the fear that comes with their power and potential, then imagine how much better we can make society,” Bradley said. “We can change the negative narrative of all marginalized communities in the U.S. and beyond.”

One of the attendees at Saturday’s event, Melanie Coffin, who has previously volunteered for TEDx events like TEDxMidAtlantic, thought that Bradley’s talk was one of the best of the day. Coffin, who currently works as a consultant in D.C., enjoys the experience of attending TEDx events and always keeps an open-mind about the speakers, she said.

“It’s the people I have never ever heard of or know about that inspire me. I don’t usually focus on, ‘oh I must hear this speaker,’ because it’s the ways that people touch others’ lives, you would never guess,” Coffin said.

During the second session, Patrick Malone, the director of the Key Executive Leadership Programs in the School of Public Affairs, spoke about the importance of taking time out for others in today’s fast-paced society.

“Taking the time is not a distraction. It is life itself,” Malone said. “So please, take the time. It may change someone’s life. It may change yours, and if you’re really lucky, it may just do both at the same time.”

The last session included speakers such as Erin Thomas, a group fitness instructor and personal trainer, and a first year student in SPA and the School of International Service, who explained the need to lead a healthy lifestyle. She discussed the negative impact of being obsessed with weight-loss like she had been a few years ago.

“Listen to your body,” Thomas said. “Pay attention to how you feel after workouts and after your meals, what makes you feel on top of the world and what makes you want to crawl under a rock and never come out.”

Additionally, Kara Andrade, a PhD student at the School of Communication and a researcher, journalist and entrepreneur, talked about coming to the U.S. from Guatemala as an undocumented immigrant when she was a little girl and the struggle immigrants often face in finding their identities. There is no specific plan that can be followed to reach success and everyone must live in the moment first to be able to figure out who they are and what their next move might be, according to Andrade.

“You don’t need a map, it’s contradictory to everything that’s being said to you. You don’t need a map, you don't need a plan,” Andrade said. “What you do need is to be present in your life, breathe into your life every moment, and project from there where you need to be.”

The final speaker of the day was Deon Jones, an advocate for the wellness of young people who is working on connecting Americans with well-paying technology jobs as a member of the TechHire Initiative announced by President Obama in March 2015.

Jones spoke about how being a mentor to someone can turn that person’s life around and give them hope.

“When you make the decision to care, when we make the decision to be a rainbow in someone else’s life, a young man can live with the hope of being the next president of the United States instead of the fear of being the next Michael Brown,” Jones said.

Katrena Njiki, a freshman in Kogod who attended the event, told The Eagle her biggest takeaway from the day is how people should start working on improving their own lives so they eventually have the power to transform the lives of others.

“I think the most important thing all the talks had is [the idea of] working on yourself, taking your opportunities to develop yourself, therefore you can develop other people,” Njiki said. “The more you know yourself, the more you can help others.”

Maria Rose Belding, a speaker from the second session and a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, spoke to The Eagle after the event and said that age should not be a barrier to having the ability to make a difference. Belding is the co-founder and executive director of the MEANS database, which connects emergency food-providers to donors in locations across the country. Belding even arranged for the leftover food from the TEDx event to be taken to a food pantry in Maryland serving mainly low income seniors instead of it going to waste.

“Anyone who tells you you’re too young to do something is asking to be proven wrong. Take the passion that you use so eloquently on Facebook and Twitter, and take it and do something more,” Belding said.


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