Monday, April 18, 2011


I recently gave up seven hours of my life to attend TEDxMileHigh, the first official unofficial TED event within my reach. The actual TED is held in my hometown of Long Beach, California (so cruel!) but they only invite world-renowned brainiacs with an extra $6,000 and I do not fit into that narrow category....yet.

If you are unfamiliar with TED, you must change that immediately. TED is an acronym for technology, entertainment and design and it exists as a forum for people with fascinating stories, insights and ideas about the world. Each presenter has about 20 minutes to tell their incredibly profound story or make their case for change.

Thankfully, all the talks are featured online so us poor dullards can enjoy them as well. I used to be in the habit of watching one a day and need to pick that up again. I randomly chose this talk by Caroline Casey yesterday and was left speechless, clutching a tissue. (StoryCorps has a similar affect on me.)

The TEDxMileHigh line-up was pretty good (15 speakers, two talented musicians and two mind-blowing poets) although it felt like a couple of motivational commencement speeches found their way into the program. But for the most part, I was inspired. Every speaker on the program seemingly had some connection to Colorado, either by birth, education or work and the theme was "Inspired Citizenship."

Some of my favorites:

Libby Birky, Co-Founder, SAME Cafe, a donation-only restaurant: She spoke about food justice and recognizing the homeless as worthwhile human beings, each with their own story. ("Beware the everyday brutality of the averted gaze.")

Governor John Hickenlooper: The Looper! He spoke about the need for positivity in communication and the harsh realities of the political machine, about how the dire budget realities have forced some welcome compromise. ("We don't have the luxury to tear each other apart.") He also told a great shark joke and asked us to go out and teach a child to read. We were so happy he stopped by.

Bernard Amadei, Professor of Civil Engineering, CU Boulder & Founder of Engineers Without Borders: Despite a thick French accent, his passion was crystal clear. He ran around the stage, bursting with enthusiasm and ideas - it was astounding. He talked about "technology for the soul" and how 90% of Africa lives in the dark. ("You know what you get what you have no electricity? BABIES. Lots and lots of them.") 

Robyn O'Brien, Author, The Unhealthy Truth: My friend, Val, had sent me a link to her TED talk the previous week and I was floored. When she walked onstage in Denver, I was stoked to hear it again. She's been called "food's Erin Brokovich" and if you eat food and have kids or organs that you are fond of, you really REALLY need to watch this.

Theo Wilson ("Lucifury") & Bobby Lefebre, Poetry Slam Artists: Incredible. Articulate. Inspiring. Somebody made a smart decision to include them...BRAVO!

Hunter Lovins, President and Founder, the Natural Capitalism Solutions (NCS), Professor of Sustainable Management, Bainbridge Graduate Institute: This woman is what they call, "scary smart" and other speakers that day referenced her work time and time again.

Nathaniel Rateliff, Musician: Wonderful. A cross between Kris Kristofferson and M. Ward.

Allen Lim, Director of Sports Science, Team RadioShack: If anyone is obsessed with cycling, it's Allen. After he managed to turn his passion into a career, he found he no longer had time for cycling, only travel. He took us along on his journey to live the mantra: "Just ride." Beautiful and clever. 

Many thanks to the organizers, volunteers and the other local brainiacs who showed up. I'm looking forward to more and also, presenting myself someday.

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