This year’s TEDxBoulder brought a comic artist, a visual designer and a medical professional to the stage at Macky Auditorium on Sept. 17 and revived the spirit the event is known for. Titled “Discovery & Wonder,” the event was filled with innovative ideas and engaging presentations on subjects ranging from gut bacteria to goal-setting to water as a tool for peace instead of war.
Despite more than a handful of technical difficulties, the night flowed naturally from one act to the next, and the crowd’s enthusiasm encouraged even the most nervous of speakers to open up on stage.
Those who have attended in previous years may have recognized co-host Ash Beckham, who has spoken at TEDxBoulder multiple times and holds the most-watched TEDx talk ever, Coming Out of Your Closet, with over 5.2 million views on YouTube. She started the the night by asking the audience to widen the space between fact and fear, and called it curiosity.
“Be willing to relearn the things you know,” Beckham requested of the audience.
This open-minded perspective lasted throughout the night, as the speakers introduced “ideas worth spreading.” The topics ranged broadly, yet each one spurred a passionate reaction of standing ovations.
Cecilia McDonald, medical professional, focused on her experience being intersex, an umbrella term for people whose reproductive and/or sexual qualities defy typical male-female norms. She urged other intersex people to “come out” in order to help de-stigmatize this reality that affects about 1.7 percent of the human population, and also implored medical professionals and parents to be conscientious when approaching this condition with their patients and children.
The technological side of the night included Michael Allen Nesmith, a visual designer at Amazon. His talk was groundbreaking, as Nesmith is deaf. To adapt to the hearing audience, he performed his speech in American Sign Language while a professional interpreted it aloud. He explored the idea of universal design, discussing how accessibility in every aspect of life — from revolving doors to webpages — ultimately helps everyone, not just those who are disabled.
Toward the end of the event, Leah Pearlman, the creator of the online web series Dharma Comics, talked about growing up as an overachiever. Pearlman said she always strived to be the best in everything she did, but after having worked at tech companies like Facebook, where she helped set up the “like” button system, she realized that drawing comics and self-improvement were what she desired out of life. She suggested that others do the same and follow what makes them happy. She surprised each audience member with a free copy of her latest book Drawn Together, which will officially be available on Oct. 4.
The night included a few other delights for the audience, including a local and organic dinner organized in part by the Boulder Farmers Market with fresh fruit and snack samples. Local band Banshee Tree played after working through technical difficulties to deliver a lively performance with liberal use of the washboard. Boulder transplant Otis Taylor’s bluesy roots jams brought life and soul to the second half of the night with his unique sound on the electric banjo.
Some residence halls attended together, including Kittredge Central, as did many students from CU’s engineering program. TedxBoulder had a little bit of something to pique the interest of every audience member. For those who were unable to attend, the talks will be posted online at Tedx within the next few weeks.
Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Lucy Haggard at Lucy.Haggard@colorado.edu.