TEDx brings celebrities and dissidents together on campus

September 27, 2012

At TEDx this year, Georgetown students can finally realize their dreams of learning what power is.

TEDx (Technology, Entertainment, and Design with the ‘x’ denoting an independent event) Georgetown, a part of the larger TED organization, is an event where various speakers will come to Georgetown on Sept. 28 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. to speak about power and its various forms. Launched by Richard Saul Warman and Harry Marks in 1984, TEDx events focus on the concept of “ideas worth spreading.”

The planning for TEDx began during the spring semester of 2012, but the exact shape of the event was not formed until the TEDx team obtained some speakers.

“When we started looking for our speakers, we really didn’t have necessarily a set idea in mind of exactly who we wanted to bring when we started the whole process,” said James Sharp (MSB ’15), the chair of TEDx Georgetown. “It really kind of grew as we managed to nail speakers down, so we started off with the theme Power 2020.”

The theme of TEDx Georgetown, however, evolved as the TEDx team decided on the speakers in the event. “We were specifically looking at people’s fields in the year 2020, but then we kind of thought of people who were trying to work on something not specific to one professional field; for example, Col.Gadson, the first person ever to command a battalion in the U.S. Army with prosthetic legs,” said Sharp. “We don’t really want him to talk about how the army is going to look in 2020, so we changed the theme to just ‘Power.’ Gadson can talk about the power of inspiration in his life or the power of rhetoric.”

The TEDx event this year will include a variety of speakers including hip hop artist No Malice, Time Magazine’s Editor-at-Large Bobby Ghosh, violinist Tai Murray, and Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng.

The TEDx team was able to obtain such prestigious speakers using the brand of TEDx. “The process of getting people to speak is hard in general. The upside to TED is you have this great brand, which is why we applied for the license. People want to give a TED talk,” said Sharp. “The downside is that we can’t pay them anything, we can’t lure people with any kind of cash incentive.”

Attending Georgetown also provides unique opportunities for the TEDx team to obtain and meet speakers. “If you’re going to be realistic about this, you want to use the resources you have at Georgetown here,” Sharp said.

One resource for the organizers has been Georgetown’s extensive alumni network. “Col. Gadson is actually an alumnus of the Georgetown University Law Center,” Sharp said. “It’s all about finding people who do have contacts. I was put in touch with someone who runs a think tank here, and he was willing to help us bring in other speakers.”

Students will have the opportunity to listen to an amazing variety of speakers from a Chinese dissident to a world-renowned violinist and also interact with these extraordinary people. “I’m hoping this is going to be an event where students leave their laptops at home. This is an opportunity to not only see these people talk but also to mix and interact with them,” said Sharp. “Our speakers are going to stay for this event and they’re going to be in the crowds during the intervals and afterwards. People will get the chance to meet these people and ask questions.”

Hoyas seem to be buying in. Students began to reserve tickets just seconds after the registration went live. “We put the tickets live at 8 p.m. 10 seconds after I put it up, one person bought it, and in eleven seconds three people bought it. In the first 10 minutes we sold 220 tickets, and in the end we sold 854,” said Marcus Stromeyer (SFS’15), the webmaster for the Georgetown TEDx group.

Although seating will be limited at the event, Sharp emphasized that students who could not originally obtain a seat will still have a chance to attend a TEDx session.

“We’re expecting there to be some free seats as the day progresses because people will slip out, so if people are interested they can come and queue outside and take up some of the free seats.  People shouldn’t be discouraged if they don’t get a ticket because there’ll definitely be space.”

Sharp believes TEDx is an event each Georgetown student should attend because it truly inspires unique ideas and showcases diverse perspectives.

“The mantra for TEDx is about ideas worth spreading. In that vein, it’s really about putting on a really cool event, getting some really cool speakers on campus, and having an interesting day for everyone.”

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