Why do I TEDx? To share meaningful stories...

Why do I TEDx?  I stepped up to my first TEDxLivermore planning meeting on the invitation of a women who holds a beautiful, strong vision for our part of California (and the world), and now a dear friend, Dale Kaye.

My participation, which led to me being the licensee for our most recent TEDxLivermore, was caused by a completely separate event called 'The Third Space,' hosted by ReImagine Science.  Yet the two events - Third Space and TEDx - have a shared goal.  A goal that is no less than helping steer ourselves and our planet toward a healthy, thriving future.

I wanted our University of California at Berkeley Third Space event - focused on the past, present and future of science - to be in effect hosted by the nearby city of Livermore, 35 miles to the east.  There is something about Livermore that is idyllic in my world, as it sits surrounded by hills on all four sides that become lush green in the Winter, and turn golden in the Spring.  It has a deep history of living from the land, both in wine-making and in agriculture, and a rough and tumble connection to cowboys and rodeos.  It is the place where I had moved to at 20 years old, met my husband, and started our lives.  We only stayed two years, subsequently moving to southern California, then Massachusetts, then the suburbs of Washington DC as I pursued my career in science.  It is the place that I returned to after I lost my husband, almost 20 years later.

So, I wanted our guests and participants at this nerdy science-facing event to feel the warmth and graciousness of Livermore valley, with its history of agriculture, wine-making, its own nerdy scientists (Livermore National Labs and Sandia employ many residents), its family focus and its beautiful spaces, to bring the slowing of breath, time, and thinking to reconnect with what is important for ourselves, our families, our planet, our future.

On the fateful day that I met Dale Kaye, I walked into the Livermore Chamber of Commerce, to talk about our Berkeley Third Space event be 'hosted' in spirit by Livermore.  An odd request, perhaps, if you really think about it.  Perhaps that very oddness caught Dale's attention.  A few short life-seconds later, I was at a meeting to help plan the first TEDxLivermore.

The start wasn't all that pretty.  The team couldn't agree, there was a dropping of the license, a change of date and a change of the team.  What emerged from all that was a new team that was warm, wonderful, committed, and conscientious.

It was my first real experience, outside of a training program, of a team that 'sang' together.  The variety of expertise on the team brought deep capabilities.  It became a team of highly accomplished people who shared a vision of TEDx for our region - the sharing of ideas that matter.  It was an experience I'll never forget.

Dale's participation, and our recruiting at a local Innovation Forum, provided further expertise, bringing it to a fantastically highly capable group.  And it made me a big fan of the value of a project manager, as Stacy Drury introduced me to the power of having someone that could 'hold' all of the pieces, in the most elegant way.  My advice:  get a project manager on the team.

This was all under the gentle and visionary leadership of the school's head, Roz Hamar - Her own long history in activism, entrepreneurism, idealism and communications likely was the difference that made a difference.  The fact that Roz, the co-licensee, was the head of a Montessori school (which is where our meetings were held) provided a rich resource of exceptionally talented volunteers from the pool of parents of the children attending the school.  The thing that struck me most was the presence of people who were gifted at tasks I know nothing about – things I did not even know were necessary – yet these many vital parts of the job were taken care of with elegance and mastery.  It leads to a sense of confidence in something so much bigger than yourself that you wouldn’t even know how to imagine it.

So, then, after all those machinations that created a team that I adored being part of, why would I continue to TEDx for three full events (TEDxLivermore in 2013, 2014 and 2016), with a TEDxLivermorewomen in 2015?  When my focus and time are committed to the future of science in the United States, and on the planet?

If you watch Shelly Xie telling the story of Schistosomiasis via painting with sand, or Patrick Freeman on Elephant Rumbles, you'll perhaps be able to see a deeper meaning for why we are scientists, humanists, participants on the planet.  Snigdha Banda, who discovered that giving a STEM education boost to local kids at a low-income neighborhood school was as much about being human together, and learning from them as well.  But it's even more.  I cannot watch Erika Grundl's talk on inclusion, and creating a cheering squad to bring the invisible in her high school to the center of (cheered!) attention without crying.  Even as I type, I tear up.

These stories are so meaningful.  The process of bringing together people who have a story to share, who give of themselves for a 7 to 18 minute talk that I know ranges from a pain in the ass to downright terrifying, is an enlightening and time-consuming one.  This year, the memory of Jeff Smith cheering on Colin Vincent from the wings of the stage, because he knew how nervous he himself had been (he told the group at least three or four times how strange it felt for his knees to be shaking so), is something that will feed me the remainder of my life when I need a reminder of the beauty of the human soul.

So that is why I TEDx.


~ The Third Space was a place where we gather with others - a play on Oldenburg's Third Places, community gathering spots that are neither work nor home - 'the great good place' where democracy, community, and sense of place are built.  Our event was designed to open up meaningful sharing of ourselves as individuals, the state of science as a part of society, and the creative process for thinking together for the future.  Our first was held at UCBerkeley, a place of great intellect and thought, to open us to the human dimension of being a scientist, at the highest scholarly level.

Dr. Jim Ott - Working to help Veterans transition to civilian life

TEDxLivermore has exciting news about one of our speakers!  Dr. Jim Ott recently participated in a graduation ceremony to celebrate receiving his Doctorate in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) from Saint Mary's College of California. For his dissertation--which received the Dean's Outstanding Dissertation Award--Jim conducted two semester-long studies in 2015 with 23 veterans at Las Positas College where he teaches English. The dissertation's research question explored the well-being of student veterans who wrote about their military experiences. The study’s findings suggest that veterans who write expressively within a classroom setting are likely to experience improvement in their well-being relative to college and life in general. Writing expressively helps student veterans make meaning of their military experiences as they transition from military to civilian life. Jim's study offers recommendations for educators as colleges and universities in the United States are enrolling a growing number of veterans returning home from military service. Nearly all veterans struggle in their transition from military to civilian life, and offering college credit to write about their military experiences assists veterans in their transition. During his TEDxLivermore talk, Jim--who is not a veteran--will share stories of these students, the therapeutic value of writing, and how, as civilians, we can connect with these young men and women in their journey home.

Why do I TEDx? To Share My Gift.

 TEDxLivermore 2016 Speaker Coach, Kathy Ohm

TEDxLivermore 2016 Speaker Coach, Kathy Ohm

I’ve been a professional leadership, executive and business coach for over 21 years, working with senior leaders, leadership teams and individual professionals to accomplish challenging goals and aspirations in a variety of settings.  Over the past 4 years, I have coached TED Fellows and TEDx speakers in several countries as well as event and platform speakers.    Kathy

For TEDxLivermore 2013, I served as Speaker Coach -- intensive, challenging, joyful work with some great human beings (speakers and organizing team).

On the TEDx day itself, however, my most cherished experience was not with a speaker, but with a little boy scheduled to go on stage as part of a group of 1st and 2nd grade violinists. These children were performing at the request of Walter Collins, a TEDx speaker whose California Symphony outreach program - teach music to teach reading - was showing extremely promising quantitative and qualitative outcomes. 

Roughly 20 minutes before the children were scheduled to perform, I walked into their wait room to take a quick pulse of the energy. Four adults and 6 children were in the room. Five of the children ran and slid across the smooth wooden floor, laughing and talking.  One boy, separate on the sideline, sat on his mother’s lap.  Head tilted down, chin almost touching his chest, body curved in and down, arms and hands hanging loosely, he was a picture of sadness, if not dejection.

Fifteen minutes later (six minutes before the children were to perform) I came in again. ‘Twas the same picture: 5 children playing, same child sitting. The boy’s energy and posture had not changed; now, however, he sat farther from the other children, alone on a chair, against a wall. I asked the lead adult if I could talk with the boy.  “It probably won’t do any good” and “He probably won’t go onstage” and “He had an emotional upset” were several responses.  Then came the one I waited for, “Yes, you can talk to him.” 

I walked over to the boy, knelt down so our eyes were at the same height, and asked him to look at me.  Searching for a way to connect quickly, I gave him my name and said, “Sometimes, when I was little, I felt sad. Sometimes I still do. Does that ever happen to you?”  He nodded yes. I asked if I could show him something.  Again he nodded yes.   “Come with me,” I requested, offering my hand. Together we walked to the nearby mirror-covered wall, and began a quick, simple emotional intelligence learning adventure.

“I am going to show you what sad looks like and what happy looks like,” I said.  “Look at me in the mirror so you can see how they are different. “  

Mimicking the boy, I put my eyes and head down, curved my body inward, and held arms and hands so loose they seemed to hang straight down as if engaging no energy of my own.  “This,” I told him, “is sad. Look at you.  Look at me.”  While speaking, I demonstrated again the body posture of sad, so he could see it as well as feel it. 

The next step was “happy”.  Happy, I told him as I modeled it, looks like this: lift your head UP, raise your eyebrows, throw your arms out wide (which raises chest and opens heart) and curve your lips upward like a smile. 

He peeked at me from his downward tilted head, but did not move.

“Ah,” I asked, as I moved behind him, “May I hold your hands so we can do this together?”   His response was a slight yes/down of that tilted head.

“OK, ready?  Let’s be sad.  Now, let’s be HAPPY!   Now SAAAD. Now HAPPYYYY!”

In rhythm with the words, I repeated what each looked like, while moving his arms outward on happy, in and down on sad.    On the second iteration, the beginnings of a smile emerged.  “Ohhh, is that a smile?  OK.  Looks like you’re moving into happy!  Oops, we’re in sad now.  Remember, head down.”

Rapidly, we went from sad to happy and back.  By the 5th iteration, the smile was real and the boy had begun to move on his own.  At this moment, the stage manager walked in and declared, “Time to go on.  Bring your violins and follow me.”

The boy jumped up, ran to get his violin, and, with a big grin on his face, joined the other children.

It took well under 3 minutes for the boy to learn a basic difference between sad and happy and to shift his own emotional state. 

That was the end of it I thought, until the next day when I received an email from Walter.  “They were calling you,” he wrote,‘The Child Whisperer’.“  Will you share whatever it was that you did?”

And so I have.









Why I TEDx: To Investigate Important Ideas

    by Dale Eldridge Kaye


by Dale Eldridge Kaye

My dad lived in Florida and one particularly hot summer, he traded his air conditioning unit for a watermelon. Not because he was not feeling the 95-degree weather, but because he felt his neighbor was in greater need of comfort. He felt that accepting the watermelon would make his neighbor feel better about his gift.

My dad came by empathic thinking instinctively and continually took it to dizzying heights.  He was one of a kind.

 Or was he?

Last year, I had the amazing experience that comes with attending a TED conference.   One of the talks at that conference was certainly more dramatic than my dad's simple act of kindness but spoke to that same amazing kindness. In this case it came from from a man’s commitment to the tenets of his religion.

In this TED talk, New York Times reporter Arand Giridharadas, spoke about his book “The True American” – the true story of Raisuddin Bhuiyan, a Bangladesh Air Force officer who came to America to study and work in technology.

Days after 9/11, an avowed American Terrorist named Mark Stroman, walked into the Texas minimart where Bhuiyan had found temporary work and shot him, nearly killing him. Two other Middle Eastern men in the area were not so lucky that day. Stroman asked each one if they were American and then shot them.

These two did not survive.

Bhiyan survived and 10 years after the shooting participated in an Islamic pilgrimage.  He decided that he he needed to publicly forgive Stroman in the name of his Muslim religion and its notion of mercy. He left his job and for one year he waged a legal battle with the State of Texas to have his attacker spared from the death penalty.

So, what about Livermore? 

I run an organization called Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group. Last year the Tri-Valley school superintendents told us that their schools are now facing some of the problems we have heard about in other areas, most notably Silicon Valley. 

There is tremendous pressure on students, often innocently created by parents, resulting in students being depressed and having suicidal thoughts. We heard that some parents were so highly competitive they discouraged collaboration -  even helping a friend with their homework. 

Education leaders worry that students are being drained of their empathetic thinking – that kindness and sharing were often discouraged in the pursuit of being the very best. 

Empathy is important to a community and to humanity as a whole and on June 25th we will strive to illuminate just that. 

At a time when national politics seem disturbingly unempathetic, can we make a dent in the narcissism that seems to resonate so well with some?  Can we be like an old man in Florida offering his comfort to someone who needs it more? Or a Muslim in America taking a year of his life to save the man who tried to kill him?

Well, that is the power of TED. These talks have the power to expand our frame of reference – and with that the power to change an individual, and ultimately a community, for the better.

Why do I TEDx? To Connect to the Community

    by Stacy Drury


by Stacy Drury

"Why are you here?"  I've been asked this question many times and - to my detriment - I've always struggled with a ready answer over the years - no matter the context. 

Why is it so difficult for me to share myself?  Bottom line - I don't like being judged - even when I'm very certain the results will be in my favor.  I'd rather just fly under the radar.

My inability to respond appropriately to this question cost me a great job opportunity - but I look back and see many positive outcomes around this turning point in my life.  One amazing result - I had the opportunity to meet Rosalind Hamar at a local Livermore event which resulted in my involvement with TEDxLivermore in 2013. 

So short answer... My primary motivator was a need to be connected to the community while I was in between jobs.  Happy chance - very quickly I came to respect the core team members even though we come from very different worlds.  

From an engineer's standpoint - dropping into a group of individuals that are motivated by something other than project milestones is a challenge!  I had to work hard to understand viewpoints that were 180 degrees out from my own and to learn how to inspire/motivate people without authority (leading a group of volunteers is its own beast!).

So why am I still here?  I've had subsequent jobs since then - other consulting opportunities as well - but I'm still here.  So why AM I still here?  Bottom line - it is because of my team members.  They continually have Ideas Worth Spreading and visions that are worth supporting and pushing forward.  Whether we are focused on education, creativity or empathy - there is always a valuable message to be heard. 

What might motivate you to get involved in TEDxLivermore?

Whatever your reasons, I invite you to join me, join us, and volunteer for TEDxLivermore 2016.  

We need you! And hopefully, you'll find you needed us. 

Empathy as currency for building Community

 by Brandon Cardwell

by Brandon Cardwell

At home and abroad, our world appears increasingly divided. Income inequality, global and domestic terrorism, mass migration of displaced people, escalating racial tensions, and an increasingly partisan and incendiary political environment are just some of the challenges we are facing. If ever there was a time for empathy, it is now.

But what is empathy, and why is it useful? The Greater Good Science Center has defined empathy as “the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.” In order to work constructively and collaboratively toward solving large-scale problems, we must first commit ourselves to understanding the human impacts they are creating. This is why TEDxLivermore has chosen the Economics of Empathy as the theme for its 2016 meeting, to provide a platform for our community to explore the role of empathy as a currency for building community.

At TEDxLivermore 2016 in June, attendees will hear from speakers who are helping women in refugee camps become entrepreneurs; empowering low-income kids to achieve their educational dreams; and matching skill with need while building a culture of equity for startups, just to name a few. These individuals all use empathy to create a path to success by first understanding the true nature of the challenge they are addressing and how that relates back to a specific human need.

If you would like to join us for a community conversation on the role of empathy in creating a more just world, please consider attending TEDxLivermore on June 25th. If you would like to get involved as a volunteer or sponsor, please contact us at info@tedxlivermore.com.

TEDxLivermore: Creativity Uncorked!


It’s hard to believe that our last TEDxLivermore took place last year!   We are so thankful for our wonderful and dynamic speakers, incredibly helpful volunteers and engaged attendees who took it all in and gave it right back with their warmth, enthusiasm and support.

An attendee wrote on our Facebook page:

“Thanks for the inspiration TEDxLivermore and speaker Donna Stoering, music really is a great communications channel.  After Saturday, I turned on classical music for the kids’ carpool and observed them start talking to one another about it.  I also turned off the TV while making dinner, turned on some piano music and enjoyed connecting with my husband and daughter.”

Uncorking creativity doesn’t have to be a life-changing adjustment; it can be a small shift or incremental in nature.   We invite you to share your efforts to uncork your creativity in the comments section below or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.   So get busy!

Nick Loper on the Entrepreneurial Generation


Nick Loper is an entrepreneur, author and podcaster at SideHustleNation.com, a community and resource for aspiring and part-time entrepreneurs.  As the site’s “Chief Side Hustler,” Nick candidly shares his own successes and failures, fostering the exchange of advice and lessons between fellow side hustle entrepreneurs.  For Nick, it’s about encouraging people to take risks, create opportunities and realize their untapped potential.   In describing his TEDxLivermore talk, “The Entrepreneurial Generation,”  Nick says, “If the last 100 years were characterized by mass-employment, the next 100 will be characterized by mass-entrepreneurship. My talk will reveal the essential ingredients of this shift and how the millennial generation is creatively leading the charge.”