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.