I have spent more time than I would like to admit YouTubing TED Talks, so naturally I was thrilled to be accepted as a delegate for this year’s TEDX Toronto event.
Redefinition was the theme of the day. The event’s speakers ranged from tech wizards to doctors to activists and teachers. Nicholas Shiefer, a grade twelve student, discussed his frustration with current search engines. For his high school science fair he developed a new kind of search engine that uses networks to represent words. Ariel Garten talked about a mind-controlled computing system she has designed that could be used to help people with ADHD. Rob Spence (aka Eyeborg) spoke about the positive advancements technology has had on prosthetic limbs using his own personal story as an example. Spence lost an eye as a child and has since then replaced it with a camera which he considers essential to his career as a documentary film maker. Joshna Maharaj is trying to revolutionize hospital food; and Dr. Brian Goldman spoke honestly about the mistakes he has made as a doctor in order to expose the misconception that doctors are infallible. Goldman believes that doctors should not have to deny mistakes out of fear and shame, but should be encouraged to be open about them in order to prevent the same mistakes from being made by others. Adam Garone, founder of Movember, spoke candidly about how he has redefined the moustache for men; and Carlyle Jansen, the founder of Good For Her, spoke about redefining relationships through adventure and honesty.
The talks were broken up by conversation breaks which lasted forty minutes each. During the my first break I met Jane Dewar, a teacher from the Simcoe County School Board. Jane is teaching her class of grade nine boys about graffiti and street art. The Good Bike Project was discussed in her class. Her students even wrote a letter about our project to The Toronto Star which has been published. Jane has promised to send it to me. At the moment, she is teaching her boys how to crochet so that they can yarn bomb whatever they like. Her enthusiasm, humour and warmth was immense. I wish that I had had her as a teacher.
Later in the day, I was approached by a young woman wearing a T-shirt that read “FREE HUGS.” She quietly asked if I’d like a hug. I said sure, and we hugged. After our embrace she shifted position and my eye caught her tote bag, which happened to be a Good Bike tote! I shifted to show her mine! We laughed and she explained that she was the girl who’d installed a good bike at the Humber College campus. It was Iva! As Vanessa was writing a blog entry about her, I was meeting her. It was a strange and wonderful coincidence!
The last speaker of the day was former Toronto Mayor David Miller. I was curious to hear what he had to say about redefinition. Miller spoke about the importance of connecting environmental issues with economics. He urged Torontonians to commit whole heartedly to issues we feel are important to the city and to stay committed to them. We are not simply taxpayers, said Miller, we are citizens. We cannot buy our city, but have to work at building it together, every day.
As I stood within the glass walls of the new atrium of Koerner Hall and stared out at Philosopher’s Walk and the ROM I considered the TEDX theme and thought back to the City Council meeting I observed just days before. I found myself imagining what our City might look like if it were run by more people like the ones I had met and heard speak that day.
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