Joe Bastian took to the stage, unfolded his chair and opened an oversized book, ready to tell the story of TEDx.
“Stories have the power to change the world,” the author said. “Our stories are important. Our stories have meaning. Our stories need to be shared.
“So tell your story.”
The power of story played a central theme in the inaugural TEDxUMDearborn as speakers ranging from entrepreneurs and CEOs to artists and writers shared their stories in an effort to encourage change.
Nearly 180 attended the event—an offshoot of TED, which is dedicated to “ideas worth spreading”—with another 3,000 tuning in via the live web stream. To date, the stream has been viewed nearly 25,000 times.
“Our ultimate goal was to bring together this diverse lineup of speakers to ignite positive social change and increase the visibility of UM-Dearborn,” said event organizer Rob Vazquez, a 2013 UM-Dearborn graduate. “I think we accomplished that goal.”
Keynote speaker Patrick Klepek, news editor for GiantBomb.com, started a global conversation on how to navigate discourse on the Internet.
“We can’t control what other people do on the Internet … but ultimately, we are responsible for what each of us contributes—what each of us contributes to the noise,” he said. “If all of us can dial it down, over time, maybe the volume comes down with it.”
Vazquez noted that Internet commenters immediately reacted to Klepek’s talk. “Patrick’s piece on the Internet was so poignant. It ignited debate and conversation online that’s continuing to grow,” he said.
In the morning session, David Farbman, founder of Outdoor Hub, challenged participants to “keep hunting” through adversity as they follow their passions. Imaan Ali, style blogger and U-M doctoral student, shared her story of becoming confident enough to take risks, and Nabeela and Mateen Jaffer told how they used their engineering backgrounds to develop an app that helps their autistic son communicate.
UM-Dearborn junior Hana Mattar was struck by Ali’s story. “Imaan was so motivational, telling the story of how she hit rock bottom but bounced back. When you believe in yourself and have confidence in yourself, you can take on anything,” she said.
In session two, Keith Cooley, president and CEO of Principia, spoke on the benefits of alternative energy. David Landau, founder of ScaleFire, sought to redefine what it means to be human through use of technology. Jason Raznick, founder of Benzina, shared his vision of a “do-archy,” where those who do end up on top, and Matthew Richmond, founder of The Paper Dolls, talked about the power of boredom to jumpstart creativity.
Richmond’s talk resonated with Mattar. “I never just sit and let my mind wander,” she said. “But Matthew challenged me to turn off the electronics and social media and let myself be bored.”
In the final session, Joseph Uhl, founder of Joseph Wesley Tea, shared his passion for creating community through tea and filmmaker Marty Stano shared how he simplified his life.
UM-Dearborn alumnus Cory Page (’13 B.A.) shared his struggle with health and self-concept, and early childhood education student Angel Mechling talked about her experiences with the American foster care system.
Stephanie Cosby, a 2012 UM-Dearborn graduate who attended the event, said Mechling’s talk brought light to an issue she hadn’t before considered. “It was really eye-opening to hear about the problems with our system. I think talks like that are important to raise awareness so we can work toward positive change.”
That idea of working toward positive change is one Vazquez hopes will continue long after the final session ended.
“The question becomes, ‘How do we capitalize on the momentum?’” he said. “The conversations had during breaks, the connections made, will be some of the most important looking ahead.”
Cosby, for one, already is looking ahead.
“I walked away with a deeper appreciation for the people around me,” she said. “The speakers really demonstrated that everyone has a story to tell, and it made me eager to get to know more people and their stories.”