Jane Goodall once said, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
For me it comes down to inspiration. Everything I do is because I am inspired and passionate about making a difference. From my job to every board and committee that I serve on. Every opportunity to continue my education and professional development is about being inspired.
Because I love to learn, I really enjoy attending conferences. Anytime I am given the opportunity enhance my craft, meet others, and learn from them is such a gift. That’s why, when a friend mentioned that there would be a TEDx Conference in Oneonta, I jumped at the chance to attend.
If you don’t know what a TEDx conference is, I will give you a little background. TEDx is a spinoff of the world acclaimed TED conference (TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design). According to the TED website, the mission of TED is “a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.”
Since it’s slow start in 1984, TED has turned into a platform for innovative ideas, sharing of information and motivational talks about everything from science to management, design to philosophy and even social issues facing the world. TED is a nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation whose main purpose is to get people talking.
TEDx means that this particular conference was planned by an independent group of people but holds the same spirit and mission of TED.
When we entered the TEDx conference, I was pumped! I was ready to be inspired, amazed and could not wait to hear what the speakers for the evening were going to talk about. This particular TEDx Conference featured four speakers, each highly regarded within their field.
Rebecca Ahmed, is an award-winning human resources expert. She spoke to us about the importance of compensation and benefit transparency in the workplace. She gave examples of how to build your team by thinking about compensation packages differently and how, in her experience, she has seen this work well and not so well. How to get your staff engaged, how to create a culture of forward momentum and how important it was to build the right team from the start and what can happen when you don’t. My friend, who was with me, works in human resources and we had a great conversation about Rebecca’s presentation and what we could look at differently in our respective organizations.
Gohar Petrossian is an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and the Director of the International Crime and Justice Masters Program at John Jay College. Gohar specializes in illegal crimes against wildlife. As we listened to her speak about the crimes against animals (small and large), I found myself horrified at the cruelty and illegal trapping and killing of animals around the world. As well as the illegal kidnapping and indentured servitude of people who are forced to work for illegal poachers and fishing vessels. She spoke about the thousands of park rangers who are murdered each year by illegal poachers. How animals are killed and sold for parts. How, at some zoos, animals are kept drugged so that the public can take photos with them. She really made me think about the things I buy, the food I eat and about how important it is to know where the things we buy come from, so we are not an active participant in this illegal behavior and with less demand, these illegal killings would stop.
Rosalia Rivera is a survivor and activist against sexual assault crimes. Through her experience she has become an advocate and educator on sexual violence and is a passionate speaker, educator, and catalyst for societal change. She spoke to us about how she grew up and how societal expectations (as well as her families), helped shape her own response when she was raped as a teenager. She spoke about the “Madonna-Whore Dichotomy” that has shaped the way society has viewed and treated young men and women for generations, across the world, each with their own set of rules and expectations. Things as basic as school dress code inequality and enforcement. Girls are taught to dress modestly because boys will “look at them”, while what we should be teaching them is to be proud of who they are to be instill confidence. Rather than “covering up” to avoid attention from young men, we should be teaching those same young men how to show respect. There was a time I supported my oldest in a “mid drift protest” at her school, when she and her fellow classmates were frustrated by a lack of equal enforcement of the school dress code. I have so much respect and admiration for Rosalia to be able to share with such conviction her experiences and how we, as society, need to stop this double standard of expectation on our children and on each other.
The final presenter was Rachel Kornhauser, and she is the Director of the Office of Sustainability at SUNY Oneonta. Rachel spoke with us about how the COVID pandemic affected climate change in the world. How, by shutting down for a little while, when the world was on “pause” we actually decreased the global carbon footprint. We drove less as we worked remotely, we got less takeout, we were consuming less energy through shutdowns. And a result, we significantly decreased carbon emissions, used less of our resources, and gave Mother Nature a much-needed time-out to heal. Do a little research on this, you may be amazed as to some of the changes to our environment as a result of the pandemic.
Each of these speakers were dynamic and captivating in their own way. I found myself in awe of them, and truly inspired. But what do I do now? How can I take the inspiration I felt that night and do something that will truly make a difference?
The title of this TEDx Oneonta event was “Changing World”. While I didn’t come away with a solution to all problems that we face, I can say that my world view has certainly opened up. My hope is that by sharing my experience with you, maybe yours has opened a little as well. And in the spirit of what TED was created for, I hope that the conversation continues.
Until next year’s conference,