TEDx in action at Occidental

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Students and faculty brought their own version of the popular TED Talks event to Occidental’s campus last Saturday. The first-ever TEDx event to be hosted by Occidental featured speakers from both the school’s immediate community and the greater Los Angeles area to discuss the theme “Reinventing the American Dream.”

The event began with undeclared major Somer Greene (sophomore) performing an original spoken word poem in which she portrays an African-American child walking around with her grandmother and experiencing discrimination.

“Ain’t no one that can touch your dream, child,” the grandmother said to the child.

Greene used the story to demonstrate the importance of dreaming and the power of the imagination.

Politics major Brian Erickson (sophomore) followed Greene, discussing social media and its uses in modern America. He attempted to frame social media in a new light: to use it as a means of enlightenment rather than a constant update of mundane life happenings.

Entrepreneur Dave Berkus ’62 spoke next, discussing his business ventures and failures to support his position that achieving the American dream sometimes includes failing.

Assistant Dean for Community Engagement Ella Turenne spoke on her view that the United States prison system impedes the ability of many to achieve the American dream. Turenne believes that the American dream manifests in the ability for every person to receive a college education, and incarcerated people are often denied this opportunity.

Speakers and audience members alike enjoyed the event and felt that it encouraged greater discussion on the issue presented.

After her speech, Turenne said that events like TEDx fit perfectly into Occidental’s culture and mission.

“I love the fact that students, staff, faculty and administrators are here,” Turenne said. “It is great to bring the groups together to create a dialogue. It goes with the ethos of who we are here. It has given us great food for thought.”

Berkus was equally impressed with the level of discourse present at Occidental’s event.

“I have been to and attended by theater TED talks, and I am shocked by all of the speakers in a very positive way,” Berkus said.

Many students who attended the event echoed these sentiments.

“All the different perspectives and ways of interpreting the American dream and the section on who gets it was very interesting,” sociology major Emily Watkins (junior) said. “I wanted to talk to people after every talk.”

Yet not all students thought that the event succeeded in the mission to reinvent the American dream.

“The first portion of the event was comprised of a group of salesmen whose successes have been established through the very systems that TEDxOxy should have aimed to re-imagine,” Critical Theory and Social Justice major Andrew Wilcox (junior) said. “Guest speakers betrayed the name of the event, ‘Reimagining the American Dream’ and perpetuated dominant discourses that I falsely hoped TEDxOxy would disrupt.”

Despite some negative reactions, organizers of the event believed it to be successful.

“It went really, really well,” economics major Shilpa Bhongir (junior), who spearheaded efforts to bring the event to Occidental, said. “It is kind of crazy. Everything has been going so smoothly. The speakers are all amazing and passionate about doing their best and creating a dialogue.”