TED came to Springfield, Massachusetts this month with a decidedly Connecticut flavor, as a quarter of the featured speakers offering “ideas worth spreading,” hailed from the “still revolutionary” state.
Of the 16 “TED talks” on the agenda during a day-long program sponsored by and held at the headquarters of Mass Mutual, four of the speakers were from Connecticut, and left the specially selected audience intrigued, impressed and inspired.
Well known worldwide, TED is a nonprofit which began decades ago with a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become considerably broader, and “TED Talks” – widely available on the web – have become a global phenomenon, watched by tens of millions.
TED conferences “bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives.” That’s precisely what occurred at TEDx in Springfield, where in addition to speakers touting the possibilities for that post-industrial urban center, a wide array of innovative subjects were featured under the theme “Driving innovation through diversity and inclusion.”
The Connecticut quartet at TEDx Springfield:
- Keisha Ashe is co-founder and CEO of ManyMentors, a nonprofit science, technology, engineering and math STEM) mentoring organization that connects minority and female middle and high school students with encouraging and supporting near-age mentors in the STEM fields. “If they never know, they’ll never go,” is the guiding phrase of the initiative, reflecting the fact that many women and minority students are not encouraged to pursue the STEM fields, and are often unaware of the career potential or their own aptitude for the STEM careers. Ashe is a Ph.D. candidate in Chemical Engineering at UConn.
- Maureen Connolly is an event planning professional with extensive national and international experience across diverse markets, and a visionary and passionate leader skilled at creating high impact programs with measurable results. She is the foremost advocate for utilizing public celebrations as a means of extending social capital by having the community, rather than the event, at the core of planning. She has written on the enduring transformational potential of public celebrations, and offers that “now is the time to harness that collective energy and accumulated social capital as a catalyst for social change” that will develop collaborations with the potential to breathe new life into hard-pressed cities.
- David Ryan Polgar is a Connecticut-based writer/attorney/educator and highly regarded tech ethicist who speaks on the topics of information overload, digital diets, and creativity. He is an award-winning columnist for Seasons magazine, and has been featured in national media. Polgar speaks and writes about the ethical, legal, sociological, and emotional issues surrounding our relationship to technology. He has created a “Mental Food Plate” as an approach to achieving deeper levels of thinking, and explores the imperative for an industry to develop that will serve as a counterbalance to the burgeoning technologies that “we can’t stop consuming.”
- Jon Thomas is the founder of Tap Cancer Out, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu nonprofit and host of the most philanthropic martial arts events in the world. Jon Thomas and his wife Becky run the Stratford-based nonprofit “in the slivers of spare time between their jobs in advertising.” The nonprofit was founded out of a desire to respond to the devastation of cancer through a sport that Thomas was deeply involved with. The organization raises funds – all donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - through hosting fundraising tournaments, direct donations, merchandise sales and sponsorships.
The TED website points out that “TED is best thought of as a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world.” TEDx Springfield was organized by Jae Junkunc of Hartford, from Mass Mutual's Enterprise Risk Management Group, with support of a 15-member team that developed the program over six months.
TED includes the award-winning TED Talks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize. The TEDx program gives communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are planned and coordinated independently.
A TEDx session in Hartford in June included talks by David Fink of Partnership for Strong Communities, Steven Mitchell of East Coast Greenway, Donna Berman of Charter Oak Cultural Center, and Rich Hollant of CO:LAB, among sixteen local speakers.