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Mark Tebbe shares the highlights of his experience at this month’s TEDxMidwest conference

Mark Tebbe

Mark Tebbe

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I am still on a high from an event I attended and helped organize earlier this month. After more than six months of late nights and weekly meetings, our core team (with a large group of volunteers) pulled together the third annual TEDxMidwest event. We hosted 35 world-class speakers who shared amazing insights during the day-and-a-half event, attended by invited Chicagoans and 500 teacher-selected underprivileged CPS kids. Since then, we’ve been hearing ripples — actually, waves — of positive feedback. We’re proud of the progressive and innovative ideasshared at the conference: All of the TedxMidwest talks will be available over the next few weeks at Tedxmidwest.com. I encourage you to watch them.

For those who don’t know, TEDx events are localized versions of TED, a conference that focuses on technology, entertainment and design. I’ve been invited to attend since 1991 and some of the best speeches from over the years at Ted.com/talks . After years of knowing that they had “ideas worth spreading,” the owners of TED decided to authorize localized versions of the conference in hopes of stimulating dialogue around interesting ideas. The movement has caught fire — there have been more than 8,000 events held across the country in the past four years alone.

Chicago is fortunate to have held many events. But none of these are as extensive as TEDxMidwest, which has pushed the envelope since its inception. Initiated and led by Mike Hettwer, it’s grown to be a showcase event.

From my experience, I can tell you that there’s nothing as moving as listening to an inspiring speaker sharing a great idea or observation. We’re still hearing from adults who were surprised by Larry Lessig’s analysis, which demonstrated how a few select people have a profound effect on our national elections. Many were motivated by how Ron Finley took it upon himself to change his South Los Angeles neighborhoods by growing vegetable and flower gardens, or as he puts it, just deciding to “plant some s***.” I was most moved by watching some of Chicago’s leaders as they shifted from pre-judging convicted murderer Shaka Senghor to actively weeping, then later hugging him after he shared how he’s overcome his earlier life choices. We were surprised by how quickly his book, Writing My Wrongs, sold out (which you can purchase at Shakasenghor.com)

Shaka’s impact was even more profound on the kids in attendance, many who see things on daily basis that led Shaka down his once self-destructive path. The kids were in awe of his ability to overcome such deep pain to “find an inner child who just wants to be loved.” They were also inspired by Bill Strickland, who shared how he started Pittsburgh nonprofit Manchester Bidwell, which creates empowering educational environments for adults-in-transition as well as urban and at-risk youth. Chicago’s Mellody Hobson also left many of the kids motivated — she spoke about how they could find the power to succeed within themselves, and how they just needed to believe in themselves, just as she did.

We continue to get notes and emails from kids and adults alike who’ve been invigorated by their experience. I could spend a column five times longer than this just sharing the highlights of what transpired. You can see why I’m still on this natural high.



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