TEDx Rocks the Upper East Side

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Local TEDx conference brought new ideas to the community

In a world where creative capital rules and the right idea could mint the next multi-millionaire tech entrepreneur, TED Talks, once the bastion of an insular nerdy world, have become part of popular culture. TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a non-profit organization devoted to sharing "ideas worth spreading." It started in 1984, but the somewhat recent ability for thousands of people to stream internet video of their biannual conferences has spawned many fans of the TED Talks from all over the world.

TED officially sanctioned a new program called TEDx, which is "designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level." The events take the signature TED conference format ? presenting a series of live presenters who give short, curated talks on a far-ranging number of topics ? and replicate that at a localized level.

That's what happened on Sunday, August 4 on the Upper East Side, when the neighborhood hosted its first TEDx event at the Bohemian Hall. Organized by Sara Beth Allen, a local branding specialist, the event featured 13 speakers giving talks on education, personal inspiration, overcoming fear and living better lives in myriad ways.

Lorna Kelly, an author and former Sotheby's auctioneer, spoke about risk-taking.

"My risk-taking is not of the dramatic variety," said Kelly. "I was very close with Mother Theresa, and I got into a lot of people-pleasing elements with her."

Kelly spoke about how she journeyed to India, expecting simply an experience to remember while she went back to her regular Upper East Side life, but that ended up changing her whole outlook and pulling her back to work with the famed missionary.

"I went from Madison Avenue to wrapping up the dead and tending to lepers and tweezing maggots out of flesh; it was a far cry from selling Picassos," Kelly said.

She told the TEDx audience about a time when taking a personal risk became of paramount importance. As an alcoholic in recovery, she was confronted with an unusual situation while in India with Mother Theresa.

"When I was beside her sick bed, the priest was saying mass, there were only four of us in the room, and the priest was dipping the host in the a chalice of wine, and I thought to myself, please God not here, I don't want to make a fuss here," she said.

But she summoned the courage to say something ? taking a personal risk ? and not worry about pleasing everyone around her, a lesson that resonated with her and that she shared with Upper East Siders last week.

"One of the most interesting parts was hearing everyone's story and not just the other speakers," said presenter Richard Dedor, who spoke about fear and the control that the emotion has in people's lives. "Whether it is Bill Gates speaking on malaria or Amanda Palmer speaking about music, the world decides which messages to share and it will be the same here. For me, fear impacts everything in our lives and is something that must be dealt with."

The idea of the TEDx local event is to get the community buzzing, and it seemed to have worked.

"The TEDx event connected people in ways that many other events are unable to do so," said Courtney O'Connell, founder of Idea Blend EDU, who gave a walk on 'Going All In on Changing Education.' "The variety ensures that someone in the audience will have at least one message with which to connect, if not more than one."

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