Quote of the Day: The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there, the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope and the resilience of the human spirit. With your help, we hope to change the current landscape of social media, blogs, and news.

I am participating in the We Are the World Blogfest (WATWB), posting on the last Friday of each month. This is our second posting. The co-hosts this month are: Belinda Witzenhausen, Simon Falk, Inderpreet Kaur Uppal, Mary J. Giese, Peter NenaPlease visit their blogs and the WATWB site for more positive stories, or to sign up and participate.

Just when I thought I didn’t have anything to write for this month, I remembered my experience at the TEDx Gull Lake event last Saturday. This was the second annual TEDx Gull Lake event, and the organizers hope to do more. What struck me about the presentations, which are 18 minutes maximum, was the variety of presenters and topics. Our friend, and book club member, Sonya Chamberlain spoke on Midwifery. Gaelynn Lea played her violin and spoke on songwriting and gave a fascinating life perspective. She was the winner of the 2016 “Tiny Desk Concert.” She has a condition called Osteogenesis Imferfecta and regularly advocates for disability rights. A pair of teachers from Forestview Middle School spoke on the STEM program. We heard talks on jobs in technology, sustainability of the fish and water systems (especially important in the land of 10,000+ lakes of Minnesota), hydroponic farming, Grief and Hope by Anna-Maija Lee, and a really important talk by Brendan Stermer on defining Manhood in the modern age. One of my boys was at the event with some of his classmates from Mrs. Harmer’s AP Seminar class at Brainerd High School. (Thank you for making that possible for those young people!) I talked to him a little about the day. I said that I didn’t think the presenters get paid to be there. He said, “I think they’re here because they want to spread their message.” You can read more about Brendan and watch a video of his research “Manhood in Rural America” at his website Brendan Stermer. The best thing I heard all day was when he said, of manhood, “It’s not about controlling other people. It’s not about controlling women, or even other men.” 

Students from Mrs. Harmer’s AP Seminar class at the TEDx Gull Lake event, 2017.

Some of the students, above, including my boy, are wearing the special Swanny sunglasses that Thaddeus Owen promoted to reduce the harmful blue lights we stare at all day on our devices. He advocates for more fresh and air sunshine to improve our quality of life. Sounds like something our mothers and grandmothers have been saying for centuries, and we all know the kids sleep better when they’ve spent time outdoors!

I appreciated Shelly Richardson’s message on looking people in the eye, replacing our “stranger danger” fears with a friendly “Hello,” and working towards building community wherever you go. We live in Minnesota where you often hear the phrase, “Minnesota nice,” which means that most people are polite to you, let you in front of them at the grocery checkout line if you’re holding three items and their cart is full. But, we don’t usually extend it beyond that. We don’t always truly listen to each other, and we do have a fear of people who aren’t like us. Shelly challenged us to be open and make positive change.

Elisa Korenne sharing her message of Diversity and Connection at the TEDx Gull Lake event, 2017

The closer, and my favorite speaker of the day, was Elisa Korenne, singer, songwriter, performer, and author. I attended this event with her publicist Krista Rolfzen Soukup of Blue Cottage Agency. Elisa took the stage, guitar in hand, and hooked us into her message with her songs, which are about people on the fringes. She says, “We are all connected, and our differences can actually be our connection.” Elisa grew up in New York City, was educated at Yale University and the London School of Economics. She said she was supposed to be the “American Dream” for her parents. “I was supposed to be a lawyer,” she said. Instead, she became a songwriter and performer, met and married an outdoorsman from Minnesota, and now lives in New York Mills, MN, where she was definitely a fish out of water. Her book Hundred Miles to Nowhere: An Unlikely Love Story will be released in June, 2017. Check out her website for more on Elisa, her book, and her songs.

My friend Amie Anderson was part of the team who organized this year’s event. She helped select the speakers. She said they had over 60 applicants and it was “no easy task” selecting who would speak. They wanted a variety of topics and presenters. I think they did an excellent job in their selection. “It’s not like attending an event where everyone is the same,” said Krista. “It’s not just about one thing. You don’t know what you’re going to learn about.” I believe that most people come to events like this, or listen to TED talks online, because they have a love of learning. Interspersed through the presentations, they had local musicians, and videos from the TEDtalks website. Most of those were by men, so they could work on a little more diversity there. You can visit the TEDx Gull Lake website for a complete list of speakers for the 2017 event. 

One of my favorite TED talks is by Suzanne Simard on How Trees Talk to each other. The TEDx Gull Lake talks will be available at a later date on their website.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Do you have some favorite TED talks? What would you talk about if you had a chance to present at a TED event?