tedx e1444595381959
tedx e1444595381959

TedxSpringfield Brings A Day Of Powerful Messages

Thought leaders headed to MassMutual in Springfield, Massachusetts to headline talks at TedxSpringfield. Go inside to discover their poignant discussions on everything from education to homeless and drug addiction.
Our writer Rachel and the TedxSpringfield stage director unleash a Lioness growl.

Last week TedxSpringfield took flight at MassMutual in Springfield, Mass. The day was packed with powerful messages. Lioness covered the event live on Twitter, but of course there was much more meat than could be pinched into 140 characters.

Here’s what you missed and more:

John Longo is an adventurer, an entrepreneur, and a musician.

  • “When I was 6, my father showed me some chords on the guitar. I wanted to play the guitar all the time, for friends, for anyone.”
  • He leaped into discomfort. He left home while still in high school to become a street musician.  He learned about the kindness of others while living on the street, and vowed to pay that kindness forward.
  • After college, he started his own company.
  • Was married three times. “You can’t let your earlier disappointments stop you from meeting the love of your life.”
  • “We have a mandate as a community to help those less fortunate.”
  • “You should do anything in your power to help other people. I invite you to say yes to that discomfort.”
  • “As our heroes show us, we have to venture forth, we have to say yes. We HAVE to!  The power of us as individuals and as a group can affect real change.”
  • “Say yes when you want to say no!”

Leslie Hinkson is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University.  She conducts research on stratification and inequality.

  • Hinkson started by explaining that she grew up attending racially segregated schools. When she left her classmates behind to attend college she thought, “Why me? Why not them?”
  • The average black student scores lower than white students. What explains this test score gap, which has remained steady since 80s with no sign of diminishing.
  • “Why are we allowing our public schools to become intensely segregated?”
  • Today black children are more racially and economically segregated. The government often supports segregation though the guise of School Choice.
  • “What is it about us that is scary?” If white parents are not willing to put their kids in public schools, how will we desegregate our schools?”
  • Since the 1950s the U.S. military has been a premier institution for addressing equality. They offered desegregated schools on base before many local schools were completely desegregated.  Currently, Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools perform better than all other schools except the state of Connecticut.
  • “I want to lull you into a false sense of hope and then roughly take it away from you!”
  • DoDEA schools have greater harmony. There are fewer instances of perceived racial violence. In order to achieve that – we’d have to enforce residential desegregation, limit choices in schooling, and address the reality of racism.
  • Overseas military bases have a higher sense of community and identity. Race is less significant. People identify as American first, “We are all a minority here.  We are all one community.”
  • If we are not willing to live together and play together, how can our schools move forward? If we have the will, we could help schools achieve integration.
  • We need to build a sense of community, and it doesn’t happen until we can figure out how to get our children all together.

Bill Miller is the Executive Director of the Friends of the Homeless agency.  They are the largest provider of shelter services in Springfield, Mass. 

  • “We have a commitment in society to keep people alive.”
  • “Folks on the street are picked up and brought to the ER and that’s expensive.”
  • “In our small city, homelessness is a problem. We were asked to build a bigger shelter, but we didn’t build one. Instead, we built a resource center that meets the practical needs of people who are homeless. We invite them in, we have three meals for them, a medical clinic, and a place for people to be during the day.”
  • Last night 600,000 people were homeless.
  • “Part of our philosophy is that: we are not just providing for people who are out there. We are looking for people who are out there.  There are resources that are missing. One thousand men came through our small facility, how many daughters have not had their fathers? How many of these men, if they are restored to their lives, how many daughters would have their father back?  How many of our elders have lived this life?”

Tinsae Erkailo is a South African refugee who is currently a high school student in Springfield, Mass.

  • “Am I happy with my life? Doubts and questions followed me around like a shadow. What could possibly cause so much sorrow?”
  • “There was a reason I was where I was. I needed to back track. I had just come to the U.S. and I thought of South Africa. I had grown attached to the environment there and I genuinely loved it there. I couldn’t see myself living anywhere else. In addition to the friends I had made, the community there was strong.”
  • When a xenophobic pulse ran through South Africa, a mob of people started murdering refugees. “Every day that passed I heard more and more people, people I knew, people were dying. Our family had to run, and this was the source of my sorrow. We had to leave everything that we had worked for. Our family and friendship bonds were broken.”
  • “As time passed, I realized our family was a strong family. We had gone through the worst things possible, but we were alive and healthy.”

Amanda Herman works with individuals to address complex social issues.  She is currently a visiting lecturer at Smith College, and the editor and producer of Live Art Magazine.

  • She helps people tell stories of survival and transformation. “Lately, I’ve focused on their dreams.”  Most dreams remain unrealized, because, “there are limits right? Or at least we think there are!”  She calls her work, “an intervention and a release from these constructs.”
  • She works with a team, using imagination as the foundations, to transform people’s ideas into public art projects.
  • She talked about a project where she worked with an Iraqi refugee, “Using dreams as a way of telling a difficult story works. Our collaborative art project allowed him to recreate his refugee story.  It created an access for others to learn about his experience.”
  • “The unknowing builds barriers between people. I wanted to show an intimate, creative, joyful side of humanity.”
  • Each project creates a temporary community of creative professionals all working together to make someone’s dream come true.
  • “The outcome of each project was joy, and that spread to every person involved.”
  • “It is up to us as a community to redefine what is possible. Dream big and make it happen together.”

Randy Pierce was a computer engineer who went blind suddenly in 1989.  Since that time he founded 2020 Vision Quest, a non-profit organization that works to educate people about blindness and inspires people to move past their challenges.  Pierce is an avid mountain climber and hiker. 

  • “Manipulate risks to transition us out of trauma.”
  • “Risk management is risk manipulation.”
  • “When I first went blind, I had to learn how to use a blind cane. While it let me walk around safely, I could see other people’s reactions.”  He talked about people who treated him differently because of the cane. “I had that same lack of understanding. I took that cane and broke it in half and threw it away. What was the risk management of how people would react to me?  I let my vanity and fear of trauma restrict me and it caused damage.”  He told a story about how he knocked into a small child because he couldn’t see them.  He was traumatized, as was the child.  He suddenly understood the value of the cane.
  • “Vision is way more important than sight.”
  • “Understand the consequences of what can go wrong.”
  • “I can mitigate the challenge of social interactions – I find ways to reach out and connect to people and make it safe for them. If you can find those ways, you can take away the risk of rejections for them and you.”
  • “There will be moments of darkness in our lives, the point is, we have to put our focus on the dawn that’s coming. When we have vision, then there is a great dawn ahead for us in many ways.”

Darby Dyar is the Chair of Astronomy at Mount Holyoke.  She studies the distribution of hydrogen and oxygen throughout the solar system. 

  • She opened with a story about her daughter. Her daughter was crying herself to sleep every night for a week.  Finally, she told Dyar what was bothering her.  Her daughter was worried that the Earth would be destroyed while she was sleeping, and that she wouldn’t wake up.  Dyar tried explaining to her that the world was not in immediate danger of expiration, but her daughter didn’t believe her.  When Dyar brought home a textbook and showed her the pertinent words, she finally calmed down and was able to sleep at night.
  • Is our Earth in danger? Yes, but not immediate.
  • In six billion years our Sun will eventually grow so much in size that it will consume Mercury, Venus, and Earth.
  • We are also liable to be hit by “Big Impacts” which are related to the demise of species on Earth.  Our sky is pretty crowded, but when we look closer we see that the objects around Earth are not densely packed.  There has been detailed work over last decades so that now we know where the potentially disastrous objects are.  As of Sept 20, 2015 there are 13,000 Near Earth Objects, about 1600 of those are classified as Potentially Hazardous.  Scientists are developing some ways of protecting us against these objects, but none are a real or immediate threat.
  • Volcanic eruptions can cause massive global cooling and have been responsible for genetic bottle necking (when most of a species is wiped out except for a small number of survivors.)
  • Global Warming is actually the primary and immediate concern. “As a planetary scientist this is interesting.”  Dyar talked about the Goldilocks Effect, how our Earth is not too hot not too cold.  We have water in all three phases.
  • “To bring our tour of cataclysmic events to a close… the one that worries me is global warming.”

Laney Rosenzweig developed the Accelerated Resolution Therapy after working in the mental health field for 26 years.

  • ART allows people to keep the knowledge of the trauma but release the tension associated with it. It helps people to replace negative images with positive ones.
  • Rosenzweig experimented with eye movements similar to REM sleep.
  • After Rosenzweig waves her hand in front of a client, the client says,”I feel a sense of hope. I feel happy?  Is that normal?”
  • Negative images can be erased through eye movements.
  • Emotional memories are changed when they are recalled. “When you remember, your brain synthesizes new proteins, changing the memory.  Simply by trial and error, I found how ART can change negative images to positive ones.  Clients are conscious about their choice of new images and there is no longer an emotional charge.”
  • ART can help us to rescript our childhood scenes, allowing our adult selves to reimagine our past and find peace and closure.
  • ART can eliminate PTSD in 1-3 sessions. The vast majority of therapists found that ART was best tolerated by the patients and resulted in less “compassion fatigue.”

Marek Marszycki is a DJ.

  • “DJ’s are always looking for that certain sound and unique mix style.
  • Some of us go to great length to provide that feeling on the dance floor.”
  • “The more a DJ explores music, the more their tastes will change. We want to captivate you on the dance floor.”
  • A DJ needs to know how to read a room, when to make the crowd go wild, and how to change things at a moment’s notice. A trust is built between a DJ and a dance floor.”
  • Electronic dance music is about the “drops” and the “builds.”
  • “In techno, or house, it’s about the journey, peaks, and valleys.”
  • “No matter where I am, the first song of every gig represents a dawn of a new day.”

Diane Smith is the author of Obsessed: My Addiction to Food and my Journey to Health.  She is also an Emmy award winning TV journalist. 

  • “I realized that being overweight was not a personal failure, and not my own problem. I was a part of a trend building in this country that robs us of our health and wealth.”
  • “I had binged and dieted drastically. I have tried every diet!  I was such a great dieter that I had dieted up to 260 pounds!”
  • At a weight loss clinic in a hospital, “I had a chance to get back what fat had taken away from my life.”
  • She saw the other people in the room who were pre-diabetic and thought, “That’s my future if I don’t change my life. I was ashamed, but I showed up and it worked!”
  • “Being overweight is not the result of a character flaw.”
  • 2 out of 3 americans are overweight or obese
  • “If we don’t change course, half of all americans will be obese in 15 years.” Currently 48% of African Americans are obese.
  • “What do we do about obesity and food obsession in this country? Stop shaming ourselves! We live in a nation that makes food hard to control.  It’s not just about discipline, we have convenient, abundant food and jobs that require no physical labor.”
  • “The ugly truth is that Americans are addicted to foods that trigger the “Bliss Point.” Food scientists know how much sugar, salt, and fat that will set off pleasure centers of the brain.
  • “We need to push this subject out of the closet and put it on the table.”

Thom Fox is a strategy consultant, helping businesses connect with resources and launch ideas.  He talked about his childhood and his eventual victory in a battle with substance abuse.

  • He was caught stealing the solar panels off of a school. “When you’re 14 trying to build a criminal empire, things happen!”
  • “I could easily start trouble, but I’m a small guy and I needed the protection of a gang. I became vacant. I didn’t care.”
  • “I went to NYC and lived on the street. I missed all my developmental years.  All that time where you develop yourself, learn your skills, I missed all of that.”  He spent years on acid, angel dust, and other heavy drugs.  He stole from people and ate out of trash cans.
  • When he answered an ad for a job with a nonprofit he found himself writing articles, books, and shooting videos. They told him, “There’s something inside you and you don’t see it.  There’s something in you and we have to get it out.”
  • After meeting better and better people, he began to question himself earnestly. “I credit that community with helping me to figure this stuff out, they encouraged me to share my story.
  • Donating time to help others.
  • Life doesn’t have to be miserable.
  • “I wanted to understand all the bad things that had happened to me. What was the commonality? I was the one constant. That’s what I had to overcome!  I had to own this – no one else made me do those things. It helped me to understand that no one succeeds alone. The more opportunity you create for others, the more opportunity you create for yourself.”

Angela Lussier spoke about her history in the business world and her own development as an entrepreneur. 

  • She talked about her experiences after she graduated. “It felt like I couldn’t keep up with my own ambition.  I could never say no. I saw every opportunity as a way to become known.  I wanted to make this work, I wanted to prove that all the things I thought about myself were true.”
  • While working frantically, she realized, “I had no idea where my business was going. It was going in 200 different directions.”
  • One day she had a headache and went home to take a nap. She didn’t leave her bed for an entire month.  She had helped thousands of people realize their dreams, but she felt alone.
  • She decided to take time off in earnest. Living off credit cards, she found herself, “Sitting in the woods and thinking about my life.  I was no longer focused on a to-do list and my observations changed.  I noticed the things I enjoyed doing.  I realized I’m an artist!  What happened? When I graduated from college I thought I had to abandon that part of myself.  I didn’t think I could be an artist and a business person.”
  • She knew that whatever she did next it had to allow her room to be artistic.
  • She decided to make some videos about business subjects, but she had fun while filming them. She worried that people might reject her if she wasn’t serious.  Her followers thought it was great though.  They responded, “It was fun to watch you have fun!”
  • After all these experiments I found that I used to be focused on the end results, now I have a creator’s mindset. I’m focused on the moment, the journey, the creation.
  • She reminds us to, “Listen to the the thoughts you have and you’ll see things about yourself. You have to put yourself in that position to learn.  Underneath all of these ‘shoulds’ was this weird person who wanted to come out.  When I figured out that I was a weird person I realized that everyone is weird!
  • “What was crazy? What was fun?  Observe yourself in the process.  If you can create moments to learn about yourself, you’ll truly see who you are.”

Kalyan Veeramachanemi is a research scientist in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT.  He works to make it easier for humans to interact with large amounts of data.

  • He worked with a team of scientists to collect and understand the data associated with MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, to predict student withdrawal.
  • They were able to determine several different behaviors that were predictive of future withdrawal from the course.
  • They developed a “robot” that would analyze the big data into understandable, digestible, information.
  • Big data has the potential to, ‘bring humans back into the loop in an unprecedented scale.”
  • “All day we are generating data. Wouldn’t you like to know more about yourself through data?”
  • He anticipates that you will soon be able to download your own data and create predictive models about yourself.


rachel rojasRachel Rojas is a freelance writer out of Springfield, Massachusetts.  She writes  local interest stories for The Westfield News, business articles for Lioness Magazine, and dabbles in short novels in between assignments.  Despite the fact that she loves all things intellectual, she has a soft spot for trashy romance novels and pretty clothes.

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