There was barely a dry eye in the house.
On a stage that has played host to world-renowned musicians, the cause was a nursery rhyme that elicited a passionate and tearful standing ovation at TEDxPhilly.
The moment came courtesy of Curtis graduate Standford Thompson, founder of Tune Up Philly, a program that offers classical music lessons to Philadelphia high school students. Leading his talk with a short video showing eager but frustrated students struggling to play a scale, Thompson figured the best way to show his student’s progress from September was to let them play.
One rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star later, 600 TEDx attendees — including host Chris Bartlett — were brought to their feet. After the song Bartlett took the stage and stood in silence.
“I’m going to let that moment sit,” he said holding back tears. “I’m going to allow myself to be moved.”
A Philly first
Organized by Roz Duffy and an army of volunteers after a year of planning, TEDx is the licensed version of the popular TED conference that takes place yearly in California. To help spread TED, independent organizers lead smaller TEDx events all around the country throughout the year. Yesterday, however, was Philly’s first.
The all-day event’s theme was “Right Here and Right Now” leading to a diverse group of Philadelphians taking the stage at the Kimmel Center. The speakers each had 18 minutes to speak about their ideas which ranged from changing lives with food to the importance of the two-by-four. The talks were split into four sessions with a short break in between each and the audience was not allowed to take notes on a laptop or cell phone.
“We’re going by Amish rules today,” said Bartlett.
“It doesn’t have to be like this,” said Science Leadership Academy principal Chris Lehmann during his talk. Though he was speaking about the education system he could have been referring to the entire city. From changing the way we get our food to the way we think about corporate law, the speakers all advocated for change.
After the jump, we recap the topic of each talk.
We’re going to eschew any awards or reviews as the talks will be available online shortly, so you will be able to see for yourself. Below is a cheat sheet:
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz – Beginning her talk with a bit of presidential trivia, Aptowicz told a story about how she left the cubicle to become the writer-in-residence at the University of Pennsylvania, inspired by the time she was mistaken for a busboy at her company’s holiday party.
“Be bold. Love what you do and chase your most ambitious dream,” she said.
Chris Lehmann – The principal of the Science Leadership Academy (and Friday Q and A veteran) spoke about education reform, specifically his desire to move our nation’s high schools to a more project-based approach. To illustrate his point he showed a page from one of the state’s standardized tests and asked, “How many of you have had to do a box and whisker plot this year?”
Nic Esposito – The founder of Philly Rooted, Esposito thinks that with a little work we can all be the “guardians and stewards” of a new economy. His organization helps create sustainable community gardens to help employ local youth while stabilizing the local food supply. Esposito says that he was partly inspired when he met activists in college, though he admitted that for all their talk, “if the electricity went off, they’d be dead in three days.”
Jay Coen Gilbert – A co-founder of AND1 and B-Corp., Coen Gilbert spoke about B-Corp’s quest to create a new classification for businesses where the are rewarded for being sustainable and community-focused. According to Coen Gilbert, Philadelphia is the first city to reward sustainable businesses with tax benefits.
Standford Thompson – See above.
Tanya Hamilton – Hamilton spoke about the her film “Night Catches Us,” a feature film about race in 1976 Philadelphia. Hamilton spoke of one of her sources of inspiration, a student and family friend who received six months in jail for taking part in one of the first sit-ins at the White House.
Zoe Strauss – The creator of “Under I-95” a ten-year long photography exhibit, Strauss now has her own exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Strauss cycled through some of her photos admittedly preferring to improvise her talk ending on a photo she took of her now-deceased neighbor.
Michael Solomonov – The founder of Zahav spoke of his Israeli roots and how it wasn’t until he happened into a cooking job that he felt he found his true calling. Following the death of his brother, a friend advised Solomonov to “make something of himself” which, in part, led to his founding of several Philadelphia restaurants, including Percy Street Barbecue.
Simon Hauger – “Did you see Chris [Lehmann]’s talk?” asked Hauger when he first took the stage. “Alright, I’ll see you later!” Hauger, like his counterpart at the Science Leadership Academy, believed that our schools need to be changed to accommodate for all kinds of competencies, not just test taking. Haugher, a teacher at West Philadelphia High School, helped lead a group of students to the semi-finals of the Progressive X Prize, a contest to find the most gas efficient automobile. The team beat out other teams from universities and car companies.
RJ Moore – Another Friday Q and A vet, Moore talked about all the data created and captured everyday leading to “data exhaust.” Moore said that he thinks this will help fuel the next great revolution, much like the printing press fueled the Renaissance.
Evan Malone – The founder of NextFab Studio theorized – using many a flow chart – that strict immigration policies along with offshoring are distracting from America’s ability to innovate.
Bill Covaleski – Covaleski spoke about the end of the “fad” of processed food and cheap beer leading to a “pandemic connoisseurship” among American foodies.
Billie Faircloth – Faircloth told the life story of one of her true loves: the two-by-four. Faircloth, pleaded for a smarter form of design that takes into account the process used to create building materials.
Iyad Obeid – Obeid is the director of the Neural Instrumentation Laboratory at Temple University where his team researches how paralyzed patients can control prosthetics wired directly to the brain. Obeid gave the (very) basic version of how his field is translating the brain’s thoughts into computer input, including how brain’s ability to adapt to prosthetics.
“Imagine building half a bridge and Philadelphia slides right in [on the other side],” he said.
Stephen Powers – Powers, much like Strauss, spoke about his artistic work. Specifically, how his team took the “Love Letter For You” project to Sao Paulo, Brazil to reinvigorate a downtrodden neighborhood.
Ursula Rucker – The poet closed out TEDx with three performances on the theme of telling her story as a woman.