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Cheers, tears and standing ovations at the TED Fellows talks

Posted by: Karen Eng

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Photo: Ryan Lash

It was an emotional two sessions at the TED Fellows talks today at the Lyceum Theatre.

The audience thrilled to the musical virtuosity of guitarist Usman Riaz and violinist Robert Gupta & Joshua Roman, cheered the political courage of artist Bahia Shehab, marvelled at the ingenuity of Sheref Mansy and Max Little’s scientific innovations, gasped at the beauty of Elaine Ng Yan Ling and Skylar Tibbit’s designs, laughed to tap-dancer Andrew Nemr’s rhythmic riddles, and wept to Candy Chang and Ola Orekunrin’s stories of grief and inspiration.

And how did that leave the audience feeling? Here are a few responses, gathered in breaks between sessions…

When I’m in the TED Fellows talks, I’m not thinking in words, I’m feeling. I forget me. I forget who I am. – Leland ‘Lee’ Larson

Every year it gets better and better – extraordinary new ideas. Alexander McLean’s prison project was that most compelling, extremely human in its nature. I can relate to it as an oppressive environment in a developing country. And this is an opportunity to learn how to replicate his work. – Walid Al-Saqaf, TED Senior Fellow

My aunt died ten days ago. I was with her, and I was the person who washed her in prep for funeral. She was 90, never married, had no children, but in her life was a mother to all her nieces and nephews and their children. As Candy Chang spoke, I wondered what my aunt’s wish would have been if she’d had an an opportunity to do so. I will never know. I thought about washing and dressing my aunt, feeling I as though I were preparing her for her wedding; in our culture, we dress the dead in white. I truly believe that she will get married and have children in heaven. – Solafa Batterjee

Fellows are a catalyst for the rest of us. There’s so much talk that goes on in the world, and these people are really taking action. I’m feeling now like I have to go home and act. The diversity of topics shows how powerful the continuum of thought is. With action, it can be done. – Molly Partesotti

What’s amazing is how different the talks were, yet they didn’t feel random. They were ALL relevant – relevant to me, which speaks highly of the curators. –  Barbara Hue

My mind is spinning. It was a lot of shocking information. The story of Ola Orekunrin’s sister [who died for lack of adequate local care, leading to her creation of an air ambulance service for Nigeria], Alexander McLean’s presentation of the prison conditions in Africa. And Christopher Soghoian’s presentation is making me rethink what I’m doing, reminding me that Protei technology could be used for drug enforcement. – Caesar Harada, TED Senior Fellow

My favorite talk was Alexander McLean’s story of hope and forgiveness – especially through the song. It challenged me to empathize with what’s going on for prisoners. – So-Young Kang

I’m so caught up in my two babies at home – that becomes your world. And you come here and see people dealing with bigger issues. These talks make me realize it takes nothing but the belief that one person can create a ripple –just one idea to make things better – that continues to flow. TED and the Fellows program exists to help amplify that effect. We all have inspiration inside us; TED and its Fellows help people to act on that inspiration. – Rachael Rensink

The whole thing was uplifting and inspirational. My own emotional reaction surprised me, as did how open Fellows were to expressing themselves in a public place. And the guitarist was awesome! – Sam Falletta

Every talk is a little jewel. I want to keep it! – Rosi Dhaenens