As we barrel into the future at breakneck speed, there can be a sense of perilous vertigo. How do we prepare for constant upheaval and change? The answer may lie in a combination of close listening, careful thought and inspiration from people committed to creating peace and progress. In Session 9 of TED2023, seven speakers and performers took up this mantle, exploring topics ranging from reproductive justice and the future of girls’ education to rethinking parenting and the end of life.
The event: Talks from Session 9 of TED2023: Possibility, hosted by TED’s head of curation Helen Walters
When and where: Thursday, April 20, 2023, at the Vancouver Convention Centre in Vancouver, BC, Canada
Speakers: Angeline Murimirwa, Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor, Mark Edwards, Jessie Reyez, Sean Goode, Becky Kennedy, Alua Arthur
We’ve all heard the story of how girls’ education is as close as we may get to a silver bullet for making the world a better place. But there’s more that needs to be done beyond putting a diploma in a girl’s hand, says education activist and 2023 Audacious Project grantee Angeline Murimirwa. Asking so much of young girls places an unimaginably heavy weight on them to beat the odds on their own and make the world a better place without radically reshaping the systems and environment that oppress them. That’s where Murimirwa’s organization CAMFED comes in, helping to lift the burden and ease the pressure by providing a strong social and financial network of 250,000 women mentors and supporters who have made the same difficult journey. A sisterhood, if you will, that not only works but also pays it forward to those who walk alongside them. Murimirwa is living proof, she shares, as one of the first in Zimbabwe helped by the organization years ago — and look where she is now, as its CEO.
If Peru is to become a fully developed country, Peruvian businesses must lead the way, says Intercorp founder Carlos Rodríguez-Pastor, one of Peru’s financial icons. By partnering with companies across the nation, he’s implementing numerous programs to nurture the country’s growing middle class. In conversation with TED business curator Corey Hajim, Rodríguez-Pastor breaks down Peru’s problems into three barriers: education, health care and infrastructure. Working on the ground rather than in the boardroom, he’s found innovative solutions to these problems, partnering with companies to build better schools that are also profitable (which, he says, equates to sustainable), bolstering health care through Peru’s existing pharmacy system and leveraging Peruvian tax law to funnel improvement funds directly to local infrastructure projects.
According to reproductive health advocate and 2023 Audacious Project grantee Mark Edwards, almost half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned, and — astonishingly — six out of ten typical birth control pill users will become accidentally pregnant over a span of ten years. These jaw-dropping statistics underscore the sobering fact that many pregnancies occur not because women aren’t using birth control but because they aren’t using the most effective type for their particular circumstances. In fact, there are 18 FDA-approved forms of birth control, all of which vary in effectiveness for different women and, more importantly, aren’t all available to the women who need it most. Edwards believes contraception is a basic health care right. With his organization Upstream USA, he’s improving birth control education and access for women who lack adequate health care in a post-Roe world where contraception has become critical for family planning.
Speaking during a break between powerful performances of her songs “STILL C U” and “Figures,” singer-songwriter Jessie Reyez tells us she’s “made a profound discovery: we’re born, we grow, we die, and life is suffering.” Indeed, her own struggles with suffering led her to write her music, with roots tapping both sadness and hope. She says we all need to create our own solace from the ruins at our feet — or more succinctly: “Life is what we make it.” Mirroring the message of her spoken words, Reyez’s songs illuminate their painful roots, showcasing her raw powers of creation in sparsely accompanied vocal vignettes that are direct, immediate and often incendiary.
“Will you forgive me, no matter what I do, no matter what I say?” asked TED community member Sean Goode. He believes saying yes to this question provides the opportunity for greater connection, giving space to discuss different experiences and disagreements without harm. By providing grace, says Goode, we’re able to look past difficult histories and envision a more hopeful future together.
Every parent loses their temper, but what comes next? As with any relationship, clinical psychologist and parenting whisperer Becky Kennedy believes the best choice is repair: go back to the moment of disconnection, take responsibility for your actions and state what you’ll do differently next time. Where a parent’s lack of repair can force the child to form unproductive coping mechanisms seeped in self-blame, a 15-second intervention can foster healthy emotional regulation and teach effective communication. Kennedy offers straightforward guidance on how to repair, with tips on self-forgiveness, accountability and seizing the opportunity for growth in all relationships — no matter how big the obstacle may seem.
Just as it’s healthy and helpful to think about our lives, so too is it healthy and helpful to think about how they’ll end, says death doula Alua Arthur. As someone who provides non-medical, holistic support for dying people as well as their friends and family, Arthur spends a lot of time thinking about the end of life. The central question she asks people through her work is this: “What must you do to be at peace with yourself so that you may live presently and die gracefully?” By encouraging people to view their present life from the vantage point of a graceful death, Arthur helps them retrofit their lives, seeing clearly who they want to be and what kind of legacy they want to leave behind. Humans are meaning-making machines, she says. Rather than waiting until our deathbeds to figure out our grand life purpose, why not make meaning and magic out of the daily mundane? “The greatest gift of mortality is the sheer wonder that we get to live at all,” she says.