A nerd who made it. A study on poverty. A businessman high on innovation. The benefits of youth. A soul-filled frontman from the Congo. An inspiring motivational speaker built up by motivational speakers. A suave Vietnamese entrepreneur. A trans revolutionary, and a bruised alcoholic-turned-gladiator. What do all these people and concepts have in common? They are the speakers of TEDx SMCC of course.
The event started with a few classical ballads and hymns from the SMCC Chorale. Jarringly juxtaposed with a bubblegum pop rap from a local artist named Thommy Kane, while this beginning was not a rocky one by any means, it was certainly a bold statement. Finally, with an introduction from our very own Chuck Ott, the event began in earnest.
The theme “Mind The Gap” exploring ideas of “old vs. new, tradition vs. innovation, and struggle vs. triumph” was certainly open and appealing to all.
The first speaker was Lloyd Metcalf, an adventure writer, illustrator, and SMCC Communications & New Media alumni. He spun a rich yarn of a young boy growing up in a sorry mill town, and how we as adults stifle “unrealistic” childhood dreams. As a CNMS major myself, his was the story I related to the most, but more was soon to come.
Three speakers that day spoke of business, from a business perspective. Becky McKinnell, young President of iBec Creative, outlined her struggle as a young businesswoman to be taken seriously and take herself seriously as a young entrepreneur. Jess Knox, President of Olympico Strategies, enthralled us with the wonders of innovation, no matter how small. Quang Nguyen, an SMCC graduate with a degree in Business Administration, talked about his tumultuous introduction to America and his hard-won success.
Michelle Neujahr, an SMCC Business Professor, Nicole Maines, a transgender youth activist, and Liz Leddy, a two-time Golden Gloves champion boxer, shared a common theme. All three fought from the bottom through the quagmire of self-deprecation, social norms, and alcohol abuse respectively. Theirs were the most poignant stories of the day.
Then there was the fantastically talented Fiston “Seba” Bujambi. A singer, songwriter, pianist and guitarist from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fiston provided the intermission with some incredible smooth jazz fusion. Paired with coffee and cookies, he and his band helped set the mood for the creative, sometimes aggressive discussion led by a simple question: “What does ‘Mind the Gap’ mean to you?” Patrons were encouraged to pin their thoughts on a triangular prism-column in the middle of the lounge area, yielding varied and complex responses. “…[the] gap between many peoples’ expectations/needs and reality” pondered one such sticky-note. Another stoically insinuated, “the Bible and school.” Yet another asked a conceptual challenge. “The gap I see is generational. Why can’t we get educated [in] both old-school and modern ways and make them both better?”
The throughline across all of these inspiring individuals, musicians, and sticky-notes was a hope. A hope, a passion, a dream, that each and every one of them has taken and molded into a reality. So go out! Get inspired. All you need to acquire your dream is a bit of hard work, persistence, innovation, an acknowledgement of the obstacles, and a quart of high-concentrate elbow grease.