When Anis Mojgani challenges his audience to “come closer, come into this,” he’s not asking them to move closer to the stage; he’s asking them to move more resolutely into their own lives. “Your smiles are simply signs of how sacred your life actually is, so step into it.”
Anis Mojgani grew up in New Orleans, the son of an Irani father and an African-American mother. His high-flying, supremely optimistic poems have won him two National Poetry Slam championships and top honors at the World Cup Poetry Slam. He is the author of three poetry collections, Over the Anvil We Stretch, National Book Award nominee The Feather Room and the newly published Songs From Under the River.
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“Will I be something? You always were. You are. You still have time to be.”
The words of World Cup Poetry Slam champion Anis Mojgani seemed to sum up the powerfully inspiring messages of the half-day TEDxAtlanta: Reasons to Believe conference on May 7.
In a world that can seem overly focused on the negative, we often miss the voices of the visionaries and doers who make life better for us all. Even rarer is the opportunity to hear only these voices for the better part of a day. The most recent TEDxAtlanta conference gave attendees and Livestream viewers reasons to believe in the dreams of our youth, the future of our planet, and the power of creativity, music and poetry.
The youngest among us are already hard at work on a brighter tomorrow. Claire O’Connell is a 20-year-old who has designed an online “game” that lets people around the world map the connections between retinal neurons. Marcel Benoit, a freshman in high school, shared his passion for entrepreneurship. And Charles Orgbon, at 17, explained that “modern day heroes are those who do what they can with what they have.”
Those with concerns about the future of our planet heard many reasons to breathe easier. Kelly Callahan shared the story of how her team at The Carter Center has virtually eradicated Guinea Worm Disease, once a major threat to the health and economy of the developing world. Jessica Moore, Robert Cotter, Joe Rozza and Dr. Marshall Shepherd gave reasons to believe in better ways of stewarding solar energy, transportation, water and climate change.
Journalists and artists are also in good hands, as Tom Rosenstiel and Brendan O’Connell shared a vision for a bigger, more audience-focused world of news media, and a big idea for keeping kids’ creativity stoked well past the days of childhood coloring books.
The TEDxAtlanta organizers believe in bookending the event with music – at the start, to transition busy minds into the thoughtful mode of the conference, and at the end, to conclude a day of inspiration and celebrate a new mindset. Jared and Amber Humphries opened the day with their beautiful, unique voices and intimate style, and The Graduates – all alumni members of Wake Forest University’s a cappella group — wrapped up the event. Muss & Turner’s catered a delicious light lunch and post-event nibbles.
If you missed it in person or on Livestream, you can still get the full experience. Check out the Twitter archive here.