In “Dreams Before Waking,” poet Adrienne Rich asked us, “…. What would it mean to live in a city whose people were changing each other’s despair into hope? You yourself must change it. What would it feel like to know your country was changing? You yourself must change it.”
Rich’s assertion was at the very heart of Betterness, the theme of this year’s TEDxAtlanta event. Held Tuesday, May 6th, at Unboundary, inspired attendees and online viewers witnessed firsthand how the world is changing because of some very thoughtful and committed citizens from across a range of disciplines—designers, inventors, journalists and health professionals—who aren’t afraid to offer up game-changing approaches to energy, entrepreneurship, education, publishing, development, food and the arts.
It was Susan Booth, Alliance Theater artistic director, who quoted Rich in speaking about theatre as a means to connect community, surmount challenges and address needs. “Imagine a city whose public discourse was based on those shared tenets of theatre and democracy,” she implored. “A city that leans in, listens and aligns.”
“The transition to renewable energy sources represents one of the greatest challenges of humankind,” said Lonnie Johnson, inventor and holder of more than 80 patents. Johnson wowed the audience in describing a next generation engine that converts thermal energy into electricity with twice the efficiency of current methods, as well as a thin-film solid-state battery that may be the future of energy storage. The audience was no less delighted when Johnson, who also invented the Super Soaker and the Nerf Gun, stopped his talk long enough to pelt the audience with tiny Nerf darts.
The idea that design will lead the way in making our future better was reinforced by entrepreneur Ted Ullrich, founder of Tomorrow Lab—an engineering and design studio. Ullrich decreed a new future for innovation based on fast development cycles and smaller business models—eliminating barriers to entry and empowering the little guy.
The day began with an unforgettable performance by Storyboard P, who has elevated his unique style of street dancing to an art form. Other "voices of betterness" included Aidan Sullivan who reminded us how essential and endangered the journalists who report truth from around the globe really are. Andrew Losowsky helped us understand how our voices might be made more effective if we learned to stop talking ourselves and help elevate the voices of those less heard.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald explained the critical role of "language nutrition" for babies. Dr. Corey Keyes, a pioneer in positive psychology, illustrated the importance of flourishing. And Carol Naughton spoke about the revitalization of Eastlake, an extraordinary Atlanta community that has broken the cycle of poverty for its citizens and helped to create a model for developing other “beloved communities” around the country. Short talks were sprinkled throughout the day by Laura Flusche on design, Jen Hidinger on compassionate giving and Thomas Stokell on cycle challenges. No doubt the highlight for some was Atlanta’s Muss & Turner’s and Local Three festive lunch and late afternoon tasting.
TEDxAtlanta is made possible through sponsorships and volunteer efforts. Organizing sponsors were MailChimp, Metro Atlanta Chamber, Turner Broadcasting and Unboundary. Contributing sponsors were Cenveo, Dasani, Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, Local Three, MODA (Museum of Design Atlanta) and Muss & Turner’s.