BEIRUT: The Lebanese American University hosted TEDxLAU on July 6, a day filled with informative yet also emotional speeches, thought-provoking music, great food, live singing, performances, and conversations with exceptional individuals.
TED originally began as a conference in 1984 that tackled technology, entertainment and design converged. Today, it almost leaves no topic uncovered — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.
However, TEDx events run independently, and are more localized to fit a specific audience and help share ideas in several communities around the world.
Reine Azzi, university instructor and TEDxLAU curator, explained that the beauty of a TEDx event is in its multidisciplinary topics.
Hundreds flocked to LAU to attend this year’s event titled “Unmasked: what do you take for granTED?”
“It’s easy to critique an idea if you are against it, but it’s more difficult to identify the things we take for granted, such as our assumptions and our givens. There are things I taught about for 15 years and I never questioned it,” Azzi said.
“The event is about unmasking the things that we assume are correct and thinking about them differently,” she added.
Azzi also noted that some of the speakers crafted their speeches for hours at a time to help portray to the audience why some of our common attitudes and assumptions are not always necessarily correct or true.
Thirteen speakers took the stage to help the audience answer puzzling questions, each in their own way.
Some used the emotional approach, while others resorted to the scientific one preferring to use facts and figures to point out to the audience that our life on this earth itself should never be taken for granted.
Former NASA scientist Jonathan Fraine, urged the audience to “understand the worlds beyond” their reach, and dig deeper to understand the planet we are living on.
Rebecca Ammar is a university instructor who also shared her unique mindset.
“If mammals and other animals give birth without the need of a doctor or sedatives, why can’t we?” she challenged the audience.
Ammar also shared her own experience giving birth to her second child from the safety of her own home with her partner supporting her during delivery.
On the other hand, Noura Amkieh, Clinical Psychology student and a volunteer at the Lebanese Suicide Prevention Hotline, insisted that sometimes having a kind word to give and an open heart is all you need to save somebody’s life.
“We all want someone to tell us that they can see us, and that we are not falling apart alone,” Amkieh said.
One of the organizers of the event, Dania Taghleb, an architecture student at LAU, introduced herself as a huge TEDx fan, and told Annahar that one of her goals in life is to spread knowledge, innovative ideas, to create and advocate for change. Thus, she “felt like TEDxLAU is a really good platform to do that.”
Tamara Itani, middle school student at International College was also one of the organizers this year.
Itani was previously a speaker at a TEDx event that took place at her school.
“I enjoyed it so much that I decided to become a volunteer in LAU’s event, it was easy for me since my mom works here,” she said. “I gained experience in working so much especially in working with people much older than me.”
During the lunch break and social space time, 14 activities were held.
The activities included but were not limited to, spray painting on a wall to express one’s self, spelling one’s name in sign language, and glass painting. Additionally, a young man and women impersonating Princess Diana and Hitler were walking around, chatting with the attendees, and debunking conspiracy theories regarding the deaths of the famous historical figures.
Other speakers such as Dana Lawand, medical student, had more controversial ideas.
In her speech, Lawand attempted to portray how our society deals with women’s virginity with double standards: what applies to a woman doesn’t always apply to a man.
Xriss Jor, Lebanese-American singer-songwriter, entertainer, and activist spoke to the audience about what comes after succes, which in her case was signing a management deal with her dream music tycoon company.
Jor insisted that “you just keep swimming when you start feeling like your life is worthless after you’ve achieved that ‘big dream’ of yours.”
Joanna Nawfal, breastfeeding consultant, urged mothers to “breastfeed in public” to break taboos instilled in our culture.
“Relax and embrace the uncertainty,” concluded May Obeid, independent artist.
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