By Blanca Torii

Some conversations just stick in your head. In the case of one speaking to an audience of a thousand, the conversation has to be done correctly.

Anticipation was evident in the orange lanyards hanging around the necks of future Blake Mycoskie’s (founder of nonprofit company TOMS) prior to the show. Flocking to an event, they were part of a secret cult that only those with orange lanyards knew what was going on. Coincidentally, I was one of those people.

Sitting in the Balboa Theatre, the reflections above were the first thing to catch my attention. The orange hue of the shadows lining the stage created the effect of being in the Little Mermaid’s grotto, if only she lived during the Roaring Twenties. The grandiose theater, paired with three huge letters “T,” “E” and “D,” perched center stage, set the mood for watching a show.

Yet this show was an interesting mix, as diverse as the lineup of speakers that evening. It was entertainment plus education and inspiration.

Last Friday, TED talks hosted a night of seven speakers with the theme of “Finding your place in the universe.” TED talks (whose tagline is “Ideas worth spreading”) are live recordings that garner millions of viewers online. The event was expected to seat over a thousand.

All of the speakers were social entrepreneurs who spoke of global issues and the theme of education being the key to unlocking the grottos of knowledge. And as with any lineup, comparisons follow. The powers of persuasion come in all shapes and public speaking styles.

One of the most remarkable speakers was also the last: Eden Full. A current student of Princeton University at 21 years old, Full is petite in stature yet grand in delivery, execution and ideas. I say this because it was astounding that of all the speakers, the youngest seemed the most naturally talented and purely passionate in her area of interest. Her domain is solar panels.

The young social entrepreneur has worked to produce the SunSaluter. This device rotates solar panels to follow the sun to increase the energy produced, without using electricity. It also generates clean water.

She used herself to pull at the heartstrings, whereas two other speakers used images of their rather recent newborn babies. She showed her elementary school science project of solar panels, saying that she’s been involved in the cause for some 10 to 12 years. Then she showed a complicated-looking machine, a juvenile solar panel. She had looked it up on Google and bought the parts from Home Depot. She said it so matter-of-factly, yet when was the last time you constructed a homemade solar panel? Cue the audience’s laughter.

The key is that Full seemed like a normal 21 year old. She’s Canadian. She owns a parrot. She was the coxswain for a Canadian women’s rowing team. Although she is an Ivy Leaguer and ranks on a Forbes 30 under 30 list, at the core she seemed to be a regular person who is also informed, driven and open to new ideas. I can be like that. TED talks results in this, offering the viewer a look into what he or she can accomplish.

There was a reason that she received a two-person standing ovation and an enthused applause from the audience.

A unifying link among the speakers was what motivated them to initially kickstart their campaigns. Many travelled to third world countries–expected. But what was apparent was the opening of eyes to ways of life and living situations different from one’s own. Or in other words, motivation spouted from travel to other countries and being aware of the disparities of other countries.

With this in mind, as USD is number one in study abroad participation, there is legitimate hope for where we will go and what we will do.
Maybe what Full said is true.

“All you need is Google, love and courage.”