A Review of TEDxPlano 2017

TEDxPlano IF: A Blueprint for a Better World

There’s little dispute that we are living in a polarized and fractured world. Hosting its fourth annual gathering, TEDxPlano didn’t shy away from this reality and offered thoughtful presentations on the theme of IF – specifically, what if we thought, lived and created differently from what we’ve grown accustomed to? Would the world look different and how would those changes impact our lives and communities?

TEDxPlano curator Shannah Hayley used the stage to explore these questions and to think about how we can move from a place of polarization to a place where we can listen and create community. Its overall theme, she said, is that “conversations lead to opportunities to connect, and connection leads to new ideas.” We’re not required to listen to others who differ from us, but perhaps our communities would be more enjoyable and livable if we considered that “another position may have equal validity and needs to be honored.”

Presenting its largest roster of speakers to date, TEDxPlano challenged a silo mindset and nudged us to expand our worlds.

In the lobby, Children’s Health displayed 3D-printed models of actual human hearts that are used to pre-plan difficult heart surgeries // photos courtesy TEDxPlano

IF: Think

Varsha Appaji, a student at Plano Senior High, spoke on the power of music to invite its listeners to find the beautiful in everything and to be excited by our differences. A student of South Indian Classical Music known as Carnatic music, Varsha shared her gift and her belief that the “goal of music and all art is to communicate Rasa, an experience of emotion, feeling and empathy.”

Kelsey Samuels, a reporter for the Plano Star Courier, asked the audience to look with a critical eye toward the news and to seek the truth. “We are our loved ones’ gatekeepers and we shouldn’t lead them astray. It is worthwhile work to find the truth.”

Carol Kennelley reflected upon the disruption and opportunity that change offers to us. A part of the Toyota family, she has moved from her beloved Michigan to California and now to Texas. “Every little change was a huge upset, and it was also the opportunity to have the adventure of a lifetime.”

Vinny Minchillo, a veteran of the persuasion business, otherwise known as marketing, wants us all to understand what’s being sold to us. Everything, he believes, is best sold through the use of hope and fear. Indeed, hope and fear is what persuades us to action. “Hope without action is a wish, and fear without action is paralyzing.”

IF: Live

Zach Weismann, a self-described “mama’s boy,” spoke of the importance of honoring the bonds and attachments we make as children, especially when, as adults, we are called upon the return the care. Reflecting upon the care he provided his mother through her cancer diagnosis, he said, “Caregiving is tough, disruptive and doesn’t care how much you love,” yet it makes us better people.

Shannon Kraus, an architect specializing in healthcare design, reflected upon the fact that “where we live impacts how we live.” He designs communities that promote health and well-being, are walkable, provide access to healthy food and bring people together socially. Most of the communities we live in promote stress as opposed to well being, but that can change because “a single person with a passion to care can have great impact.” All change starts with a commitment to care.

Mary Jacobs is one half of the popular Plano Podcast and posed the question, “Should cities tend to their souls as much as they tend to roads and parks?” Her answer is “yes,” and she defines a city with soul as one where we belong, where people know our names and where we share history, conversation and story.

Jaideep Patil is a student at Plano West Senior High School and was recently awarded an Environmental Conservation Award from the City of Plano after forming a student club that cleans litter and trash from local creeks. He is passionate about keeping our environment beautiful and free from litter. “It should be our duty to preserve the environment. We need to strive to perpetuate an environmentally conscious mindset.” He challenges all to dedicate just two hours per month to join a local litter cleanup crew.

Jennifer Hartman asked a critical question, “How many of you have ever lost your mind?” A clinical psychologist, she noted that whenever we experience intense, negative emotions, we literally lose part of our minds. Our prefrontal cortex goes offline. She prescribes mindfulness and meditation for a healthy brain, citing that regular practice improves attention, focus and our emotional regulation.

IF: Create

Gopal Raman is a student at St. Mark’s School of Texas and was recently chosen by the White House to be a part of the 2016 National Student Poets Program. Raman believes that “poetry can heal and can help us to be more caring.” It creates a safe haven and a place of refuge during trying times.

Arthur Jones of St. Andrew UMC in Plano reflected upon how real change happens in the world and believes that only two things are necessary for lasting change: real community in the form of face to face conversation and a system for change. The system St. Andrew UMC has designed is Spark Tank, a community grant and challenge program which provides matching funds to encourage people to actively serve their neighbors.

Alicia Morgan, a former aerospace and industrial engineer, spoke about the power of failure. We will all face failure at some point in our lives, and in order to move forward, we must let go of the belief that things should be a certain way. She advises people to learn from failure and let it be the thing that moves one forward rather than holding one back.

Jay Iadonisi reflected upon the power of influence in nature, citing the firefly and how its dance of light begins with just one influencer emitting a signal which the other fireflies follow. Jay believes that all of us can positively influence our world. We don’t need to be celebrities or have a large network to bring about change. We simply have to emit a signal and trust the life it takes on. “Anything is possible when you show your light.”

Thinking, living and creating in new ways helps us all to grow and thrive in a fractured world, and according to this year’s TEDxPlano speakers, it is the blueprint for creating successful lives and communities.

Photos courtesy TEDxPlano / Click to enlarge on a desktop:


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