Guest blogger Sarah Jane Semrad is executive director of La Reunion TX.
After weeks of anticipation, my pal Stacy and I took the train from Oak Cliff to Mockingbird Station to experience the first ever TEDxSMU. It was a well-attended affair boasting a who’s who of whoville Dallas. Of the 500 or so attendees I knew probably a third and had heard of another third. (Was that really Lucy Billingsley sitting on the floor near us at lunch…) That left roughly a third that was free game to meet! And that, friends, is what made TEDxSMU the uber networking event.
First the venue. The Caruth Auditorium was comfortable with equal indoor and outdoor spaces to eat, mingle and relish the cool October day. The auditorium was packed to the hilt with not one seat left empty. The backdrop of a giant pipe organ was oddly inspiring and after a few minor technical difficulties, the day was mostly glitch free. A personal frustration and major opportunity for improvement was the lack of recycling for all the plastic they were giving us – from the Central Market boxed lunches to the plastic yogurt containers at breakfast. It was awkward to say the least to listen to speakers sharing insight on poverty, lack of clean water, our oil addiction and not be able to recycle the dang water bottles. (ahem, we packed ours out.)
Next, the content. It’s hard to say who was my personal favorite. Was it Dr. William J. Abraham sharing his quest to unify sub atomic particles with theology and philosophy? Or was it Dr. Arthur Benjamin’s contagious and exuberant LOVE (and I don’t use the word lightly, people) of mathematics? Perhaps it was Rogers Hartmann and her demand that we think beyond the limits of our bodies? Wait wait, I think maybe I’m leaving out 13-year-old home-schooled piano prodigy Lewis Warren. No, it might have been William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer’s presentation about scrap yard windmills. Egads. Too hard to choose. All the presenters wowed. Even the old fella who encouraged us to ‘think more positively about gangbangin’, I mean, whales do it!’ (Don’t ask – and yes it was incredibly awkward.)
The real highlight? Witnessing The Polyphonic Spree rocking this intellectually diverse crowd. Some of us have been to Spree shows and knew to expect a confetti cannon and Tim DeLaughter’s freakishly charismatic antics with the 20+ robe-laden musicians. Others? Apparently not! You should have seen the fellow in the business pink button down shirt go completely unreactive, catatonic even, when Tim climbed up 15 or so auditorium rows to sit by him. Mid-song. Reliving that at the Reel FX after-party with fellow TEDx’ers and members of the band was good times indeed.
Kudos to SMU and especially Sharon Lyle, director of the first annual TEDxSMU. I can imagine what it must have been like to orchestrate and execute an event of this magnitude. I’m even inspired to pursue that MLS degree from SMU I’ve had my eye on. How brilliantly simple (and fun) to have downloaded the free TEDxSMU iPhone app to track twitter conversations that day and meet new people via my cell phone. I’m positively over-joyed to have attended and be able to share with Art& Seek readers. I’ll await next year with baited breath.