Who is TED?

By Alex Cohen

Storytelling inspired us to tell our own stories…

When I told people I was going to attend the 2015 TED Conference Series in Vancouver this year, most people asked me, “Who is Ted?”

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.”

It has always been a dream of mine to attend the conference, as I have been following the talks online for years. Joining me was my good friend and Executive Director of our Foundation, Jeanne Melino. Neither of us knew what to expect but we knew it would be an adventure of a lifetime.

The theme of the conference this year was Truth or Dare. The conference forced us to question fundamental truths about ourselves and the quickly evolving world around us. We were taking a leap of faith into the unknown.

The conference presented an impressive array of talks that covered everything from biochemistry, philosophy, religion, fashion, music and philanthropy. While we quickly realized that we were surrounded by incredibly intelligent people, doing amazing things, we were excited and incredibly eager to learn. As the acclaimed celebrity blogger, Just Jared, once said, “You are in the wrong room if you are the smartest person in the room.”

The speakers at TED were impressive and inspirational people who transform the way we see the world and shape our future. They presented new ideas for how to alter long-held beliefs about climate change, politics, privacy, technology and global philanthropy.

We were moved and inspired by many of the personal stories of courage, self-preservation, determination and innovation. We learned how important it was to just be “still” from Pico Iyer, author of “the Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere”; to be daring sometimes (even to the point of embarrassment); to open your mind to other possibilities and to see the world as it truly is. We learned that we all need to be more proactive in this world to make the kind of changes that will impact not only our lives, but the lives of future generations.

One talk that stood out and bears sharing was by Dave Isay who believes that, “listening to someone else closely is one of the most valuable gifts we can give to another human being.” He founded StoryCorps which preserves the stories of everyday people in recordings of interviews between friends, loved ones and strangers. I agreed to be interviewed by a stranger and now my story is now included at The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. This center has the largest single collection of recorded voices in history.

Now that I’ve shared my story with the world, it’s time for you to share yours…with the StoryCorp app.

Thank you TED, we left there smarter, happier, and inspired!

– Alex and Jeanne