By Leslie D. Rose
On February 28, 12 dots will connect at LSU to provide a unique display of voices, stories, and even a bit of jazz for TEDxLSU’s 2015 presentation.
Beginning in 2013, TEDxLSU — organized by local volunteers and championed by LSU Communication Across the Curriculum (CXC) — has provided a platform to bring local, regional, and statewide communities together with the mission of spurring dialogue about real issues to generate big ideas that will move the state forward.
This year’s theme “Connect” will showcase ideas from area chefs, teachers, software developers, coastal experts, humanitarians, historians, and even the “Trivia Man,” all working together to present a better model of Louisiana for participants to continue working towards.
“This year, like every year, was a combination of luck and passion. Every speaker that we have shares the same characteristic, however, they are all passionate about the role they play in the community,” said Rebecca Acosta Burdette, CXC associate director and TEDxLSU organizer. “It quickly became clear that 2015 is the year for us to emphasize connections.”
The theme further includes the concept of connecting things that might seem to be disparate, or emphasizing tools for making connections and at a larger scale and in the Baton Rouge community.
“When I think through this year’s line-up, I am proud that across the gamut each speaker, even when presenting on a lighter topic, engages an aspect of real life that someone in the audience, volunteer booth, or community can connect with,” Burdett said.
As part of that line-up, audience members will hear from Michael Hatfield, owner and quizmaster of MonkeyBR’s Let’s Get Quizzical.
“I’m going to be talking about the social interactivity or connections that can happen during bar trivia,” Hatfield said. [Trivia] encourages time to be spent with friends and others in the bar [and] can lead to meeting new people.”
Hatfield said that this year’s theme fits perfectly with his trivia night philosophy as he’d like to think that his nights provide a time for people to connect with others face-to-face with no phones and more importantly, no cheating. And while he’s made the perfect connection with his talk plans, the person he said he’s most excited to see is Chef John Besh.
“Although I have a lot of respect for those who use their position and knowledge to help and/or encourage others, whether it be through science, service to the community, helping kids or music, [I am] a big fan of food and creative, inspired menus,” Hatfield said.
Another of this year’s speakers is Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra Teacher of the Year, John Gray. Gray, who has worked as a professional musician and band instructor in Baton Rouge for more than ten years, will present a message and brief performance inspired by the concept that where words fail, music speaks.
“I’m going to be dealing with the subject matter that I am most involved with on a daily basis – music – and its impact on the greater Baton Rouge community and how it deals with our everyday lives,” Gray said.
However impactful music may be, Gray said he is actually most excited to hear the talk of Maxine Crump, executive director of Dialogue on Race Louisiana.
“[She will be discussing] a heavy topic and I can’t wait to see how she deals with it,” Gray said.
In awe of this year’s speaker list, Burdette said she is excited abut the possible outcome of the talk as she looks forward to its community impact.
“These are not the kinds of events that aren’t meant to be left in the theater when you head back to you car,” Burdette said. “They linger. Sometimes they make you laugh. Sometimes they even make you uncomfortable. But every time, they force you to think about who you are living in this community, and the role you want to play in it.” In continuing the theme, the TEDxLSU team has implemented a 50-student creative team that Burdette said has been the driving force behind everything from public relations and marketing to set design and production. The TEDxLSU diversity committee will also host a pop-up talk on Feb. 19 at 5 p.m. in the Curet room, LSU campus.
A full list of speakers can be found at tedxlsu.com.