TEDxBerkeley 2018 at Zellerbach Hall: You Are Here

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Now in its ninth year, the theme for this year’s TEDxBerkeley on February 17 was You are Here. Related to location but also perspective, your view of the world changes depending on the map you choose.

The lenses you pick are important and give rise to a new perspective, telling a different story, and below are stories of heart, soul, conviction and resilience around education, healthcare, business, design, disabilities, culture, language, ethics, the environment and more.

TEDxBerkeley powerful voices

Hear from 20 powerful voices about their worlds and what we can learn from their life experiences and wisdom. Why do their voices matter? Each and every one of them are trying to make the world a better place and their insights will help us all expand collective consciousness in a significant way.

David Lang

David Lang is passionate about our oceans and argues that the same system that was set up to protect America’s national parks a hundred of so years ago, is what is necessary for our oceans today. With passion and conviction, he shows us vividly beautiful videos of the pure beauty and marine life we have in our own back yard in the San Francisco Bay Area. There is a lot to learn from our underwater friends and a lot to protect. We can’t wait until it’s too late — we owe it to future generations.

David Lang is the co-founder of OpenROV, manufacturers of underwater drones, and OpenExplorer, a platform for connected exploration as well as an entrepreneur and writer. David is also a TED Senior Fellow and a National Geographic Explorer. His book, Zero to Maker, chronicled his journey from underskilled beginner to underwater robot manufacturer.

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson stresses the importance of raising consciousness and showing compassion in such a fractured world. In need of a major overhaul, she argues that oneness and connected-ness is the way forward, not under a system that promotes fear and divisiveness. In her talk, she cites historical facts about our early beginnings of our nation and how the democracy we created is under threat if we don’t wake up and act soon.

Marianne says, “the times in which we’re living are dramatic and unstable, yet pregnant with new possibilities for a future released from the shackles of fear.”  Her words of wisdom on the TEDxBerkeley stage echoed what she feels her most important message is in the current climate. She asks: “At a time when fear and hatred have been turned into a political force, is it possible to harness the powers of love and decency for political purposes as well?”

Marianne Williamson is an internationally acclaimed author and lecturer. Seven of her twelve published books have been New York Times Best Sellers and four of these were #1. The mega best seller A Return to Love is considered a must-read of The New Spirituality. Her current efforts are centered on the Love America Tour, which focuses on bringing principles of higher consciousness to our politics.

New Latthivongskorn

When Jirayut “New” Latthivongskorn told college advisors he wanted to go to medical school, they were baffled since they had never heard of a medical school admitting an undocumented student. Latthivongskorn, who was born in Thailand and moved to the United States at the age of 9, shares his powerful journey as an undocumented immigrant who became the first undocumented medical student at UCSF.

He joined Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) as a situational activist and as co-chair of ASPIRE—the nation’s first pan-Asian undocumented immigrant organization—to advance immigrant rights. New continues to work at the intersection of immigrant rights, health and medicine, and culture change and from that place, shared how we can all be more aware and active in understanding immigration issues and moving the needle forward.

New Latthivongskorn is an immigrant rights & health justice activist, and an aspiring physician. New became the first undocumented medical student at University of California, San Francisco, in the Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved (PRIME-US). He has been recognized for his commitment to social justice and service.

Dónall Ó Héalaí

Language represents an essential component of humanity, revealing so much about culture, heritage, literature, and nearly every human endeavor. Passionate about the Irish language and its connection to beauty, Dónall shares his personal relationship with the endangered Gaelic language.

He asserts that the Irish language connects him to his landscape and environment in a way that transcends that which is visual and obvious and he says, “it allows me to set foot into what the Irish poet John O’Donohue refers to as the invisible world.”  Dónall argues that this ancient tongue makes things that are are otherwise dull and bland, graceful and personal.

Recounting ancient legends, singing a traditional Gaelic song and discussing the colonial induced displacement of indigenous culture and practices, Dónall encourages the audience to consider our own inner selves–aspects of ourselves that we fail to celebrate and hide from the rest of the world.

Born and raised in Connemara in the West of Ireland, Dónall Ó Héalaí is the founding director of Celtic Consciousness, which aims to honor, share and save the Irish language. A lover and sharer of stories and songs, Donall is a native Gaelic speaker and has been awarded Dr. H.H Stewart Literary prize.

Murray Hidary

Murray Hidary is a classical pianist, entrepreneur and the creator of Mind Travel. His provocative, improvisational, real-time compositions with the piano and art projections, inspired by theoretical physics and wisdom traditions, take the audience on a transporting and expansive journey. Each performance that Murray gives is uniquely different each and every time as he responds to what is happening in any given room or space in real time.

Before he played, he recounts losing his sister in a tragic biking accident in South Africa publicly for the first time, which was moving and invoked many tears in the audience. And, he so beautifully dedicated his TEDxBerkeley talk and performance to her. I felt as if Murray’s performance was spiritually blessed somehow as the music echoed throughout Zellerbach Hall.

Composer and pianist Murray Hidary is the creator of Mind Travel. His provocative, improvisational, real-time compositions with the piano and art projections, inspired by theoretical physics and wisdom traditions, take the audience on a transporting and expansive journey. Murray has brought Mind Travel to famed venues, theaters, beaches and parks around the world.

Tyrone B. Hayes

Dr. Tyrone Hayes discusses his journey as a scientist and how he received worldwide fame for his work on the harmful effects of the pesticide atrazine. Arguing that “those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act,” Dr. Hayes details his decade-long feud with Syngenta, the manufacturer of atrazine, as well as his acute observation that those who suffer most from the environmental impacts of harmful chemicals tend to be the socioeconomically-disadvantaged and racial or ethnic minorities.  

Biologist and Berkely University biology professor Tyrone B. Hayes did his dissertation on the genetic and environmental mechanisms determining the gender of the wood frog. His investigations have shown that chemical agents, such as a commonly used herbicide, have the ability to negatively impact the sexual development of the amphibian, even in low concentrations. He has won several awards for his teaching and his research.

Michelle Brané

As border stops have increased and the United States quietly steps up restrictionist immigration policies, the plight of refugees, many of whom are women and children, is only worsening.

Despite the clarity of international law regarding the acceptance of refugees, many of whom are fleeing political instability and violence in Central America, the United States refuses to allow these vulnerable populations into the country. Michelle argues that it doesn’t have to be this way. A lawyer by training, Michelle has dedicated her life to serving some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Michelle Brané is the director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission & one of the nation’s foremost experts on U.S. immigration detention and reform and advocates for the rights of migrant women, children and families and the implementation of humane immigration and border policies. Michelle has testified before Congress, and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.

Hazel Miller

In her TEDxBerkeley performance, Hazel Miller encourages the audience to follow their passion and believe in themselves, particularly women. She asserts that dreams are not just dreams, but by continuing to believe in them, having faith and following your heart, they will lead to your life purpose. She says, “ladies, believe, trust — if it feels like it’s not the right time, then change that feeling, it’s always the right time.” Hazel reminds us to find our conviction if we haven’t already – it will transform how you live your life.

Hazel Miller is not just a great singer “She is a force of nature!” quotes the Rocky Mountain News. Hazel and her band (the Hazel Miller Band — HMB) has performed for six sitting governors and mayors and four US presidents and was votedBest R&B” Band by Westword Magazine.

Eric Osiakwan

Eric Osiakwan dispels the notion that all Africa has to offer the world is natural resources. To that end, he has helped set up high-tech infrastructure and businesses in 32 countries across Africa over last decade and a half. Eric believes that the continent is poised to be the epicenter of a new tech business boom, with mobile devices at the forefront. 

Eric Osiakwan is the Managing Partner of Chanzo Capital and an Entrepreneur and Investor with 15 years of ICT industry leadership across Africa and the world. He has worked in 32 African countries setting up ISPs, ISPAs, IXPs and high-tech startups, was the founder of Angel Africa List, Angel Fair Africa and was part of the team that built the TEAMS submarine cable in East Africa. Eric authored “The KINGS of Africa’s Digital Economy” and is a TED, Stanford, MIT and Harvard fellow.

Teresa Ryan, Ph.D.

Connected to Aboriginal culture and all that it taught her growing up, Teresa Ryan has spent as a fisheries scientist, guided by her Aboriginal grandfather. In her riveting and passionate talk, she asserts that the synchronicity of salmon and forests are so intertwined that changes to the rhythmic cycles of either may affect the other.

Marine-derived nitrogen is transported into the forest by salmon predators and made available along my corrhizal networks below ground among the trees providing a vital nutrient for forest health. We discover how much we can learn from listening to the inner wisdom of our ancestors as a way to save the environment, as well as fish, marine and animal life.

Teresa (Sm’hayetsk) Ryan, PhD, (Tsimshian) is a Postdoctoral Teaching and Research Fellow at the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at Canada’s British Columbia University. Teresa’s research is motivated by her Aboriginal Tsimshian heritage and her grandfather’s mentorship and guidance to become a fisheries scientist.  Her work shows how things are connected at the aquatic-terrestrial interface and species inter-dependencies in complex adaptive systems.

Dan Hammer

Since the industrial revolution, as human technology has advanced, the environment has suffered. Data scientist Dan Hammer aims to turn this paradigm on its head, as he takes a high-tech approach to preserving the environment by using data science and satellite imagery to monitor and protect forests all around the globe.

His work looks at data sources from fish, water, forests, jungles and more as a way to more comprehensively look at what’s happening in the world and why. Dan wants to empower those who do know why things are happening to shift the broader narrative about the environment. From this place, we can more effectively change environmental policy and protect it.

Dan Hammer received 2017 Pritzker Award for his work to make environmental information more accessible to journalists. Dan co-founded an environmental and tech nonprofit alongside two other Berkeley alumni, including the former CEO of The Nature Conservancy and The Moore Foundation.  Dan previously served as a Senior Policy Advisor on data infrastructure in the Obama White House, as well as a Presidential Innovation Fellow at NASA.

Daria Musk

Daria says her work is made inspire and empower a generation of creatives like her. She says, “Life’s too long not to do what you love.” She beautifully executed a multimedia performance via a spoken-word story, which was synced to film and scored with music and sounds from her life. It serves as a rally-cry for creatives to recast themselves as “artistpreneurs”.

Laced with lyrical, pocket-sized phrases to pump up your confidence, Daria encourages everyone – especially women – to wake up to their worth, kick the fantasy of “being saved” to the curb, and celebrate their practice and process by being #unmastered.

Daria Musk is a millennial-musician-filmmaker-producer & founder of Unlabeled Studio, a new kind of multimedia production house and recording studio where she and her award-winning team make music, videos, film scores, screenplays, interactive livestreams, novels, branded content and more. To launch in 2018 is Daria’s docs-series “Unmastered” an intimate and interactive look into the making her debut album. 

Justin Barad

Justin Barad argues that the surgical training system is broken and outdated. Despite the incredibly long and intense training periods required for surgical residents, many surgeons are underprepared for the cases they see. Dr. Barad shared with the audience how we can give surgeons in-depth, hands-on training using virtual reality to help prepare them for operations and procedures.

Justin Barad, MD is the co-founder and CEO of Osso VR, a clinically validated and award-winning surgical training platform. Early in his career, he intended to become a game developer, but when a family member became ill he decided to use his technology background to solve healthcare challenges and moved toward medicine. His mission at Osso CR is to democratize access to modern surgical techniques and improve patient safety.

Jennifer French

Jennifer uses neurotechnology and speaks to the benefits it has provided for her and so many others with disabilities. Met with challenges along the way, including naysayers who dismiss the value of neurotech, her perseverance is beyond commendable. 

She asserts that anyone with a disability, regardless of what it is, should have the choice to use neurotechnology or other technology advancements on the market to improve their lives. Currently, this isn’t the case and one of the reasons she travels around the world to educate others about why it matters….why choice matters.

With this technology, Jennifer can choose to be upright or in a wheel chair, regardless of whether it is for ten minutes or two hours.  The point is, she has a choice.

Jennifer French became a quadriplegic from a C6-7 incomplete spinal cord injury in 1998 & is a silver medalist from the 2012 Paralympic Games & a Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. Jennifer is co-founder of the Warrior Sailing Program & author of the book: On My Feet Again: My Journey out of the Wheelchair using Neurotechnology. Jennifer also co-founded the Neurotech Network, which educates and advocates to and for persons with impairments, their caregivers and health care professionals regarding neurotechnology.

Christopher Emdin

In his very compelling talk, Christopher Emdin reveals how he aims to bridge the seemingly disparate worlds of the ivory tower and the hood in his talk, “Teaching & Being Ratchetdemic.”

Highlighting the major inequities in urban education, he argues in favor of a simple solution: that being “ratchetdemic,” or both ratchet and academic (like having rap battles about science) can empower students to embrace themselves, their background, and their education.  

Christopher Emdin, Ph.D. is Professor and Program Director of Science Education in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he is also an Associate Director of the Institute for Urban & Minority Education. He is the creator of the #HipHopEd social media movement & the Science Genius program as well as author of the New York Times Bestseller For White Folks Who Teach In The Hood and the Rest of ya’ll too, Urban Science Education for the Hip-hop Generation and Ratchetdemic.

Doniece Sandoval

Driven by a fierce belief that everyone deserves the right to be clean, she was inspired to build Lava Mae after learning about the appalling lack of showers and toilets available to people experiencing homelessness across the United States.

With the help of the Mayor’s Office, partnerships were seeded with some of San Francisco’s most respected nonprofit homeless providers to accelerate her vision. She reminds the audience to be more aware and compassionate — the next time you’re out, truly look into the eyes of a homeless person and HEAR them, SEE them and really listen — you will likely be transformed just as she was so many years ago.

Doniece Sandoval is founder of Lava Mae, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that began by converting public transportation buses into bathrooms on wheels for the homeless. Her work at Lava Mae has transformed the lives of more than 10,000 Californians and is scaling by sharing an open source toolkit to respond to requests for help from communities as far away as Zimbabwe and Mongolia. Doniece’s goal is to enable 1M new showers around the globe over the next two years.

Dean Ornish

In his talk, Dean asserts that the real epidemic out there right now is loneliness and depression and we’re seeing a radical transformation in our society. He asks, “where do peace and health come from?” He says that it’s not something we get, but something we inherently already have and know. When we’re not mindful of our ultimate truth, we end up running after the “if only I had X, y and z.”

He says when we quiet down our minds and bodies, we can hear our own inner voice and wisdom, which will allow us to transcend and experience more joy.  Dean adds with a powerful takeaway for all of us to hear, “love, compassion, forgiveness, all flow naturally from this place.” In this always on digital world, we’re all just running too fast. Reflection time and meditation may just transform your health and your life.

Dean Ornish, M.D. is the founder and president of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and at the University of California, San Diego. He is author of six books, and was appointed by President Clinton to the White House Commission on Complementary & Alternative Medicine Policy and by President Obama to the White House Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.

Derek Luke

Derek Luke isn’t just an actor — he’s a passionate advocate for inequalities in the world, from education and business to entertainment and beyond. A friend of Christopher Emdin, he spoke of the need for more passionate professors and teachers like Emdin and what we need to do as a society as warriors for change. A passionate speaker and voice, he encouraged us to look at the other side, what we don’t see and don’t know, so we can develop deeper empathy and understanding for the unseen world so often not on our radar.

Derek Luke is an American A List Actor in Hollywood. Denzel Washington discovered Derek Luke and cast him as his lead, for his Directorial Debut in the Critically Acclaimed, Antwone Fisher Movie. He has a track record of over 18 films and when he’s off set, he spends time traveling around the world going to schools, jails, group homes, churches, juvenile homes and social events to speak about purpose, dreams, life and how to overcome adversities that he too overcame.

Chandni Kazi

Chandni Kazi takes the audience on an inspiring personal journey as she recounts her struggle with memory and academics, and her eventual road to success. She connected her writing disability and her awakening around these challenges and what she does today as a public health and social justice advocate.  Her story will resonate with so many students who have faced academic challenges along the way, especially if they didn’t have teachers or parents to support them.

Chandni Kazi is passionate about public health, social justice and the role of STEM in achieving both. She is a published author on the relationship between education and maternal weight gain in U.S. Mothers. Chandni is now at Great Place To Work Inc, where she is responsible for building innovations that help reduce systemic injustices that take place within organizations.  

Claudio Guglieri

With his strong experience in design, Claudio Guglieri reveals the nuances of developing a comfortable, intuitive user interface. He explores colors and depth, materials and light, and sound, emphasizing the ways they have been molded to reflect reality. The ultimate result is a pleasant and familiar digital experience.  

Claudio Guglieri is the Creative Director at Microsoft where he leads the Art Direction of Fluent Design, Microsoft’s own design system. Previously, he managed design teams that worked on future audio and video experiences for Windows. Claudio is passionate about interactive design, emotional experiences and helping others to achieve more through his work.

TEDxBerkeley: Behind the Scenes

As anyone who has run an event or managed one knows, the amount of sweat, effort, tears and laughter that goes into making it a success is significant. I’m proud of our team effort each and every year, for without them, TEDxBerkeley wouldn’t be possible. Their commitment, joy, warmth and passion is a big reason I’m involved as a co-curator every year; together we can bring powerful and moving stories from voices who need to be heard and appreciated around the globe.

While each person on our team deserves praise and a “bow” of thanks, I’d like to give a special call out to the other two TEDxBerkeley curators this year, Leilani Gutierrez-Palominos, who is as smart as a whip, has a heart of gold and is a treasure to know and Sean Kelly whose dedication kept going despite the growing pile of stressful deadlines.

Also a big hats off to a woman of multiple talents, Krupa Adusumilli, who ran TEDxBerkeley Operations — she seems to know how to do anything and everything and executes flawlessly. Lastly, a thank you to Andrew Veenstra who has been an energizing force on the team for the past four years and a huge asset to TEDxBerkeley.


From left to right: TEDxBerkeley Curators Sean Kelly, Leilani Gutierrez-Palominos and Renee Blodgett and Krupa Adusumilli, who ran our Operations and Logistics.

Be sure to listen to the videos of the 2018 TEDxBerkeley speakers.

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