Such was the opportunity Saturday afternoon during TEDxBeaconStreet 2016 when Karen Feinstein took the stage. Each speaker was invited to bring a friend or colleague, which is how I got an up-close and back-stage look at events.
We arrived hours earlier and gathered in the green room, where speakers would rehearse, mic up, and meet each other, but the feeling of community was already apparent. As Karen recalls: “This is where we met so many interesting people. It was amazing. Somehow, this shared experience created an immediate bond. And we instantly liked and appreciated one another.”
And it was soon clear (to me, at least, as someone who’s been part of TEDx productions before) that TEDx Beacon St. would be a first-class operation. It wasn’t just the round of rehearsals that preceded the talks (there were 4 for Karen, I believe) and suggested tips and re-writes. It wasn’t the live-streamed one-on-one interview of each presenter, the gracious and professional hair and makeup artist and professional photographer on-site that helped each presenter look and feel their best, or even the state-of-the art production values with multi-camera angles that rival the best productions I saw in two decades of television news. It was the caliber of speakers and their ideas about changing the world that overwhelmed.
If the response of the audience is any indication, Karen’s talk about launching WHAM! (Women’s Health Activist Movement) Global hit the mark. Whether it was her story of a lifetime as an activist trying to make the world better, her confidence and passion as a speaker, or the nation’s appetite for better health care, the audience connected, and it was hard to pull her away from the many follow-up conversations that ensued. She, like others, seemed to carry a post-talk “glow”. Says Karen: “The kindness of the volunteers was incredible. Everyone had something positive to contribute and say. 'You look so good.' 'You did so well.' The audience too couldn’t have been better. So attentive, enthusiastic, connected. I felt like they were actually helping me along. How often does that happen?”
She shared the stage with great company: We met a boy who makes bicycles out of sustainable bamboo and an architect who creates win-win designs by talking to the people who’re using a public space – before he begins the design process. We talked at length to a woman filmmaker fighting for equity and respect from the confines of a wheelchair and breathing apparatus, as the ravages of a debilitating disease robbed her of the air she needed to do her talk. (She wept with appreciation during her several standing ovations).
With so much goodness and positive energy emanating from the talks, you had to believe, despite the divisiveness in our nation, that we can survive the fallout from a fractious election. However, WE must ALL DO OUR PART, whenever we can, with whatever opportunity we have, to protect that which is just in our healthcare systems, to continue the reforms of the past, and to make new progress. That was the core of Karen’s talk. That is the mission of WHAMGlobal.
Here’s to TEDxBeaconSt. 2016 and the incredible team of visionaries and volunteers that made it happen.