On March 16, TED and the We Are Family foundation held its fourth annual TEDxTEEN event in New York City. TED is a nonprofit group that is dedicated to “ideas worth spreading.” This year’s TEDxTEEN theme was “the Audacity of whY.” It focused on young people who refuse to accept “that’s just the way it is” as an answer to the problems around them. They believe that they have the right to know "why?" and to change the world, no matter their age.
Chelsea Clinton hosted the event. Clinton lived in the White House when her father Bill Clinton was President from 1993 to 2001. Before introducing Chelsea Clinton, actor and Director Robert Galinsky took the stage to address the audience. Instead of telling the crowd to turn off their phones he told them to take them out and use them to tweet. "You're in a conversation today," he shouted. "This is a two-way—no, hundreds-of-thousands of way—conversation. Tweet about where you're at, spread the ideas." Galinsky then turned to the live-stream of the conference on the Internet and exclaimed: "Hello, world!"
After that, Twitter was buzzing with quotes from young speakers who had just 18 minutes to tell how they worked to change the world around them.
Jacob Barnett, 14, talked about education and overcoming odds. After being diagnosed with autism at 2, Barnett was placed in his school’s special education program. By 8, he was teaching calculus to college students. And at 10, he was accepted into college. His recipe for success? “Stop Learning and start thinking.”
“I’m here to tell you you’re doing it all wrong,” he said. “You must think in your own creative way, not accepting everything that’s already out there.”
Speaker Kelvin Doe, 16, echoed that message. He spoke about helping his community in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Doe collected broken electronics he found in the garbage. Then he used those recycled materials to build a radio station for his community. “Creativity is universal and found in places you don’t expect to find it,” Doe told the audience.
Take Three Steps
Clinton suggested teens in the crowd take three steps to make a difference in their community. First, she said, “Start where you are.” You don't have to have money or power to make a difference, she suggested. A small change can have a big effect.
Clinton’s second piece of advice was to have the “courage to be second.” She works with the Clinton Foundation to help programs around the world. “We need to have the courage to be second, to be eager to be second” she said. “We love being copycats.” One copycat project was Math Aerobics, a program that combines math and exercise. “We didn't come up with the idea, but we helped it grow, and that's what is important,” Clinton said.
Clinton’s last request to the audience: “Let your idea out of you head." She told kids to “have the courage to share your idea. Whether it's with a teacher, a friend, online with an online community.”
After the event, Clinton talked with TFK about her unique experience growing up in the White House. She said her parents, Bill and Hillary Clinton, helped shape her thinking about making a difference. “When I came home from school, my parents would ask me, ‘What did you do today?’ But in my house that didn’t mean what did you do at recess,” Clinton said. “It meant, what did you do to help somebody else or to make a difference today?”