On March 16, Pacific University held its first ever TED event, TEDxPacificU, on its Forest Grove campus. Around 200 people attended the event, which hosted ten performers ranging from speakers, to dancers, to poets.
According to student organizer Julio Montelongo, the event was a great success. The diverse audience at Pacific seemed to match perfectly with the variety of speakers the event had to offer.
“The audience was incredibly engaged with everything that each of the speakers had to say and was very appreciative of the fact it was a very diverse cast of speakers and ideas,” Montelongo said.
The organizer’s main aim for the show was to ensure the audience received the real TED experience he had been talking about all throughout TEDxPacificU preparations. He wanted the audience to realise it was not going to be just a walk-in, walk-out lecture style, but more of a show where everything pieces together to encompass and promote a final message.
“It’s more a variety hour where there are speakers, performers and it’s a show in a somewhat academic sense,” Montelogno said. “It’s hard to describe the vision — you’ve got to be there to see it.”
As with any large scale production, there were a few minor technical hiccups, but the audience was seated on time and the show went on as planned.
According to organizers, all speakers resonated with the audience. But seemingly the most popular speakers included Wafaa Almaktari and Jazanna-Marie Riddlesprigger. Wafaa is an activist and storyteller from Portland State University. She is a Yemen native who transferred to the states before the Yemen civil war broke out.
“Her speech was very down to earth in the sense of ‘Hey this is what’s happening in my world and I’m giving you a sort window of what’s going on.’” Montelongo said. “We had a first account individual telling us what we hear in the news is accurate and there’s more on top of that, so her speech was impactful.”
Another stand out speaker was Jazanna-Marie Riddlesprigger, and artist, writer and activist. The high-schooler from Beaverton performed a self-written spoken word piece talking about how school systems and the entirety of academia needs to really rethink, reteach and refocus how society views black culture, both presently and historically as well as where it is coming from.
The theme for the event was ‘Defy the Norm’ which was explored through a range of performances, telling unique stories with different aspects of athletics, performing arts and culture. And Montelongo believes the ‘in the moment experience’ really opened up audience member’s minds.
“I would like to assume the audience did leave with more knowledge than they came in with and were inspired enough to keep the theme with them in the back of their minds,” Montelongo said. “And not to sound cliché, but that everything is possible.”
When asked if there is a potential for Pacific to host another TEDx event, Julio said there is more opportunity to put on much smaller talks more frequently, condensing the audience down to 100 people and having less speakers. The TEDxPacificU event took a lot of time to plan and execute, so having smaller events at would be perfect testing for a bigger event later on down the line.