Macklemore with TedxPortland MC David Rae
Image: TEDxPortland
Macklemore with TedxPortland MC David Rae
With every year, TEDxPortland has grown exponentially, from the Gerding Theater to the Art Museum to the Keller Auditorium. A local franchise of the national event, it’s strengths are in its slick production design, creating a high-octane day of inspirational talks, videos, meals, and, hopefully, interesting connections for its audience (both of the mental and interpersonal variety). This year reached a new production height: the honeycomb-inspired backdrop and ambitious video work gave it the polished feel of an official TED event.

The docket of speakers ranged from entrepreneurs to environmentalists to ex-cons, all of them tackling the topic of “perfection”—what does it mean to be perfect, how can we get there, and how is recognizing imperfection often the first step on a journey to become greater than we are? Like the past TEDxPortlands, the quality of the talks ranged as widely as the speakers’ topics. (The event’s producers do a great job of identifying people with inspiring stories, but they could do a better job coaching those people in how to craft a narrative and frame their bigger point).

The best part: you can watch them all online. Below are our favorite speakers, although we certainly encourage you to explore on your own.

Zalika Gardner
The director of the Learning for KairosPDX Early Learning Center tackled the seemingly simple topic of listening. Probably the most eloquent speaker of the day, Gardner’s near-poetic rhythm had an audience of thousands hanging on her every syllable. She professed the idea that if we listen to each other, especially to children, with curiosity, humility, and courage instead of arrogance, fear, and assumption, we can create a world in which everybody feels like they matter—which would have a profound effect.
Inspirational quote:
There isn’t one—just watch to the whole thing. It’ll make you a better person.


Andrew Revkin

This award-winning environmental journalist (he runs the NY Times’ Dot Earth blog) thinks humans are perfect—or at least have the potential to be. Revkin revealed patterns in the way we deal with global warming and the environment, stating that too often policy reflects “the possible,” but doesn’t shape real-life change. He broke down his ideas of how to better the system with childlike enthusiasm, and asked us to stop looking at “best practices” as a static goal—we should always strive to do better.
Inspirational quote:
“We have great power to make the world a better place.”


Frank Moore

The 91-year-old WWII veteran recalled times of personal loss, memories of storming the beaches of Normandy, his passion for fishing, and the importance of love. (His wife of 70+ years joined him on stage, receiving a standing ovation from a tearful audience.) Unfortunately, it seems there isn't a video posted for him currently.
Inspirational quote:
“You must work hard at the art of living.”

G Cody QJ Goldberg
Spurred to action by his daughter’s disability, Goldberg created Harper’s Playground, a playground (and eventually an organization) that is accessible and inclusive for children of all physical abilities. He talked about celebrating his daughter’s perfection after being told by doctors she’d never be able to walk or talk, about the exclusion his family experienced due to her disease, and how he and his wife funded the park themselves, resorting to raffling off his beloved 1976 Cadillac.
Inspirational quote:
“Only the ideas that come from our heart are the ones that truly matter.”


Nong Poonsukwattana

Owner of the beloved food cart Nong’s Khao Man Gai, which specializes in Thai chicken and rice, Poonsukwattana talked animatedly about her childhood in Hong Kong, her abusive father, escaping to Portland with $17 in her pocket, and her goal of doing one thing—and doing it really, really well. Her tale is one of seeking culinary and entrepenureal perfection, which she admits she’ll never reach. But to her, it’s the journey that matters most.
Inspirational quote:
“No matter how bad a situation you are in, believe in yourself. Believe that you can do it, and more importantly, do it.”


Macklemore
The week before the event, the organizers announced the late-breaking addition of the the Grammy-winning rapper Macklemore (aka Ben Haggerty). The opportunity to see the eloquent and hugely successful independend artist in the TED talk format as opposed to his normal concert milieu was super exciting. What would he say without the bass and flashing lights of a concert? Unfortunately, the format instead took the form of an interview conducted by the event's host and organizer, David Rae, who inserted himself prominently into the Q&A (particularly during the opening) and went over some well-trod groud. Ultimately, the segment felt like a missed opportunity. (Given all the things they could have talked about in 20 minutes, did we really need five minutes watching and then discussing Macklemore vomiting?).

The most interesting point was the discussion of his now-gay-rights-anthem “Same Love.” Macklemore has drawn flack for his emphasis on his heterosexuality in the song (comedian Joe Mande said: “It’s like if Joan Baez wrote a song for the civil rights movement, but the first third of the song is about how great the front of the bus is and how she gets sunburned”). But Macklemore very eloquently told the story of trying to write it from the perspective of a bullied gay kid, but that it was simply inauthentic, which is when he decided tell it from his point of view instead.

 

Oregon Ballet Theatre Dancer Alison Roper
Finally, we want to leave you with one of the most beautiful moments of the day, the pas de deux between beloved retiring Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer Alison Roper and retired dancer Artur Sultanev. You can read our story about Roper and watch a slide show of her work, and then go to see her at OBT's Celebrate from April 17–26.

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