As published in Vancity Buzz on May 26th, 2015.
This past Saturday, the Granville Island Stage was packed with 450 people eager to learn about Ideas to Action during TEDxStanleyPark 2015.
This TEDx event was distinguished by a phenomenal location, luxury door prizes given away after each talk, two unique variety acts, a few hilarious TEDx videos (did you know you have been tying your shoes wrong?) and a delicious offsite lunch at one of the Granville Island restaurants.
Most importantly, the TEDx talks that were featured throughout the day made us laugh, made us cry and sometimes just sit in stunned silence.
A strong start
He begged us to consider the fact that we don’t know how many more birthdays or holidays we have left, so what are we doing on a daily basis with the time and talent we have been given? Peter shared several touching personal stories to illustrate that “We become exactly what we think about all day long.”
Next up was Rumana Monzure.
The audience patiently waited while Rumana was guided onstage by a volunteer, clasping her white cane. Rumana began to tell the story of being attacked by her ex-husband. Most of us were squirming in our seats as she described him trying to gouge out her eyes with his thumbs and biting off the tip of her nose.
“I survived that attack,” Rumana reflected, “but I never saw the world again. I never saw my daughter again.”
She sees her new role in life as being a voice for women around the world who are suffering in silence due to domestic abuse. Although she could not see the standing ovation she was given, Rumana smiled as she heard the shouts of encouragement from the audience.
Roger choked up with emotion as he transitioned to the next speaker.
Overweight children, distracted driving and masturbation (all separate talks, I assure you)
Matt Young followed, educating us about the childhood obesity epidemic. Matt challenged the parents in the audience to ask their child’s school about the physical literacy strategy they followed, as part of a holistic approach to learning how to be healthy and active adults.
Walking to his spot on stage with a slight limp, Brad Gorski shocked the audience with his story about a five-minute drive home from the gym that changed his life when he was 21. He was texting and driving when he blew through a red light and was T-boned by a semi-truck. Although he is still dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury, he learned how to speak and walk again, despite all odds.
Brad admonished us to put the phone down while we are behind the wheel:
“No text is worth the risk.”
I am confident that every person in that audience thought of Brad when they next heard the ping of a text notification on their drive home.
We then transitioned to a more light-hearted, yet illicit, subject. Dr. Teesha Morgan, a Vancouver-based sex therapist, had the audience laughing along as she dispelled myths about masturbation. “Masturbation is the ultimate form of safe sex,” she quipped.
After describing the benefits of self-pleasure, she challenged us to use positive slang that takes away the taboo. If you hear the term “sexual solitaire” or “one-some” you now know what everyone is referring to.
Depression, discipline and death with dignity
John Nieuwenburg courageously spoke about his failed suicide attempt several years ago. He explained how depression makes suicide seem like a logical solution to escaping from agonizing pain.
John urged the audience to remember that next time we hear about a murder in North America, there has been three successful suicides and 75 attempts. His call to action about mental illness included changing our language, education ourselves and talking about our own stories.
David Knapp-Fisher spoke next, sharing the story of how he chose to deal with his son’s rapid physical degeneration after a Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis at age five. David was inspired by this quote to take drastic steps to ensure his son had a big adventure in Europe before he was confined to a wheelchair:
“The pain of regret is far worse than the pain of discipline” —Nathan Whitley.
David described that two weeks after their return from Europe, his son fell and never walked again. Knowing that he came so close to missing this window of opportunity, he challenged the audience to focus on what we CAN do in the midst of our own challenges, and get busy doing it.
Afterwards, Grace Pastine, Litigation Director for the BC Civil Liberties Association, captivated us with her poignant stories of the terminally ill people who wanted the right to die with dignity through physician-assisted suicide. She passionately dispelled the myths that surrounded the landmark Supreme Court decision in February 2015.
Perhaps her most compelling argument was that for regions that already have legislation in place for Death with Dignity, “Patients report that knowing they have that choice—even if they don’t use it—gives them peace of mind in their final days.”
Grace urged us to contact federal and provincial lawmakers with the request to ensure that any new legislation honours the spirit of the Supreme Court decision and to join the public conversation on this issue.
A grand finale
Jacky Yenga closed the day with her inimitable energy, as she challenged the value we place on self-sufficiency. We need to be connected with others in order to achieve true happiness. There is an old African saying, “To be without a friend, is to be poor indeed.”
Jacky’s enthusiasm was so contagious that the audience eagerly sang along as she taught us a song from her childhood. After we finished singing, she laughed, “You see? We feel better already! We are just like family!”
At the end of her talk, we all jumped to our feet to join her as she danced on stage—a symbolic end to a day all about moving from Ideas into Action.
Roger closed off the day with heartfelt thanks to each contributing team and shared with us that their goal was to make the day LEGENDARY.
Mission accomplished, Roger.
If you are interested in catching TEDx Stanley Park in 2016 (venue will be the Queen Elizabeth Theatre), join the email list so you will can get tickets when they first go on sale. This year’s event sold out well weeks beforehand.