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TEDxLongDock - photo by Dan Fiege
Margot Schulman presents to a capacity crowd of 100-plus. (Photo: Dan Fiege)

The Dalai Lama visited NYC in 2003 for a week of events culminating in a public talk to 60,000 people in Central Park. I helped manage the media frenzy surrounding the visit. That was cool.

In 2004 I spent a week in India with leading environmental and anti-globalization activist (and bona fide heroineVandana Shiva, fellow activist and editor Satish KumarEla Gandhi (yes, that Gandhi — his granddaughter), and about a dozen others on a small research farm discussing Gandhi’s approach to nonviolence and personal and community self-sufficiency. It was a profound introduction to what we now call Localism (or Local Living Economies). That was beyond cool.

But nothing I’ve done has been as personally fulfilling as what transpired in Beacon, NY, on June 7, the culmination of months and months of planning and hard, selfless work with a small, dedicated team.

The inaugural TEDxLongDock brought together a diverse group of more than 100 doers, thinkers, facilitators and catalysts interested in making our region a better place to live: entrepreneurs, creatives and artists, economic development professionals, elected officials, community advocates, scholars and funders.

The energy in the filled-to-capacity room was electric. The love was palpable.

We heard from 20-plus hand-picked speakers and performers and watched a handful of curated TED Talks. We had chosen the presenters and designed the agenda to inspire, engage and provoke. We’re told it did exactly that. The presenters were heartfelt, smart, funny, endearing, caring. In isolation, each brought to TEDxLongDock an extraordinary story, a brave journey, a fresh take. Together, the Gestalt painted a portrait of what a vibrant, healthy community can look like.

We ate food from local cafes and farms, drank coffee from a local roaster. Later that night we drank wine from Hudson Valley vineyards and craft beer from a local tasting room while listening to more performers, celebrating the event (and life) at BEAHIVE on Beacon’s revitalized Main Street with some of the area’s most creative denizens.

Fellow Beaconite Sommer Hixson really captured the spirit of the day in a review in The Paper/Philipstown.info. An excerpt:

The concept of community was popular with speakers, along with collaboration and sustainability. Catchphrases like “social capital,” “place-making” and “civic protagonism” were duly noted by attendees. Not surprisingly, author and activist Jane Jacobs was conjured more than once, as was Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now).

Why did a small volunteer team with limited resources but boundless passion do this — for no remuneration? Because, like those in the audience (and I hope, you, the reader), we care about where we live, about making our communities vibrant, healthy places to work and play. Because we believe that bringing together vital, creative souls has real and lasting implications for the future of our region. In fact, I’ve heard of several connections that were made that will likely result in interesting collaborations.

If you’re unfamiliar, TEDxLongDock is operated under license from TED, the nonprofit known for its extraordinary events featuring extraordinary people who give the talks of their lives in 18 minutes or less. Those talks are posted on the vast award-winning TED Talks video site. The 1500-plus posted videos have been viewed more than one billion times. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

Our small organizing team included Rob Penner, John Rooney, Matthew Perks, Doreen Johnson and Brendan Cunningham. We also relied on volunteers, supporters and sponsorsRe>Think LocalBEAHIVE and the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries were supporting organizations. While I was the most visible organizer of the event (online and on stage), it really took a village.

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3 Replies to “TEDxLongDock: This is What Community Looks Like”

  • Yeah, and the chemistry had something to do with the unique blend of heart, mind and spirit, personal and cultural and political – whole person and whole community…. not to rant but it did not come together by accident or hard work, but from a vision that will continue to move through our communities from you guys and others.

  • Thanks Melissa. We did indeed have a clear vision, and I’m glad it’s noted. But it was a lot of hard work to make it manifest as such!

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