5 lessons we learned from TEDxDayton 2015


1. The power of poetry

The only three-time individual World Poetry Slam champion certainly caught our attention. Ed Mabrey tours the country as a poet, comedian and motivational speaker. This guy can deliver a powerful message in an art form. Mabrey was on the entertainment lineup, but his words resonated just as much as a TEDx talk. A rare talent. He certainly had everyone’s full attention.

2. Police and community

Chelley Seibert, a retired Dayton police officer, gave an engaging talk on police-community relations and really challenged all in the audience to get to know the person behind the uniform and how everyday interactions with officers can go a long way toward strengthening those bonds. She started her talk dressed in full police uniform and then removed her uniform to reveal she is just an everyday person like everyone else in the room. Her talk inspired a standing ovation. It probably wasn't a coincidence at lunch that Dayton's famous dancing cop Jermar Rayford led some spontaneous dancing lessons inside the Schuster Center.

3. Unstoppable determination

One of the most inspirational talks was from Harriet Kamakil Brown, international student advisor at the University of Dayton. Brown shared her story about growing up in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum. Despite experiencing true poverty, Brown talked about the incredible support and mentorship she received from her community family, and how that community helped her realize she can be whatever she wants to be. She credits her Kenyan community with her drive to succeed today. She passionately challenged Dayton to make sure it is sending an inspiring message to its children. That message can make all of the difference, no matter where you come from. “I am today who I am because of the community I lived in,” she said.

Inspired. Motivated. Informed. Captivated. Impressed. Touched.

These are just a few of the emotions the Dayton.com team experienced after attending and covering TEDxDayton 2015 last Friday at the Victoria Theatre.

Seventeen speakers from all walks of life shared the stage to share their experiences with Dayton to re-infuse, re-inspire, re-excite and re-engage. The goal of TEDx is to spark conversation, build connections and hopefully inspire positive change.

There was so much to take away from this event, and each of us were touched or inspired by something different. That’s one of the most incredible parts about the TEDx experience.

Here are 5 lessons we learned from TEDxDayton — from finding inner strength, to personal reinvention, to being an agent of change in the community. These takeaways can be applied in so many ways. They are messages simply too good not to share.

1. Find opportunity in any storm

Let's face it, we've all had our share of personal disasters, big or small. It's so easy to let life's unexpected challenges, hardships and heartache consume us, sometimes even destroy us. Local author Katrina Kittle's message seems simple, but can be so hard to see or apply in life's darkest moments. The worst things that happen to us can teach us the greatest lessons in life. "Find the opportunities in your personal storms," Kittle said. But how? Kittle says we should train ourselves to be open to learning lessons in our darkest moments by practicing empathy and changing perspective. Now, this is not always the easiest thing to do in times of desperation or despair, like cancer or divorce! Kittle talked openly about some of her own personal storms and how she shifted her own perspective and even used her passion for writing to help her reinvent and transform personally. She said this lesson may have even made some of her favorite characters in her novels even stronger as well.

2. Living and living your dreams is a choice

Finding that line between going after your dreams while still believing that you are enough is not a struggle unique to filmmaker and Wright State professor Chinonye Chukwu. Chukwu made her self completely vulnerable to the TEDx audience and shared her very personal battle with depression and deep thoughts of suicide at a young age. Many of us or people we hold dear have struggled with depression in some form. But Chukwu shared her darkest moments in a positive light. Chukwu decided to follow her dreams of becoming a filmmaker and along the journey, stumbled upon her true passion of teaching. What we learned from this talk was that it's OK to take steps that might not seem like they're on the right path for you because in the end it will help on your journey to personal growth. Everything after that just tends to fall into place. "Life absolutely sucks sometimes. We can still choose to creep through our darkness by tapping into light that has always been present in us," she said. What did we take away from this talk? First, decide if you want to exist or live. There is a difference. And when you do choose to live, you get to define the terms of your success. Discover your happiness. Detach from your ego. Embrace your vulnerability. Define your worth by your own terms. Believe that you are enough.

3. Use your difference to make a difference

Joshua Stucky, co-owner of Square One Salons and Agnes and Orson Gifts and Goods, opened up to the TEDx audience about growing up gay in a small community and facing discrimination and prejudice. After facing the loss of friends to HIV, Stucky shared how he found his voice. What emerged was the Rubi Girls, Dayton's famous drag troupe that recently celebrated 30 years. Stucky is one of the founding members of The Rubi Girls, which has entertained and raised more than a million in support of awareness, education and services to support gay-related causes and fight AIDS and HIV. Stucky's message was simple. Rise above hate and discrimination, and find a way to make a difference. "Your difference is what you use to make a difference! Unleash YOUR Rubi Girl." No matter how you are different, don't focus on the negative. Turn it around and be an advocate for something you believe in.

4. You have the power to make an impact

Sarah Hippensteel Hall, manager of Watershed Partnerships for the Miami Conservancy District, really challenged the TEDx audience to take a closer look at personal water consumption habits and challenged the audience to make water conservation a priority. Hall's talk was very timely due to the changes in restrictions to the Great Miami Valley Buried Aquifer. But her talk took the issue and turned it into one of personal accountability. Water is a necessity and she really called us out on not having that in the forefront of our minds. Even though her talk was very fact-based, she delivered a message that challenged everyone to look within themselves and make a change in personal habits, big or small. This is something every single person can do, and collectively make a difference. "Think about life without water … Try living without it for a day or half a day. No shower. No morning coffee… You don't have to be a water expert. Just an advocate… What is water worth to you? What are you willing to do to protect it? It's time to make it personal," she said.

5. You can serve others no matter where you are

Matthew Purkey, vice president of Resource Development at United Way of the Greater Dayton Area and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, moved many to tears and even choked up several times himself as he shared his personal journey of transitioning from military life to life back home. It's no secret that veterans' struggles are widespread, from unemployment, to substance abuse, to mental and physical strugles, to suicide. One common thread in many of these struggles is a loss of identity and a loss of that sense of purpose. Putting aside all of the other systematic issues related to veterans, Purkey talked about how veterans have the power to change the circumstances they're in by figuring out how to tap into their inherent drive to serve. In Purkey's case, that came in the form of philanthropy. How can all veterans apply that inner drive to serve to something new? How can they find the opportunities that will fill the voids they are feeling inside? "Our best days aren't behind us," he said. "Reapply that purpose that's already in us to community issues." Powerful message and something everyone should pause and think about.

Staff writers Allegra Czerwinski, Amelia Robinson and Ashley Bethard contributed to this article. What inspired you most about TEDxDayton? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  Make sure you tag @Daytondotcom and use #TedxDayton2015. We're looking forward to hearing your responses.

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