With a theme of “vision,” this year’s TEDx Salem talks bring inspired ideas into focus

Carla Brauer at the 2019 TEDx Salem event. (Courtesy/TEDxSalem)

Eight years ago, Carlee Wright and Brian Hart were texting each other about Candy Chang’s TED Talk “Before I die I want to…” In it, Chang talks about a wall she created for people to share their hopes and dreams.

The duo was inspired to create a similar wall in Salem and later decided to organize a TEDx event locally, too.

TEDx is a program of local, independently organized events that bring people together to share ideas and listen to short lectures from activists, intellectuals, doers and thinkers.

“It was totally shooting from the hip, like ‘Hey we’re going to do this thing,’” Wright said.

In 2013, TED approved Hart and Wright for a limited license that allowed 100 people at the event, held at Salem’s Historic Grand.

Now, the Salem Convention Center will be the site of the seventh TEDx Salem event on Saturday. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 200 Commercial St. S.E. Tickets will be available for purchase at the door for $70.

Wright anticipates there will be close to 800 people attending the event.

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On Friday afternoon, Wright and Hart were running around the convention center trying to get everything ready as the speakers went through rehearsals.

To the side of the stage, a group of 27 sign language interpreters practiced signing talks.

Jacob Espinoza, a former hip-hop artist who went by the name The Kid Espi, showed up to practice hosting the event.

This year’s theme is vision (because 20/20, get it?) and guests will have the opportunity to learn about the power of crows, defeating stigma around mental health days and how float therapy can help people reconnect to themselves. 

Those are just some of the topics that speakers will discuss, with time for performances and recess break activities.

Wright said her favorite part of the event are the “aha” moments visitors experience.

“When a performer comes on and it’s something they’ve never seen or maybe it’s something they absolutely love and they totally get into it. Or you see a talk that resonates, and you can see how it touches them,” she said. “That’s the best part is really watching how things connect with the audience.”

Wright said she hopes people will walk away from the event feeling energized and ready to take on a new year.

“We’re here to really get that connection. So that the up to 800 attendees, can meet one another, experience this thing all together and have those conversations,” she said.

Hart said he wants people to walk away with some new ideas and some challenging ones.

“Sometimes it challenges your worldview on something and that’s good,” Hart said. “But we want this to be the beginning of a conversation. So, it’s not one singular day.”

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Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.