Jefferson Smith—Guest Curator for TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012

Expect a fresh perspective from a familiar face at TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012.  Switching from his role as a 2011 speaker to that of 2012 Guest Curator, Jefferson Smith is excited to be a part of TEDxConcordiaUPortland once again, and this time in an even more integral way. One session at this year’s event will be entirely organized and led by Jefferson with a group of speakers that he’s carefully assembled. Jefferson’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland talk last year about democracy in action offered an inspirational and refreshing perspective on the power we all have to change our community. If the exciting messages of this speech offer any indication, expect to see and hear from a group of very extraordinary people!

All of the speakers Jefferson has chosen have inspired, challenged, and entertained him, and he’s selected them with three clear guiding principles in mind: 1) They have to be soft-hearted and hard-minded; these are people who care deeply and approach their work with intelligence and creative solutions; 2) They have to be diverse in terms of thought, mood and topic (in his words, he’s not trying to get every base covered but trying to create a meal with a variety of flavors); 3) They have to be inspirational and teach us something about becoming extraordinary ourselves; and 4) They should have a sense of humor. Why? Because he likes funny!

Being able to assemble great teams that have been responsible for change is something Jefferson is very well known for. His collaborative spirit is at the heart of the innovative Bus Project he founded, and it’s apparent in all of the lasting changes he’s made representing East Portland in the Oregon House. In his current campaign for mayor of Portland, he hopes to further promote connection and collaboration at the local level in order to help Portland be the city it aspires to be.

You might be surprised by some of the things he does without help from a team (Cartwheels for change! Action shot.), though for Jefferson it’s all in the name of public interest and democracy. As you can see below, he can be one silly puppy!

Jefferson is also excited about TEDxCOncordiaUPortland’s 2012  theme, “Becoming Extraordinary,” particularly because it paints a picture of the event.

“What I like about the theme is that it allows plenty of flexibility for all of the speakers to share unique stories of becoming extraordinary that resonate with their own skills and experiences” he says.

He makes a great point. It wouldn’t be right to have the speakers who have been invited—these pioneers, innovators, thinkers, artists and risk takers—conform to something that didn’t allow their extraordinary individuality to shine through.

Naturally, the theme’s flexibility also resonates with Portland itself.

“This city has cultural strands where sameness isn’t required; in fact, it’s a city where different-ness (see Portlandia) can be culturally rewarded and celebrated” Jefferson says.

In speaking of the theme, he was also reminded of a quote from writer and photographer Jacob Riis, who wrote “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps 100 times without as much as a crack showing in it. But on the 101st blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

So often a person’s extraordinary results are like the stonecutter’s, so that what we see only hints at all of the passion, dedication and continuous action that was involved.  At this year’s event, with Jefferson’s help, our speakers will uncover their stories about the processes and dreams that lie beneath their extraordinariness.

All in all, it means a lot to the TEDxConcordiaUPortland planning team that Jefferson is so willing to share his organizational expertise with us. His philosophy of people-driven politics and involvement is one that doesn’t just stop at the stage. Many of us remember how moving his speech at TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2011 was, but we also remember how he struck up numerous conversations with attendees during the conversation breaks and how he stayed until the end of the day, taking part as much as possible and even helping to stack chairs and clean up after the event was finished.

Jefferson’s guest curating will not only make for an excellent session at this year’s event, but it’s an endorsement that demonstrates the growth of our TEDxConcordiaUPortland community. So many of the relationships and connections that were forged at last year’s event have continued on, growing and blossoming into new, exciting, and unexpected creations. Watch the results of our collaboration with Jefferson at TEDxConcordiaUPortland on March 31st, and expect to forge some new connections of your own.

Tickets go on sale January 28th at

By Sean Wheaton

Sean Wheaton is a teacher and writer who lives in Portland, OR. He’s a lover of ideas both big and small, and he is thrilled to be a part of this year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland planning team. He’s one of several storytellers who helps to share write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community. 

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