Announcing Our Next Round of TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012 Speakers: A Day-Seizer and a Roadie

Has it been a week already? March 31st is getting closer and closer! We’re still beaming beatifically from last week’s announcements (after jubilantly jumping and raucously rolling). This week we’re throwing the alliteration aside (except right there) because the following speakers are simply awesome!

We can’t wait to hear them share and reveal things that the audience will remember forever. The planning team chose each speaker with great care and deliberation and they are all marvelous examples of this year’s theme, Becoming Extraordinary.

Without further ado, we’re pleased to announce two more speakers who will appear on stage at TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012.


Ethan Knight

Ethan Knight, executive director and founder of Carpe Diem, would gladly admit that college wasn’t for him—at first. During his freshman year, he realized that he wasn’t being fulfilled in a meaningful way.

This wouldn’t do. A self-professed “meaning-junkie,” he needed the type of visceral, real-live, heartfelt interactions that couldn’t be found in the classroom.

So he decided instead to take a “gap year.” He traveled and trekked through India, Nepal, Tibet and Thailand; he meditated, volunteered, and found his passion while wringing all of the meaning out of this transformative experience.

When he returned, school made sense. He graduated with a dual degree in English and Philosophy and a minor in Environmental Science. Inspired by his own experiential education and all that he learned from it, he began working for programs that helped high school students experience “gap years” of their own.

In 2007, Ethan founded Carpe Diem, a non-profit company whose mission is to help students experience a “gap year” of their own. The company has grown to include programs all over the world, and they’ve also partnered with Portland State University so students can earn college credit during their experiences.

In 2009 Ethan founded International Carpe Diem Foundation, which helps students from low-income families with scholarships for experiential education. Right now, he’s in the midst of forming an Association for Gap Year providers, “something that will further empower the students we work with to get information, collect data, and of course create a set of standards that the entire industry can benefit from.”

Ethan believes in the power of education (given the time and money, he’d even go back to school—to study astrophysics!), but he also believes that it’s meaningless without passion.

“Passion is a better predictor of success than IQ will ever be.”


Taylor Adam Swift

Let’s get one thing straight. Taylor Swift is not a pop star. He’s not even a singer, at least not professionally. In fact, Taylor wouldn’t even go so far as to say that he’s extraordinary, though he’s had plenty of extraordinary opportunities.

As is the case with these things, one such opportunity came about entirely by chance. After a bad auto accident landed Taylor in physical therapy, he found that he couldn’t pursue his calling as a photographer. What drew him to photography were the stories that he could tell, but he soon heard another story that captured his interest. A friend told him about Invisible Children, a non-profit organization that grew out of a documentary film about child soldiers in Africa.

They had one spot left to fill.

Taylor applied, interviewed, and in less than a week was working as a “roadie,” giving presentations in Texas, Lousiana and the Pacific Northwest. In the span of one year he presented over 170 times to crowds that ranged from 15 to 2000.

The experience was incredible, but what struck him most was how Invisible Children’s stories forced people to stand up for justice and to stand up for people who lived on the other side of the world. He realized that you have to see the world from a different perspective in order to do this, and you have to believe in more than just yourself.

At some point along the way, Taylor returned to photography and he hopes to use his skills to help conserve our public lands. He also remains open to new experiences and new extraordinary opportunities like the ones he’s had. He knows there are still stories to tell, and he wants to help tell them.

Without a doubt this is another exciting group of speakers! Look for our next group to be announced next Saturday, February 18th

Buy tickets today for TEDxConcordiaUPortland

TEDxConcordiaUPortland

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 are sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community. 

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Announcing the Third Round of Speakers for TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012: A Communicatrix and a Dance-Artist

Hello again! We’re back at it with new speaker announcements. At this point you’ve jubilantly jumped and raucously rolled (Yeah!). Now you’ll beatifically beam as you learn about the next two speakers we’re adding to our extraordinary roster.

We can’t wait to hear our speakers share and reveal things that the audience will remember forever. The planning team chose each speaker with great care and deliberation and they are all superlative examples of this year’s theme, Becoming Extraordinary.

Without further ado, we’re pleased to announce two more speakers who will appear on stage at TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012

Colleen Wainwright

Strokes of genius happen to normal people too. In fact, no one becomes extraordinary without having first been rather ordinary. This little known fact may be part of what makes Colleen Wainwright so successfully accessible. A self proclaimed “communicatrix,” Colleen used her social media and attention attracting talents to raise $50,000 in just 50 days for the LosAngeles based non-profit for high school girls, Writegirl.

Colleen is honored to be among the extraordinary as a featured speaker at TEDxConcordiaUPortland, but that’s not to say that she’s jumping at the prospect of veneration. “I am extremely uncomfortable with being described as ‘extraordinary.’ I am absolutely a regular, normal person who was able to accomplish one extraordinary thing—and with the help of a lot of other people.”That’s not to say she’s not honored. In fact, she says she’s grateful to be in the company of so many speakers who she thinks are rather extraordinary.

Wit and humor are the most praised weapons in her arsenal and they’ve been sharpened by ten years of writing award-winning TV copy for brands like Wheaties©, Gatorade© and Jell-O©. After another ten years of acting in ads, Colleen decided to channel her creative talents into helping other blossoming talent come to full-fledged fruition.

Those who’ve become extraordinary, even those who’ve done it with the help of many other people,  know they are never actually finished; it’s a semi-complete state of unending goal tweaking. The uncannily self aware Colleen recognizes a need for future endeavors, not just to publish hilarious Broadway musicals that “raise public awareness about chronic health conditions”, but also to “get the sum total of her life’s lessons down in some portable, easy-to-consume (i.e., funny and useful) form so that what I’ve learned can be passed on.”As an overarching life goal, she’d like “to erase fear in myself and hopefully, replace it with love”–and I don’t think there is a better formula for acceptance. On March 31st TEDxsters will all have the chance to admire and follow such a radiant example of connectivity.

Linda K. Johnson

Photo by Alicia J. Rose

It’s often said that it’s unfair for any one person to determine the quality of art. That’s why critics hold a dubious position in society, as the arbiters of what they think is lacking and what is praise worthy. The one advantage critics have on the rest of us is a trained eye, and Linda K. Johnson is no stranger to having that eye trained on her. In fact, as a dance-artist performer, Linda has received serious critical reviews from many venues including Metropolis Magazine, NPR, Dance Magazine and Landscape Architecture.

In an age of specialization and focus, Linda’s creative, interdisciplinary approach to dance has led her to infuse her passions of social and environmental justice in unconventional ways. Linda deeply regards the creative process as a sacred and integral aspect of producing the best quality work that one can. “For me, the most extraordinary place in the world is right where I am in each moment,” says Johnson, “Anything else is a distraction from fully showing up wherever I happen to be.”

Completely present minds are hard to find, and Linda’s work as a dancer requires a rich focus that’s only afforded by a significant period of self reflection. When asked what she would ask TEDxsters to do if she had their full attention and their sincere will to cooperate, she said, “I would ask each individual to carve out a one hour block of time each day for 3 months just for themselves.” Rather than plant a great idea in your head, Linda would have you reflect on your life and take time for yourself so that your great ideas may bud and flourish.

Linda is a prime example of what change can be facilitated when someone combines the great ideas they naturally have with the self awareness it takes to ignite a driving, forceful passion. “The kind of inner quietude and self-knowing that this kind of time encourages is really what our civilization needs.  Currently, we have too much activity and too little self-reflection.”  Reflect on that until you’re here in person to see her perform on March 31st.

An exciting group of speakers to be sure! Our next group of speakers will be announced here next Saturday, February 11th 

Buy tickets today for TEDxConcordiaUPortland

TEDxConcordiaUPortland

March 31st 2012

by Hunter Brookshier

Hunter is a Communications and German major at Portland State University. He has always been interested in stories; how they’re told, who’s telling them, what the person telling them has experienced that makes them tell such a story. These are all fascinating questions to Hunter. Sometimes stories recount the facts, other times they exist only in the fragile framework of an idea. Many times, more often then not, stories are interesting, and occasionally, they’re all we dwell on for days and weeks and months after experiencing them. That’s why Hunter loves TED. It’s an organization that tells stories through the age old venue of public speech. TED is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t an ad for TED, but really, why shouldn’t it be? TED connects brilliant minds, and tells the most interesting true stories in the world. Hunter is proud to be a part of TEDxConcordiaUPortland, and here he will continue to learn and grow. 

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Announcing the Next Round of TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012 Speakers: A Reverend, a Circus Project, and a Movement

Wowie zowie! We’re back! Last week, you jubilantly jumped, and this week you’ll raucously roll in response to yet another group of speakers for this year’s event! (Note: Be careful where you read this— rolling sometimes results in stares and general disfavor.)

On March 31st our speakers will confound, contort, amaze, and astonish you.

We can’t wait to hear them share and reveal things that the audience will remember forever. The planning team chose each speaker with great care and deliberation and they are all superlative examples of this year’s theme, Becoming Extraordinary.

Without further ado, we’re pleased to announce three more speakers who will appear on stage at TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012


Rev. Renee Ward

So often people guard themselves, masking who they are, and the Reverend Renee Ward strives to take these masks off. “Be honest,” she says, “and dismiss the pretense that everyone will like you or agree with you.” This sounds simple enough. Take the mask off and open yourself for  a moment to those things that unite us—love, family, food, music. But what if you’re asked to keep the mask off? To keep your guard down?

For many years, Ward has successfully done just this. She’s courageously championed causes close to her heart without worrying about what people think or whether they agree with her.

In 1998, following the death of her husband from an AIDS-related illness, Renee founded Chrysalis Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit agency. Since then she has been featured in a 30-minute documentary entitled, “Who Will Speak for Me?” which profiled African Americans of the Pacific Northwest whose lives had been impacted directly or indirectly by HIV/AIDS. She has also established two programs to educate, advocate, and empower those struggling with breast health and cancer. Lately she’s been working on four separate books which she plans to release in 2012.

All of Ward’s actions are informed by her beliefs.

“I’m blessed and I am not ashamed to tell the world how good God has been to me.” she says.

She also believes in fighting against the injustice of social and economic disparities, and she believes in the love of her family, friends, and the community. She takes inspiration from so many people in her life, both allies and adversaries. Together they’ve taught her to believe in the “power to make the impossible possible, to fight and stand up for justice even when life tries to keep you down, and to keep on truckin’ even if you have a flat along the way to your destination.”

Jenn Cohen

If you’ve ever seen a circus, you know that the body is a strong and pliant thing. Performers push themselves to do things that stretch the limits of possibility until you’re left to wonder whether what you’ve seen was actually magic. Starting at a young age, Jenn Cohen, director and founder of the Circus Project, was fascinated with this magic. She’s studied the art of circus and has been a circus performer and coach for over 20 years. What she loves most is the potential of circus, that it’s an open form.

“Circus is about embracing the totality of who we are and bringing it forward in a way that makes it beautiful and magical and celebrates it” she said recently.

Cohen began the Circus Project in Portland in 2008 as a way to harness this magic and potential so she could share it with the community, especially homeless and at-risk youth. She has a master’s degree in Process Oriented Psychology  and through circus, counseling, personal-development, work study, and very high expectations, the lives of these youths end up transformed.

Like many big cities, Portland has a large homeless population, many of whom are young adults and teens. They exist on the fringes of society, but that’s exactly why the circus makes sense. People have always run away to join the circus and what they find is a family of like-minded individuals on the margins.  They end up finding each other, but they also end up finding themselves.

Cohen describes herself as a big dreamer who’s always looking to be more present in her life. She’s grateful that she’s been able to do work that’s so close to her heart.

“My hope is to continue on the path I’m on but with more presence, more patience, more love.  More and more, I realize it’s not what I do, but how I do things that’s important.”

We’re enchanted with the knowledge that her path will cross ours on March 31st

Our School-Occupy Education

Last fall “We are the 99%” became the rallying cry of the Occupy Movement. What began with Occupy Wall Street soon spread to cities nationwide, including our very own Portland. The movement has been at once praised and criticized for its organizational methods and its goals of fighting social and economic inequality. Some didn’t know what to make of a movement where anybody who wants to participate has a voice and there are no set leaders. Others saw in it a new vision of democracy and the power people still have to enact change.

The story of Occupy Portland has been chronicled by both local and national media. Coverage of the police confrontations, the downtown camp, and the protests throughout town have provided the public with a glimpse of this movement. Many people still have a limited view of why the protests took place and what the movement has accomplished.

Along these lines, we’re pleased to welcome Liam Doherty-Nicholson, Hilary Boyd, Mark Nerys, and Elmira Rodriguez from Our School-Occupy Education to our stage. Together they’ll discuss Occupy’s past, present, and future. They’ll speak about phase two of the movement, which involves discussion with the community, community improvement projects, and free education through the “Our School” program.

By no means do their views reflect the entire Occupy Portland movement. They’re all individuals who believe in unique ideas—One believes that people should talk to their neighbors face-to-face and engage in compassionate communication. Another believes in bringing oneself closer to truth to find the distinctions between arbitrary cultural programming and genuine reflection. Another believes in what Frank Zappa says: “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” And another believes that wherever awareness takes hold, ideas form and actions are taken to bring forth something extraordinary—yet they’ve come together in support of a common cause.

An exciting group of speakers to be sure! Our next group of speakers will be announced here next Saturday, February 4th 

Buy tickets today for TEDxConcordiaUPortland

TEDxConcordiaUPortland

March 31st 2012

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 are sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community. 

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Bedtime Story: Michael Hanna and the Incredible Mattress Lot

At the sound of “Rolling,” Michael Hanna and his wife Mary Ruth Hanna begin speaking about their incredibly inspirational story in front of cameras operated by Wes and Tera Wages of Armosa studios. We’re at the Mattress Lot in NE Portland, and the Hannas are soundchecking for a filmed interview in relation to Chris Guillebeau’s upcoming book, “The $100 Startup.” Theirs is the story that begins this new book, and it is an unconventional one.

In May 2009, Michael lost his corporate job with a major media company and after a period of job hunting, stress, and searching, he bought a truckload of mattresses. Mary Ruth thought his idea was crazy at first, but they were dedicated to it and their story of success has captured many people’s attention.

If you attended TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2011, you’re already familiar with Michael’s story. During his speech, he discussed the humility that came from losing his job, but also the rewarding freedom he gained in being able to create a business that corresponded to his values.

“We can operate the business as we like. For example, we enjoy giving donations and have been able to give to many organizations. In the corporate world, you have to jump through hoops and bureaucracy, but we’ve been able to give to homeless shelters, women’s shelters, and auctions for schools. We can pick and choose who we give to” Michael said.

“Life is fun when you own your own business. Sometimes you’re busy, but other times you can leave early and do the things you want to do. It isn’t as structured” Mary Ruth added.

The Hannas’ unique story resounds with their customers. Between people sharing Michael’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland talk online, seeing it on YouTube, and clicking on the link posted on the Mattress Lot website, numerous customers have come in wanting to talk about the story. They’ve wanted to become a part of the story, and they in turn share their stories with the Hannas. Everyone seems to have a different reason for needing a mattress, but when they need another one they come back to the Mattress Lot.

“Communities are filled with huge mall parking lots where people aren’t connecting. But people want to form relationships. A relationship makes them feel better about doing business with you” Michael said.

To hear Michael’s story now, you might think that he simply tells it the way it is. In a matter of minutes it’s clear that relationships and community are what he holds dear as a business owner. What isn’t as clear is the thought and craft that went into composing the story.

When Michael was asked to be a speaker last year, he understood the significance and honor of being asked to present at a TEDx event. He was a TED fan, and he knew that he had to make the most of this huge opportunity. There was definitely a story to tell, but how to do it? He wanted to be sure his story was clear and succinct so as many people as possible could relate to it. They needed to understand it, yet he also discovered that he needed to understand it better himself.

“Being asked to speak compelled me to think through my story. It was really emotional because I had to return to these memories, and it was also thought-provoking. I had to verbalize why I was in business, and I had to think about what it was I was trying to accomplish.” he said.

In many ways, coming up with his talk defined the story for him. The craft of coming up with the talk brought its true focus into relief.

After giving his talk at last year’s event, Michael was inspired by the congratulations he received from the other speakers and from community members in attendance. He remembers how honored he felt when Mohan Nair, whom he’d respected from afar, congratulated him. The feedback was encouraging, yet he has found the relationships that he began at last year’s event most inspiring.

“Cut” Wes says. “That was great you two.”

The Hannas, sitting on the edge of one of the many mattresses in the store, shift and relax a bit.

“Michael loves being in front of a camera” Mary Ruth mentions.

Wes looks up from his camera, seemingly on the verge of asking a question, when Michael cuts in: “I was in broadcast for over ten years.”

He’s obviously very comfortable in front of the camera, but in talking with him I’ve noticed something else he retained from his previous experience: He knows the power of a good story.

Tickets for TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012: Becoming Extraordinary go on sale January 28th

Buy one and become a part of our story!

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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Announcing the 1st Three TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012 Speakers: An Author, A Poet and Two Musical Animators

Hoorah! Our first round of speaker announcements is finally here! Kick up your heels and give a jubilant jump because they’re all extraordinary people who have amazingly inspirational stories to tell.

We’re incredibly excited (Can you tell?) to have them speak at TEDxConcordiaUPortland on March 31st, and we can’t wait to hear them share and reveal things that the audience will remember forever. The planning team chose each speaker with great care and deliberation and we feel that each one is an exemplary example of our definition of Becoming Extraordinary.

So, it is with great pride that we announce three of the speakers who will appear on stage at TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012.

Cheryl Strayed

The writing of award-winning author Cheryl Strayed has been described as courageous, gritty, elegant, precise, smart, funny, and sublime. She’s a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, having written the critically acclaimed novel Torch, as well as articles for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, Allure, Self, and many others. Most recently, however, she’s been in the spotlight for her upcoming memoir, Wild, which is about her 1,100 mile solo journey along the Pacific Crest Trail. She walked the trail seeking forgiveness and hoping to find her “innocent self” again, yet what began as an “idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise,” became something much greater. Through this journey, she found transcendence, hope, and healing. She confronted the wild and she confronted herself, ultimately finding the extraordinary in those things that we so often take for granted.

Cheryl currently lives in Portland, Oregon where even indoors she continues to find meaning. Like her mother before her, she seems to “bring magic into every day.” For instance, when we asked her what she believes is the most extraordinary place in the world, she had this to say:   “My bed at six-thirty in the morning, after my two children have crammed themselves in beside me and my husband and our cat, Gulla. Because real, live, wild love is there. And what’s more extraordinary than that?”

Wild comes out in March 2012, and Cheryl recently revealed her role in another writing project–She’s Sugar, celebrated (previously) anonymous advice columnist for the Rumpus web site. Beyond this Cheryl plans to continue growing as an artist.  Her hope is that her next book “always reaches further, dives deeper, and risks bolder than the one that came before it.”

Anis Mojgani

You might not believe it, but Anis Mojgani has never been to a barber shop. And he has really long arms. Oh yeah, and he’s also a two time National Poetry Slam Champion, winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam, and a National Book Award Nominee along with various other extraordinary accomplishments.

He is a talented and creative artist, who has long been fascinated with the extraordinary process of being human. Everyone, he believes, is “invested with nobility,” and this is an idea that he constantly carries with him. His beliefs shape him, and he says that his parents helped shape his beliefs. They gave him, as he says, “The permission to be oneself, acceptance of who one is.”

If he were able to harness the power of our 2012 attendees, he says he’d want to send everyone out into the world with homemade inventions to make the world a better and more interesting place. One invention he’d like to see? Levitating shoes. He’d love to own a pair someday.

He’d also like to open a bookstore, start a soda pop shop with his wife, and establish “an organization that brought to fruition the creative wanderings of people that do not liken themselves to being creative individuals.”

We should probably mention—it might already be clear—that he doesn’t believe there’s ever one place that we arrive at; there’s no end point, so there’s no opportunity to rest on one’s laurels.

His goal in life is to simply continue, something that he says is actually quite difficult. Continuing takes patience and it’s often a process of balancing being selfish and selfless.

We’re excited to see him continue on the TEDxConcordiaUPortland stage, where his slam talents and creativity will be welcomed with open arms.

Goodnight Billygoat

There’s an air of modesty to David Klein’s description of what his performance art group Goodnight Billygoat does: “Think of the old silent films where someone’s playing a piano and there’s a film above showing a narrative. But there’s a little more equipment, and there’s color.”

Audiences often encounter much more. Think of being transported into an old silent movie theater like Klein mentions and quickly realizing that you’re actually in a dream; what you see on the stage is mesmerizing and mysterious and beautiful, and you find yourself contemplating the cosmos as you listen to a live band shape their music to the scenes.

Klein began Billygoat as a solo project in 2006, combining stop-motion animation and ambient music. Nick Wooley joined soon after to help with production and the soundtrack, and they’ve been developing new films and live shows ever since.

In creating his stop-motion animation pieces, Klein thinks about Johanes Kepler’s belief that geometry existed before and served as a model for the creation of the universe. He’s fascinated by space (he’s planning a trip to Joshua Tree in April to see Saturn’s opposition), as well as the fundamental principles of math and science. Though he admits he struggled with geometry growing up, “it’s vital for planning and timing the work I do.”

Expect Goodnight Billygoat’s performance at TEDxConcordiaUPortland to be a fantastically cerebral experience, though expect it to also be incredibly entertaining. Their art is something to get lost in, to enjoy, and to feel good about.

An exciting group of speakers to be sure! Our next group of speakers will be announced Saturday, January 28th , the same day tickets go on sale for TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012.

Buy tickets here starting the 28th!

TEDxConcordiaUPortland

March 31st 2012

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 are sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community. 

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“Bubba the Fish” and Eugene Lee are… Becoming Extraordinary

At first glance Eugene Lee seems both highly ambitious and slightly confused. This is only a  veneer, behind which exists a highly focused, multifaceted mind that has much to contribute to the fields of art, design, medicine and music. As our TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012 graphic designer, our planning team has much to thank him for.  Event posters and promotional materials will be teeming with his fish, specifically bubba.

Now, what you need to understand is that bubba the fish is much more akin to a black sheep, whose name isn’t dolly. Let me explain.  Bubba is red, whereas all of his fish kin are black. Bubba is as different from a clone as the DNA of same species fish will allow; in other words he’s the archetypal outlier.  Outliers are something that most TEDxsters will appreciate, which is why a smile will crack when you view this audacious fish in artistic action.

Eugene thought to name this painting series of “bubba the fish” after “semi-autobiographical” events that inspired him. Though not every caption such as, “bubba the fish articulates his feelings on climate change,” or “bubba the fish is surrounded by hipsters,” comes literally from Eugene Lee’s personal experience, he’s observed generalities in the world, specifically Portland, Oregon, and has articulated them through the life of an red fish, who is named after his roommate’s exceptionally fat cat.

Having grown up in Sudbury, MA, Eugene has a different take on Portland than people who’ve lived here their whole lives. He was especially attracted to the National College of Natural Medicine here in Portland, where he is a 4th year dual degree student of Naturopathic and Chinese Medicine. To heal and to help are his highest ambitions, and he doesn’t stop at Naturopathic Medicine.

Eugene is very into music, and loves to do experimental endeavors. He has a three piece minimalist Jazz trio who are self described as “a prtlnd bsd jzz trio tht plys mnmlst bbp.” Portland based, jazz, plays be-bop. You got it. Straight to the point. Eugene, however, doesn’t stop there. He has his own solo project where he gets even more creative than in his Jazz trio (if that’s even possible), and in 2009 he released, equilibrium on Pure Potentiality Records (2009) under the artist name of sunjae. Just like if you told him that fish of a color swim together, Eugene wouldn’t care if you said that you aren’t supposed to distort or put effects on saxophone bits. Eugene has an interest in a prospective combination of his naturalistic medicine studies and a healing, medically therapeutic aspect of music. His recordings already sound worldly and serene enough to sooth the blues away.

As you may already be thinking, Eugene Lee has a lot on his plate. How does he find time for it all? Did I mention that Eugene is a 4th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do? He says that he is asked this question a lot. Not that one ever needs to justify such multifaceted success, but I think what we’re all wondering is what super-pill, life enhancing supplement he’s on the trial list for so that we can get signed up right away! The answer is none. “I allow myself to indulge in my passions very easily,” says Eugene, “More often than not I’m in pursuit of something I enjoy, and I don’t deny myself pleasure from the arts.”  We would all be wise to live by such advice.

With this list of accomplishments, diverse interests, and dedication to pursuing his passion, it’s easy to see why Eugene was a natural choice for this year’s event. As a friend of a planning team member, we knew a bit of his background but once we got to know him more, we truly learned how much not only his design matched our theme but how Eugene himself is on the fast track to becoming extraordinary.

Look for the designs of Eugene Lee in upcoming months on posters and TEDxConcordiaUPortland 2012, promotional materials!

by Hunter Brookshier

Hunter is a Communications and German major at Portland State University. He has always been interested in stories; how they’re told, who’s telling them, what the person telling them has experienced that makes them tell such a story. These are all fascinating questions to Hunter. Sometimes stories recount the facts, other times they exist only in the fragile framework of an idea. Many times, more often then not, stories are interesting, and occasionally, they’re all we dwell on for days and weeks and months after experiencing them. That’s why Hunter loves TED. It’s an organization that tells stories through the age old venue of public speech. TED is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t an ad for TED, but really, why shouldn’t it be? TED connects brilliant minds, and tells the most interesting true stories in the world. Hunter is proud to be a part of TEDxConcordiaUPortland, and here he will continue to learn and grow. 

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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 TEDxConcordiaUPortland.com

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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