WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3RD, 2009 AT 1:06 PM
The first government sponsored TED Talks
Posted by Rob Lalka
These are the moments when I cannot help but be excited – and humbled – about the opportunities ahead for our new office (recently announced at the Global Philanthropy Forum) and for the Department of State in general. Today we are expecting over 700 guests to fill Dean Acheson Auditorium here at the Harry S Truman Building to hear the first government sponsored TED Talks. This is the inaugural event for Secretary Clinton’s new Global Partnership Initiative; and it is part of the launch of her broader mandate for the Department of State to open its doors to foundations, businesses, non-governmental organizations, universities, and faith communities.
By establishing the Global Partnership Initiative within the Office of the Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton recognizes and appreciates that these are the groups that are already on the frontlines of foreign affairs. For these reasons, we are hosting events like the TED Talks to encourage greater participation from all of these outside voices. Today’s theme – "new ideas for a better world" – encapsulates exactly why we are engaging with all of these groups. As Secretary Clinton said at the Global Philanthropy Forum, "We just need you to walk through with your ideas, your energy, your commitment, and to put to work all that you bring with so many others who share our concerns about the challenges we face, and our absolute conviction that we’re up to meeting all of them."
These are such exciting times to work on partnerships from within the U.S. government; and I should mention that the State Department is not the only group involved. We are also working closely with the Office of Social Innovation and the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the White House, among others across the federal government, on all of these efforts. In that sense, it is a particular thrill to be blogging about all of this on the White House’s Open Government Initiative.
I realize that you might be wondering what all of this excitement is about and who or what TED is anyway. If you don't know about TED, then click away from this page immediately and visit www.ted.com. Spend a few minutes watching the videos that pop up on the screen. While it is easy enough for those minutes to rush away and turn into hours (or whole afternoons and evenings, in my case), no matter how much time you spend watching these videos, discovering for the first time that TED exists is one of those phenomenal little moments in life that is only rivaled by a few experiences -- for me, traveling abroad (anywhere) and learning about other people (anyone) elsewhere in this world, or watching that first Blu-Ray video and not even caring about picking my jaw off the floor because the effects were just so incredible, or listening to the Beatles for the first time and realizing that there was a whole new level of genius I just been missing out on entirely. TED often has that kind of a spontaneous, drastic impact. And it should: these futurists, visionaries, scholars, and experts are challenged to give the best speech of their life on any topic of their choosing in eighteen minutes or less. Now that's setting the stage for something really magical to happen. And I have not even mentioned the best part: TED shares all of this wisdom, inspiration, and passion on the internet for free by posting the videos on their website. Really, you have to visit www.ted.com. You are going to get addicted to this stuff.
I have already gotten so many of my friends hooked; and a number of bloggers and journalists are, too, calling TED, "an intellectual Mardi Gras;" "a caldron of ideas and innovation;" and "the place for glimpses into the future." My favorite is this one, however, from one of last year’s TED attendees in Monterey: "I believe in miracles, I just don't believe in scheduling them. Apparently you've found the secret to allow you to do just that." That is how it feels around here today. There is a certain bit of magic about what opening the doors of the State Department really means. I cannot wait to hear what the speakers will say when they come today to share their "new ideas for a better world," especially since no one knows what will be said until the TED speaker takes the stage. Take a moment to check out what they have said in previous TED Talks for some clues; and I am sure they will be well worth watching once they go live on the web in a few days. I'll write again then to follow up.
Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, here is his 2005 TED on institutions vs. collaboration .
Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of the Acumen Fund, here are her talks on ending poverty: here, here, and here .
Stewart Brand, author of the Whole Earth Catalog, on squatter cities and the long now .
Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion, speaking about his groundbreaking book .
Hans Rosling, Karolinska Institutet Professor of International Health, who has shared some amazing statistics at previous TEDs here, here, and here .
Rob Lalka is the Partnerships Liaison at the U.S. Department of State.