USC hosted 12 speakers at the Alumni Center this week for the first TEDxUofSC. The speakers talked about issues they see in the world and how everyone has the power to make a positive impact.
Entrepreneurs, business people, professors and one undergraduate student will speak about an issue that is relevant to them. Kimani Davis, the owner of Columbia-based construction company Mercy Contracting, was one of those to take the stage. He spoke about what happens when someone leaves prison, having spent two years in prison and now working on vocational rehabilitation programs.
“My goal will be, first of all, if there are any students who have family members or friends that are incarcerated or have been incarcerated to understand that everybody deserves second chances,” Davis said. “But also to kind of enlighten them on what that process is like of actually returning home and what’s important, as far as to an individual and to the family to do to make sure they’re successful.”
Shigeharu Kobayshi is primarily a general manager at the Vista’s Kamon Japanese Restaurant but is heavily involved in the arts on the side. He began TEDx with a presentation about how normal people can change the world through creativity.
“I think we’re all capable of thinking of and enacting world-changing ideas, and when we do we tend to think of millionaires and billionaires and large corporations and powerful leaders to solve our problems,” Kobayshi said. “But really I think you don’t have to be a billionaire. We can be something like a “thousandaire” or a “hundredaire,” and there’s a lot of good we can still do.”
As the only undergraduate student speaker, third-year sport and entertainment management student Lyric Swinton said she was nervous about speaking but excited to share her ideas with her peers and other attendees. She focused on the boundaries steoreotypes place on society.
“I think that this talk is going to identify that we have a lot more similarities than we have differences amongst different people,” Swinton said. “Everybody feels out of place at some point in time so I think that part of this talk is really just to identify those feelings and how to work through them.”
The process of getting to the TEDx stage involved a nomination and interview. Friends and coworkers in the community nominated most of the speakers while a fellow member of Student Government nominated Swinton whose interview, she said, began very poorly.
“I walked from the Koger Center to the engineering building in the sweltering heat which is terrible,” Swinton said. “I had a hole in one of my flats and it was so bad ... I get there and I’m a couple minutes late and I’m literally sweating like drench sweat.”
After an hour long interview and weeks of waiting, Swinton was thrilled to hear that she was chosen to represent the USC student body for TEDx. She kept the secret for a month until the line-up for the day was announced.
“The day that the announcement came out, my social media blew up,” Swinton said. “It was so much support coming in from all different sides. It was such a beautiful experience. Even to now, the support I’ve gotten is insane.”
Swinton, Kobayashi and Davis were joined on stage by nine other members of the Columbia community. The overall theme of the day was creative problem solving, with each speaker offering their own twist or a specific example from their own lives.
“I am quite intimidated,” Kobayashi said. “Since I said, I’m a restaurant person, my usual audience is like a table of two or a table of four and so to have an audience of hundreds is quite intimidating for me, but I’m excited to share what I’ve prepared.”