TEDxGeorgetown: How We Disrupt

TEDxGeorgetown 2017 was about disruptors: how speakers either embraced innovation or combatted obstacles in their life. All nine speakers overcame adversity and disrupted the status quo.

Naturally, the event led me to think about myself as a disruptor. Within minutes of arriving to the venue, TEDxGeorgetown staff members handed attendees sharpies and asked us to fill in how we disrupt on pieces of paper attached to the wall. I stood silently and awkwardly in the Healy Hall lobby for a few moments. At the time, I didn't feel compelled enough to write anything down.

Thana Hassan at TEDxGeorgetown

Thana Hassan at TEDxGeorgetown

Thana Hassan opened the conference, explaining how she coped with losing her loved ones during the Libyan Civil War. After everything Thana had gone through, she could not forgive those who stole so much from her, but she could do her best to understand the different sides of the conflict. She began to cultivate empathy through art; Thana's spoken word poetry enabled her to express her emotions to those who couldn’t understand her experiences otherwise. Throughout her talk, I felt her emotions, I felt her pain, and I felt her demand for change.

Luis Rosales shared insight into his experience as an undocumented immigrant in America. He talked about how Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) enabled him to benefit from all of the opportunities America has to offer and how with hard work and persistence, he was able to transfer to Georgetown with a generous scholarship. While the label of “illegal alien” was supposed to limit Luis, it became an identity he claims proudly.

Jenna Clifford chose to go against expectations when she decided to attend Georgetown with a full-ride scholarship instead of staying in rural Lisbon, Maine, like many of her peers. Jenna embodied a positive disruption. Despite limited options at her school, Jenna set out to fly to Africa in order to help promote educational infrastructure reform during her freshman year. Jenna's is an unlikely story, and she is determined to enact change so that everyone in Lisbon is supported and has the resources to pursue their dreams. 

Pedro Espinoza pioneered SmileyGo, a platform that enables companies to effectively donate and invest in humanitarian and charitable causes. He emphasized the need for increased social ventures, his ethical imperative to give back to the world from which he profits, and the connection between his business and his experiences volunteering. “If serving is beneath you, leadership is beyond you.”

The conference eventually ended, and I found myself back at that Healy Hall lobby, back to the disruption flyers waiting to be filled in.

How I disrupt… It was an interesting thought experiment for me, especially since everything unique about me felt incredibly insignificant after the incredible talks I had just witnessed.

Some small things came to mind, but they mostly included just odd habits like taking written notes on cinematography when watching films or insisting on walking absurdly long distances instead of just taking the Metro. All of these facts about me seemed like mildly amusing things in the moment, but were not adequately disruptive enough to be documented down for all of TEDxGeorgetown to see.

With a bit more thought though, I’d like to think I disrupt the status quo subtly, in my own little ways. I didn’t actually end up writing anything on the posters. My problems or successes may not be as immense as those of the speakers featured at TEDxGeorgetown, but the conference planted the idea that my own individual disruptions exist for the better, that the world is stronger when everyone embraces their passions and drives, however small they may seem.

You can learn more about TEDxGeorgetown and their 2017 event here. Stay tuned, their talks will be published soon!

Luis Rosales at TEDxGeorgetown

Luis Rosales at TEDxGeorgetown