TEDxLewisburg: The Future… Not What it Used to Be

By Peggy Mackenzie

The TEDxLewisburg event held last Friday at the Greenbrier Valley Theatre (GVT) was a successful, thought-provoking presentation brimming with dynamic speakers, many of whom are local talent.

What is TED, you might ask? “TED” translates to Technology-Entertainment-Design, the original focus of the TED talks. TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.” “X” means independently organized TED events. The TEDx program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.

The impetus for TED is to spark discussion and personal connections. The first TED started as a four-day conference in California 26 years ago, and has since grown to support world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. At TED, the world’s leading thinkers and doers are asked to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Talks are then made available, free, at

The TEDxLewisburg came about through Lewisburg resident and former city council member Andrew Evans, a long-time TED fan, when he had the opportunity to work on a project that was presented at TED Global 2012 by John Wilbanks, in Edinburgh, Scotland. That experience led Evans to seek a TEDx license for a local event designed to give a global audience to local decision-makers and community leaders. Evans immediately sought the advice of a Steering committee, comprised of Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester, Greg Johnson, and Josh Baldwin, with Courtney Smith serving as event coordinator and liaison to the Greater Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation.

Speakers this year were Margaret Baker, Nic DiPalma, Steven S. Drachman, Sarah Elkins, Russell Fallstad, Will FitzHugh, Eric Fritzius, Ben Long, Ron Magruder, John Manchester and Barbara Wyckoff. Videos from previous TED Talks were inserted between the on-stage speakers’ presentations.

Under the theme of “The Future – Not what it used to be,” the featured speakers and videos offered widely ranging topics. Some were humorous, such as “How to tie your shoes,” and “Everything I needed to know about public service I learned hitchhiking.” Others were simply mind-blowing – “Brilliant Designs to fit more People in every City” and “Transition to a World Without Oil” were but two shining examples. Still others invoked admiration and respect. One such was a video from Zak Ebrahim titled, “I am the Son of a Terrorist. Here’s how I Chose Peace.”

Referring to the theme of the event, Evans wrote in an introductory statement, as the official spokesperson for TEDxLewisburg: “We can’t know the future, but it doesn’t stop us from trying. The best way to predict the future, however, is to create it.”

All of the talks presented at GVT will be professionally filmed and made available to the public on the official TEDx YouTube channel shortly after the event. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Benoit Mandelbrot, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The event was sponsored by One Foundation, Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation, Greenbrier Valley Theatre and Mark Collins, Collins & Company, CPA. For more information about TEDx, see


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