UC Berkeley holds 6th annual TED conference, explores themes of wisdom, compassion

Ariel Hayat/Senior Staff

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On Saturday, the sixth annual TEDxBerkeley conference showcased the ideas and perspectives of speakers on the themes of “Wisdom, Compassion and Connection.”

The daylong conference, held in Zellerbach Hall, was divided into three sessions, each focusing on one of the three overarching themes. The lineup of 21 speakers and performances was selected through nomination, according to Lucky Ding, the event’s director of information.

TEDxBerkeley, which is independent of the annual TED conference, has become one of the more recognized TEDx events in the Bay Area, Ding said. More than 1,800 attended Saturday’s event, and the live stream reached about 9,000 total views.

Speakers and performances included members of the UC Berkeley community. Each session opened with a live performance from one of three campus groups — UC Men’s Octet, Cal Bhangra and Cal Raijin Taiko.

During the “Wisdom” session, UC Berkeley freshman Adora Svitak spoke about morality and the stigmatization of sexuality.

“To speak of sex is to speak of life,” Svitak said. “It is time to talk about sex — openly, proudly and unafraid.”

Dan Garcia, a lecturer in UC Berkeley’s electrical engineering and computer science department, addressed in his talk the need for computer science education in a society transformed by technology. Garcia co-created the course Computer Science 10, “The Beauty and Joy of Computing,” and is working on developing a new advanced-placement computer science course for high schools.

Richmond Sarpong, a UC Berkeley chemistry professor who also spoke at the conference, spent his childhood in sub-Saharan Africa and was inspired to study chemistry after he witnessed the effects of various diseases.

Audience members were encouraged to think about human nature in talks from author Mike Robbins and Marc Gopin, director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution. Gopin explored the ability to move beyond hate and violence to empathy, while Robbins spoke about finding fulfillment by embracing vulnerability.

“Love a stranger wherever you go – across the street, across the world,” Gopin said. “Find your strangers and love them, and you will change history. You will change the world.”

Entrepreneurs Victoria Kisyombe and Suzanne Ackerman-Berman spoke of creating job opportunities for the underprivileged during the “Compassion” session. Once a widow with three children and a cow as her only possession, Kisyombe started her own microleasing company in Tanzania and provided women with the means to start their own businesses.

Ackerman-Berman shared her experiences as a child living in South Africa during apartheid rule and how she used entrepreneurship to fight inequality.

Also speaking in the “Compassion” segment were Dan Viederman and Meera Shenoy, whose talks focused on ethical employment. Viederman, CEO of Verite, spoke about ensuring ethical practices in supply chains. Shenoy founded Youth4Jobs, a company that helps people with disabilities secure jobs in India.

The conference also featured musical performances from musical minister Valerie Joi and flutist Viviana Guzman. Joi wrapped up the first segment with a live piano and singing performance, and Guzman played melodies on flutes from different parts of the world.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak finished up the conference by sharing his experiences while at UC Berkeley, entertaining the audience with stories about the various pranks he pulled as a student.

Various speakers throughout the conference paid homage to Leonard Nimoy, an actor known for his work in “Star Trek,” who passed away Friday.

“Live long and find happiness — or prosper,” Wozniak said, concluding his talk.

Contact Amy Jiang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ajiang_dc.