Blair Students at TEDx


On November 16, four of Blair’s very own and Gill St. Bernard’s joined in the TedX conference.. Emily Choi ’17, Helen Mercedes ’18, Chris Liu ’18, and Gareth Patterson ’18 each presented on a topic of their choosing that they believed would impact the community in some way. The topics were varied and always interesting.

The conference began with one of the Gill St. Bernard’s students, Alex Schachne. He spoke of taking “what is invisible and making it visible.” After quoting several books and analyzing Mozart’s success, he came to the conclusion that passion requires sacrifice. He left the audience with the thought provoking question: “How willing are you to dedicate time to deliberate practice?”

Emily Choi ’17 led us into the world of the Latino community. She stressed the fact that every single immigrant to the United States has a different story to tell, and that out of the 55 million Hispanic immigrants, not one of them is the same. Emily also pointed out that this year’s election process has led many to believe several false facts. For instance, undocumented immigrants do pay taxes but don’t have the privilege of government welfare benefits. As part of the “Community of Friends in Action” (COFIA), Emily took a strong stance that we should better inform ourselves about the Latino community.

The next speaker was Patrick Reilly from Gill St. Bernard’s. He opened with the question, “Who here has played monopoly before?” Naturally, most people have, but surprisingly, Patrick went on to explain the mathematics of monopoly. He broke it down to its fundamentals and left the table-flipping rage many of us have felt while playing the game aside. Big take away: if you ever find yourself playing monopoly, make sure to buy all the orange spaces first!

Helen Mercedes ’18, who we heard from earlier this year during Chapel, cleverly employed the  theme of #BlackGirlMagic to draw us into her speech. She began, “We know that all women are magical, but this is an opportunity for us [African American women] to shine in a world that forces us to be dim.” From there, Helen described three stereotypes of African American women: the Mammy, the Sapphire, and the Jezebel. The Mammy is an obese, religious, motherlike figure. The Sapphire is the angry black woman who is punished until she is passive and unseen. The Jezebel is the sexual fiend who is oversexualized and prominently dominated by white males. Helen believes that we have to “hate the black stereotypes” and break the boundaries of race. She truly presented a profound and captivating speech.

Another one of Blair’s speakers, Chriss Liu ’18, began her speech by asking us to close our eyes. Not unlike Mr. Powell, we were soothed by her voice, prompting us to imagine the place where we were most comfortable. Evoking the 5 senses, Chriss said, “It’s your safe place, you’re free.” After the meditational introduction, Chriss was joined by her imaginary friends, the Transformers, Lego Ninjas, Spock, Dr. Who, and Dr. Strange. She even said “Benedict Cumberbatch [who plays Dr. Strange] is a beautiful, beautiful man.” She asked us to ask ourselves, “How will I empower myself and approach the physical world in a new way?”

Helena Digney from Gill St. Bernard’s questioned our innate fascination of superheroes. Characters like Spiderman, Superman, and Batman draw us into a new world of awe. Helena pointed out, though, that “superheroes” are really just flawed characters dealing with everyday problems. This Gill St. Bernard’s student challenged the audience to find “the connection between fiction and social reality.”

Next up, Gareth Patterson ’18 spoke to us about NASA and their many successes. “To some cultures,” noted, “the moon is a God. We stood on a God.” He believes that the colonization of Mars is not as unfathomable as it may seem, and that NASA has announced people will be sent to Mars soon. What will happen, though, if we ever do get to Mars? How will we live? His answer: “I don’t know where we will be in a thousand years from now, not even one hundred years. But wherever NASA may take us, we all started [out] on this pale blue dot.” Gareth wrapped up by asking us to remember where we started, no matter how far we go.

Adam Aresty, who graduated from Gill St. Bernard’s in 2003 Bernard’s and screenplay writer of “Stung,” also presented a story about an old man named Lee, entitled “Transitions in Art and Life.”. Mr. Aresty sat with Lee all the time during film school and watched Lee paint. Using Lee’s paintings, Mr. Aresty asks us to find the transitions of our life and look for the finer details.

Throughout the conference, I found myself reflecting on my own life. I thoroughly enjoyed the wide variety of topics touched upon as well as the eloquence with which everything was presented. Both the Blair and Gill St. Bernard’s representatives delivered thought-provoking speeches that were happily grasped by the audience. Thanks to Gill St. Bernard’s for hosting the TedX conference and congratulations to all the speakers.

(Copyright 2016 Ethan Huang)

Ethan Huang

Crew Athlete and Art Appreciator. Ethan is a graduate of the class of 2020.