Five speakers were selected to lead presentations about realizations they had each encountered in their lives for the TEDxLehighU conference on Monday, Nov. 25, in Zoellner Arts Center. Coordinators began planning the event last spring. (Jordyn Pykon/B&W Staff)

‘Reality check’: Students among speakers at TEDxLehighU conference

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Five speakers, including students, were selected to lead thoughtful presentations about realizations they had each encountered in their lives for the TEDxLehighU conference on Monday, Nov. 25, in Zoellner Arts Center. 

“What’s common between sweets, smartphones and sweatshirts?” said Krishna Gubili, the first speaker of the night, to the audience. “It took me a lifetime to connect the dots.”

What started for Gubili as a journey to find his ancestry turned into a startling discovery that his grandfather was one of the 1.3 million indentured workers sent to sugarcane plantations in the British Colonies. 

“I wanted to know my roots,” Gubili said. “I wanted to find my ancestor and find myself.”

After finding his ancestors’ names in an original ship record found in an archive in South Africa, Gubili began to write his globally esteemed book, “Viriah,” and during the process, he realized the struggles his family members went through as indentured servants are still struggles that exist for people around the world today. 

Gubili said millions of people live and work in unimaginable conditions so others may enjoy the conveniences of smartphones, sweatshirts, sneakers and more.

David Peterson, ‘21, spoke about the story of his struggle transitioning into college. Peterson explained how he changed his life from one fraught with negativity, to one that now brings him fulfillment. 

“It’s all because I took a leap of faith,” Peterson said. 

Peterson said he realized the root of the negativity in his life was his lack of passion. Through open dialogue with those close to him, Peterson was able to bring positivity back into his life. 

He said he wanted to share with others how problems can be solved by acknowledging there will be a change and working towards a resolution.

Jessica Foy, ‘20, the last speaker of the night, and one of the producers of the podcast “Sorry We’re Open,” commenced her presentation by showing one of her favorite photos she posted on Instagram that received “a whopping 360 likes.” 

“This photo portrays the ideal parts of myself. It makes others believe that I’m happy and living my best life,” Foy said. “But what this photo doesn’t show is that I had been having trouble sleeping since March, and I was recovering from arguably the most difficult semester of my life.” 

Foy said she was slightly nervous about presenting, but was pleased with the turnout of her presentation. 

“You can’t really see anybody on stage, which I think was a blessing in disguise,” Foy said. “But it felt really good, and you know what, I’m really proud of what I put out, because the whole point of my topic was to be authentic. And I was authentic.” 

Organizing the event was a multistep task. Coordinators began planning the event last spring.

Applications were sent out for potential speakers after obtaining a license, said Francesca Brown, ‘21, one of the event coordinators.

“The four of us went through special coaching to be able to help the speakers edit their speeches, and have it more cater to what TED looks for,” Brown said.

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