Jewish Journal

Milken holds TED talks

by Ryan Torok

Posted on Feb. 20, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Milken junior Robyn Rose Valentine delivers TED talk, “Standing Between Bubbles.” Photo courtesy of Milken Community Schools

Milken junior Robyn Rose Valentine delivers TED talk, “Standing Between Bubbles.” Photo courtesy of Milken Community Schools

Dressed in a chic outfit, Milken Community Schools senior Maddy Levine told a crowd of her peers, educators and others that fashion choices aren’t superficial or accidental. Far from it — we can learn much from them.

“In striving for a more creative, cutting-edge and innovative world,” she said, “we are no longer just wearing our clothing — we are inhabiting it.”

Levine, giving a lecture titled “Fashion at Its Most Intimate Level,” appeared as part of an event that brought TED talks — lectures on technology, entertainment and design that are brief in length and highbrow in rhetorical style — to Milken Community Schools on Feb. 9. 

Dubbed TEDxMilkenHighSchool, the program covered more than just fashion. Participants — members of the student body, faculty and alumni — discussed such topics as “The Engineering of Art,” “Education, Capitalism and the Digital Divide,” “Music and the End of Time” and “Unintelligent Understandings of Intelligence.” Students included Daniella Wenger, Noah Wallace, Nathan Hakkakzadeh, Max Cherman and Robyn Rose Valentine.

Additionally, Michael Milken, chairman of the Milken Institute, lectured on “The Promise of the 21st Century.” 

A philanthropist and namesake for the schools, Milken said he believes the lengthening of human life expectancy is one of mankind’s greatest achievements.

Dominic Kalms, a Milken 2006 alum, talked about “Your Butterfly Effect: Actions in an Interconnected World.” Referring to a 2011 incident in which a Tunisian street vendor’s self-immolation set the wheels in motion for the Arab Spring, he told the crowd that they are more empowered than they might think.

The audience included students, board members, faculty and Milken president Metuka Benjamin. Head of school Gary Weisserman delivered welcoming remarks. 

Wenger, an honor roll student at Milken and a member of the school’s volleyball team, was the program’s student organizer, working with Milken history teacher Ingrid Guth.

Wenger told the Journal she developed the idea for bringing a TED event to Milken after attending a conference organized by Vital Voices, an organization co-founded by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that encouraged attendees to “pay our experience … forward and affect positive and sustainable change through our communities.”

So what makes a good TED talk? 

“I think one that is interdisciplinary,” Wenger said. “It takes so many different aspects of life and connects them together, and that’s what Ms. Guth and I really looked for when we were curating this [event].” 

TED is a nonprofit that provides schools, corporations and other organizations with licenses to hold events under the TED brand. Those events are known as TEDx events, with the x signifying that the event was independently organized. Typically, each TEDx event has its own theme. The theme of the Milken event, and the title of Wenger’s lecture, was “New World Order.” 

While the topics reflected diverse interests among the students, they all looked to the future. Reaching an audience beyond those who were at Milken that day, the event, which began at 9 a.m. and lasted until 12:30 p.m. in the school’s beit midrash, was live-streamed on the school’s Web site. 

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