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Greece: TEDxThessaloniki 2012, the Courage to Create

Twelve hours long, with more than 20 speakers and performers, over 700 attendees and 5.000 livestream viewers from 57 countries; on Saturday May 12, 2012, TEDx Thessaloniki 2012 provided an inspiring intermission from the agonizing climax of the financial crisis embroiling Greece.

The theme of this year's event was encapsulated in this short but evocative promo video, which “attempts to depict the sense and feeling of suffocation, anguish the crisis has inflicted upon people as well as the ingenuity to transform obstacles into tools of creation”.

Among the speakers that inspired the audience:

  • Athens-based Albanian journalist and author Gazmend Kapllani talked about the challenges of creativity and identity faced by immigrants;
  • Stand-up comedian Katerina Vrana performed in English and Greek on the interaction of the two cultures;
  • Greek-American startup CEO Eric Parks drew parallels between entrepreneurship in Greece and Homer's Odyssey;
  • American expat Marcie Mayer presented a sustainable agricultural cooperative project utilizing crowdfunding in the island of Kea, and teacher Aggelos Patsias his innovative elementary school at a remote village in Crete;
  • Czech “rogue economist” Tomas Sedlacek offered an iconoclastic, philosophical view of the financial crisis;
  • Albanian politician Edi Rama outlined his audacious project to transform his country's capital Tirana into a vibrant and safer metropolis, and to reinvigorate politics.

The entire event was eminently quotable, with several of the speakers providing insights pertinent to the crisis, avidly tweeted by the audience:

@fayko: Να λεμε εγω και μόνο εγω είμαι υπεύθυνος για τις πράξεις μου. Η θυματοποιηση είναι η εύκολη λύση. @gazikap #TEDxThess

@fayko: We should say: I and only I am responsible for my actions. Victimization is the easy way out. @gazikap #TEDxThess

@apas: Καταπληκτικός @erictparks - see the long term vision (Ιθάκη) and do fail and do fail fast. #TEDxThess

@apas: Amazing @erictparks - see the long term vision (Ithaca) and do fail and do fail fast. #TEDxThess

@vickyele: ‘Be present, have access. Listen. Learn. Voice. Have the courage to imagine' #TEDxThess #Rouka

@TEDxThess: Compromise in colors is gray and we already have enough of that.@ediramaal, ex-mayor of Tirana at #TEDxThess

@DimitrisTzouris: . @atomsedlacek says too much growth is causing the economic crisis, not the lack of it. It is a systemic problem. #TEDxThess

@fayko: If we dismantle the euro, this will mean the beginning of the crisis not the end of it. @atomsedlacek #TEDxThess

Several attendees blogged their impressions of the event. Athens-based fashionista Thalia Geladaki wrote about her favorite presentations:

Imagine a young person that abandons urban life to live in a small village named Fourfoura in Crete. Why? Because he chose to become a teacher and director of a primary school located in Fourfoura with only 4 teachers to cover the needs of six classes. What impressed me about Angelos [Patsias] was his modesty and his determination. It takes a lot of courage to persuade a small community that children can actually learn through different activities and interactions and not just through books. Children are learing via singing, dancing as well as by doing the garden or cooking. This to me is an example of how the educational system should be. Learn not only through books but through experience. You can follow Angelos and the “School of Nature and Colors” here.

Edi Rama on stage at TEDx Thessaloniki. Photo by Duncan Davidson, licensed CC BY-NC

Edi Rama on stage at TEDx Thessaloniki. Photo by Duncan Davidson, licensed CC BY-NC

Journalist Michalis Goudis compared Rama's political example to the dismal Greek reality [el]:

Η ομιλία του Edi Rama στο TEDx Thessaloniki κατέδειξε ακόμη περισσότερο τη γύμνια και την ανικανότητα του ελληνικού πολιτικού προσωπικού τόσο σε εθνικό όσο και σε τοπικό επίπεδο. [..] Το παράδειγμα του Rama αποδεικνύει πως η πολιτική είναι καθαρά και μόνο θέμα βούλησης και προθέσεων. Αρκεί να είναι κανείς διατεθειμένος να συγκρουστεί με μικροσυμφέροντα για να διαμορφώσει μία καλύτερη ευρεία εικόνα. Ο Edi Rama με τα μέτρια αγγλικά, αλλά το καθαρό βλέμμα και τις ακόμη πιο καθαρές ιδέες ενέπνευσε τους ακροατές του. Δυστυχώς, έχει ήδη επιστρέψει στην πατρίδα του κι εμείς απομείναμε με τη φαιδρότητα της ακυβερνησίας…

Edi Rama's speech at TEDx Thessaloniki showed even more how destitute and incapable Greek political personnel are, nationally as well as locally. [..] Rama's example proves that politics is clearly a matter of willpower and intentions; as long as one is willing to take on petty interests in order to better form the big picture. Edi Rama, in his mediocre English, clear look and even clearer ideas inspired his audience. Sadly, he's back home and we're left with the hilarity of the lack of government…

Local entrepreneur Nick Papanotas shared an insight gleaned from spending time with two accomplished speakers:

Geniuses have long ago killed their egos and that’s exactly the way to make breakthroughs. Get over your self and focus on your passion. Sounds like a cool way to make the world a better place, don’t you think?

At TEDx Thessaloniki, looking out on a rainy day. Photo by Maria Mouzakiti on Instagram, used by permission

At TEDx Thessaloniki, looking out on a rainy day. Photo by Maria Mouzakiti on Instagram, used by permission

Journalist Theodoris Georgakopoulos liveblogged TEDx Thessaloniki on Facebook. Charis Tasioulis summarized the event's sessions, and Petros Amiridis shared yet another insight:

My favorite part: We grownups have made mistakes, we do not know all the answers and we are just rebuilding a mistake. It doesn't matter who made the mistake, it doesn't matter why the mistake was made… we are here to fix it

Renowned TED photographer Duncan Davidson gave TEDx Thessaloniki 2012 a ringing endorsement:

Watching the TEDxThessaloniki team pull together their event has been much like watching any of the other talented teams I’ve seen pull together other events. Long hours. Late nights. Much coffee. It all came together magnificently on May 12th at the Olympion Theater into a world class TEDx event that was everything a TED-like event should be: inspiring, motivating, and thought provoking. Attendees were brimming with excitement and passion all the way through the day to the final performance. [..] Exhilarating. Wonderful. Tiring. A great day, no matter how one looks at it. More than anything, it’s wonderful to see people implement the spreading of ideas in their own communities and spheres of influence. It’s something that the world can definitely use more of.

And, with the crisis raging outside the venue, multimedia director Marineta Kritikou expressed the misgivings that many attendees must have been feeling about facing the day after:

@makemanet: Και μετα απο αυτή την ανάταση ψυχής @TEDxThess πρέπει να βγούμε έξω κ να αντιμετωπίσουμε την άλλη πλευρά της χώρας μας.COURAGE to ALL Of Us

@makemanet: And after this uplifting of the soul @TEDxThess, we have to go out and face the other side of our country.COURAGE to ALL Of Us

More on TEDxThessaloniki: Official site, blog, @TEDxThess on Twitter, FacebookFlickr and YouTube. Photos were also posted by Tom Tziros and Asteris Masouras on Flickr.

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