Lawrentians Embrace Authenticity at TEDxLawrenceville

This past Tuesday, February 16, Kylan Tatum ’21, Sophia Sachar ’22, and Lauren Zhang ’22 from the TEDxLawrenceville club hosted its third annual series of lectures over Zoom.

This past Tuesday, February 16, Kylan Tatum ’21, Sophia Sachar ’22, and Lauren Zhang ’22 from the TEDxLawrenceville club hosted its third annual series of lectures over Zoom. The theme of this year’s event was “Embracing Authenticity.” IV Formers Kelsie Choi, Andrew Lee, Summer Qureshi, and Tesia Thomas each reflected on personal experiences they had in finding and understanding themselves.

According to co-organizer Kylan Tatum ’21, this year’s topic was chosen because it is a “very relevant theme to high school students, given that high school is often a time [when] people [try] to discover themselves…[and] we’re often not taught what it truly means to find ourselves.” With the event, he hoped to “offer some insights into the Lawrenceville community’s own unique perspectives and struggles.”

The Covid-19 pandemic presented many challenges when planning the lectures. Originally, the event was scheduled for May 2020, but it had to be postponed for many months as club leaders had to spend time navigating the virtual platform. However, Tatum believes there are some advantages to holding the event online, namely that when “in-person, [the event is] limited to only 100 people, whereas online [attenandance] is unlimited,” allowing for it to have a broader reach within the school community.

The event opened with a short introduction by co-organizers Sachar and Zhang, followed by Tatum explaining the theme of this year’s talk and a video of the TED organization explaining the purpose of TEDx events.

The first talk of the afternoon was delivered by Thomas, speaking about her experiences with colorism and her insecurities that stemmed from it. She has been interested in the topic of insecurity for a long time, saying that “every human has it, yet we’re so quick to judge ourselves for it and compare ourselves to others without realizing that they’re just as insecure as we are.” In her speech, she wanted to inspire people to “become less quick to hold themselves to such an unachievable standard.”

Lee then continued the event with his speech on the authenticity paradox. He highlighted how, while personality, character, and our actions are “tangible qualities,” they are also malleable and dynamic. “Embracing authenticity is really good when [approached] correctly. When we view authenticity not as a submission to [others’] preferences, but rather an open-mindedness to character, we can make the necessary adjustments to adapt to different situations,” he said.

Next, Choi spoke about her experiences adapting to life in the United States as an international student. Arriving at junior boarding school as a sixth grader, she struggled with having an accent and believed that it was a “barrier to [her] communication skills.” However, she eventually realized that her accent was unimportant in defining herself and that “people should focus on finding their passions rather than how they present themselves.” In her talk, she hoped to “give a positive message to people who are experiencing the same journey [as she] did.”

Finally, Qureshi gave her speech on the contrasting experiences following her move to New Jersey from Little Rock, Arkansas, as well as the differences between physical diversity and the diversity of social interactions. “Diversity isn’t quantitative; even though those diverse backgrounds existed [in Little Rock], diverse social interactions were often absent,” she said. She discovered that although New Jersey was home to a more diverse community demographically, this diversity tended to create division instead of unity among people. On the contrary, while Little Rock was more homogenous, people tended to have a greater acceptance for others’ social differences.

On being able to present her speech to the community, Choi said, “I was really excited. It was my first time giving a speech to such a large audience, so I was really nervous, but I hope to have a positive impact on the school community.”

Tatum echoed this sentiment, saying, “I think it will be a really great experience for the community. The speeches were really well done and I was really pleased with how the event went in the virtual format. I’m excited for the TEDx legacy to continue in the future as well.”

There will be a follow-up session next week for a Q&A with the speakers, along with an opportunity for attendees to share their own experiences on finding their authenticity.

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