Hundreds attend the TEDxLAU event dubbed #TheCrossRoad
A number of political analysts have reported that the Arab Spring all but missed Lebanon; yet such thinking dismisses the significance of the quiet social movement that is occurring in the country’s enlightened corners. TEDxLAU is one of the firm anchors of this movement as it brings people of different stripes together to share and exchange ideas.
On September 7, over 300 eager participants descended upon LAU Beirut to take part in the highly anticipated TEDxLAU event dubbed #TheCrossRoad. The daylong affair featured 12 speakers, both local and international, who took to the stage and shared thought-provoking ideas, often personal and poignant.
Speaker Christine Arzoumanian captured the national mood when she told the audience she harbored no illusions about the challenging socio-political situation in Lebanon: “I accept the reality of our country and I am not in denial but I choose to be an optimist,” she stressed.
Reversing the brain drain trend, Arzoumanian, who is a founding member of the Society of Social Entrepreneurs, made the choice to return to Lebanon after working abroad for many years, a decision fueled by her desire to serve her country. Her inspiring message about the importance of cultivating a “servant’s heart” was delivered with serene steeliness and suggested that small acts of kindness are the most powerful form of resistance. “Lebanon made me the strongest I could ever be,” she said to thunderous applause.
Building on the theme of optimism was Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher. The ambassador participated in the event despite the heightened security situation. “Anyone who has doubts about Lebanon’s future should come to this event,” he said. “Today LAU’s Beirut campus is the frontline for coexistence and for tolerance,” he insisted after commending the attendees for their courageous positivity and their willingness to “fight for this Lebanon.”
“I fight for my country peacefully,” said speaker Saeed Baayoun. “I use dance as my preferred weapon of expression,” he continued. Accompanied by the talented Syrian Dance Crew, he proved that actions speak louder than words as the audience was treated to an electrifying dance routine. “We all live in a country where everything is uncertain but we can restrict our battles to the dance floor,” Baayoun asserted.
The event tapped into LAU’s rich vein of social activism and every aspect of the day was designed to advance the discussions instigated on stage with cleverly designed social spaces that encouraged participants to network.
“The event offers a path of true discovery, where you ask the ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of things,” said event curator and instructor of moral reasoning, Reine Azzi. “This is where ideas are exchanged, and this is how they become truly contagious,” she added.
Azzi’s energy and verve were similarly contagious, as she managed to marshal the attendees and keep them captivated for the entire event.
“The talks were especially powerful because they did not gloss over the recent events that are facing the country,” said event attendee Rita Haddad, an MBA student at AUB. “This demonstrates that LAU is not an ivory tower detached from society but rather a space where old verities can be challenged,” she added.
“TED talks are one of the most powerful ways to put ideas into the world today,” said event attendee Noelle Homsy, architect at Jo Geitani Architects.
Many participants, like Homsy said they left LAU’s campus feeling moralized, buoyant and upbeat about the future. “A feeling definitely worth the cost of entry,” she enthused.