Southern Utah University held its annual TEDxSUU event, “Kaleidoscope of Perspectives,” on Sept. 14 from 7-9:30 p.m. in the Hunter Conference Center. The SUU TEDx committee nominated a diverse number of speakers for the 2021 line up, each hailing from different backgrounds.
The speakers consisted of professional development students, alumni, professors, and current students. The line up from start to finish was Jeb Branin, Sadie Sanchez, Lawrence Mbaki, McKay White, Ashton Weagle, Dr. Sarah Allen, Abby Holmgren, David Ngyuen, Rachel Trane, and Tawny Hammond.
The SUU TEDx Committee gave the speakers “Kaleidoscope of Perspectives” as a theme on which to structure their speeches and told them to interpret the theme to reflect their individuality.
One of the first speakers of the night was Sadie Sanchez, an alumnus of SUU who received her bachelor’s degree in political science and information.
In 2020, Sanchez created a non-profit organization called Perspectuus, which stands for “the perspective of us.” Through her non-profit organization, Sanchez interviewed over 100 people on their perspectives and published each story anonymously on the website. Sanchez’s goal is to have a better understanding of other people’s experiences.
Sanchez said on her website, “I believe that when we come from a place of wanting to understand, we find the humanity and commonalities in others despite our differences.
In her speech, Sanchez questioned where humanity could find commonality. She claimed humanity could relate to one another through shared emotions. By understanding one another’s emotion, we could gain more perspective about each of our different life experiences.
“The absence of understanding is tearing us apart,” Sanchez said. “Perspective allows us to see reality in a bigger picture. It is our past, present and future; however, it will take effort to know each of our stories.”
Lawrence Mbaki, a SUU junior from Cape Town, South Africa, focused on compassion and difference of opinion.
Mbaki spoke about a strange experience that occurred to him here in Cedar City. When Mbaki was at a local park, a stranger’s child heard his South African accent and stated “it was weird.”
Mbaki was shocked by the child’s comment. To Mbaki, his accent was not weird. It was a part of his identity and roots. He questioned why the child thought his accent was “weird.” Why did his identity have to be associated with something that was foreign and strange?
Instead, Mbaki said, “that our differences enable us to be a part of a kaleidoscope, like one that is created by a group of butterflies.”
He said that our differences make us beautiful and without them humanity would not showcase a beautiful diversity.
Mbaki also stated that humanity cannot properly exist without the inclusion of those who may be different. Instead of labeling those who aren’t similar to us as “weird” we should use words such as “different, unique, and special” because each one of us is human and all of us are a part of the same collective.
“Each of us are a part of the soil,” Mbaki said. “Whether that be the soil of SUU, or the soil of the earth.”
McKay White, an SUU student from Coban, Guatemala, also spoke of how their life experiences provided them with a different perspective. As a nonbinary person, Coban said that they often felt unincluded.
White spoke on how growing up labeled as a woman made them feel dysphoric. They said they spent their life duct taping parts of their body in order to feel some semblance of normality within their identity.
White often questioned, “What was I, who was I,” and stated, “not knowing my identity made me overwhelmed and scared and I didn’t feel like I belonged.”
It was not until college White accepted themself as nonbinary. White now works at the Center of Diversity and Inclusion for SUU and is the vice president of activities for SUU Pride and Equality Club. Their goal is to provide education and awareness on LGBTQ issues and to encourage positive change within the community so others understand that they are not alone.
“Learning to love yourself is the most important thing,” White said. “ So this is me, McKay, as a person, not as a gender.”
As the event proceeded, it became clear that discrimination had affected each of the speakers. This experience led them to question why humanity inflicts this judgement and pain on one another, even though we are all the same.
Ashton Weagle, an SUU senior, spoke on this idea in his speech titled, “What it Means to be Human.”
Weagle explained that humanity is not owned by anyone. Animals can exhibit humanity with qualities that we deem are good, compassionate and intelligent. Yet, humanity chooses to distance ourselves from barbarity and savagery when it is exhibited by animals or by other humans.
“We see in others what we want to see in ourselves, not in our shortcomings,” Weagle stated.
The event ended with a somber yet beautiful reality. Every one of us has felt pain through a set of experiences provided by our fellow human beings. In the grand scheme of things, we are all human and each one of us should strive harder to understand all of our differences.
TEDxSUU is an annual event held by the SUU Speech and Presentation Center. Each event is allowed 100 guests in attendance and the lineups for the speeches are chosen several months in advance.
Article and photo by: Danielle Meuret