Chicago Athletic Association

12 South Michigan Avenue

United States

TEDx Grant Park
May 21, 1pm

What is the purpose of community?

We all have different experiences with community but there is one thing that is for certain… it’s inescapable. It’s something that is mandatory to the human experience. So why not busy ourselves with improving it?

We believe that there is a certain magic inside of community and how it connects us. A mystery inside the human heart unlocked when connected to another, when truly known and accepted by those in our lives. And such of all things beautiful, rewarding, and worthy of attention, it will take patience, commitment, focus and resilience. But the prize of a community that is honest, inclusive, and loving is worthy of any prerequisites it requires to birth. And we’re not alone.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, in the spirit of TED, we are hosting an independently organized TED event in Chicago near Grant Park. At this event we’ll gather one hundred people from across the city. These people will be leaders in their communities but willing to cross boundaries. We’ll spend an afternoon listening to people share ideas from their discipline with the theme of community to bind everyone together.




ALEX Niemczewski
CEO and co-founder of BallotReady. She knows the importance of civic engagement, especially at the local level, and how a lack of information often prevents people from taking part in voting for local leaders and initiatives. (Think, most people vote for president or mayor but few people are making informed decisions, if they’re voting at all, on ballot measures or judges). Our community is made stronger by an informed, engaged citizenry and Alex has an idea to fix that. They have backing from a number of big names including U Chicago, David Axelrod, Ray LaHood, the NSF, the LWV.

Mawi Asgedom has inspired over one million people with his uplifting speeches and written 8 bestselling books. A former refugee from Ethiopia, Mawi is the President of Mawi Learning, a provider of online leadership and success courses used by schools around the world.

Oprah Winfrey called her interview with Mawi one of her “Top 20 Moments” and ESSENCE magazine selected him as one of the “40 Most Inspiring African-Americans.” As a child, Mawi fled civil war in Ethiopia and survived a Sudanese refugee camp for three years. After being resettled in the US, Mawi overcame poverty, language barriers, and personal tragedy to graduate from Harvard University, where he also gave the commencement address to an audience of 30,000.

Mawi’s bestselling memoir, Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard, has been read as a one-book, one-community reading selection by thousands of schools and communities, including the cities of Philadelphia and Green Bay. His latest book, The 5 Powers of an Educator, equips teachers to profoundly impact youth.

Joel is the executive director of both Sunshine Gospel Ministries and Sunshine Enterprises. In addition to his religious service, Joel has completed several entrepreneurial ventures, leading to his involvement in the establishing of Greenline Coffee with his wife, Paula. Joel will be sharing his insights on what causes violence in our community and how can we raise each other out of it.

Graham Aden
Graham Aden is software engineer, writer, and comedian with a background in anthropology. His work focuses on the use of technology to inspire emotion and facilitate human connection. Graham will talk about new ways of data visualization around text messaging, with a funny and unique trip down memory lane.

Adam Walls is founder and CEO of the 5812 Group, a Chicago-based real estate investment company that specializes in affordable housing. Adam has a simple but bold way to tackle housing issues in under-resourced communities, using market-motivated investors and harnessing his passion for community. Adam also serves on the advisory board of Breakthrough Urban Ministries. His talk will highlight causes for why under-resourced communities exist, and why we have to completely rethink them.

Ruthie and Brittany are co-founders of the lifestyle brand TwentyTwo|FortyFour. They both have degrees in fashion design and business from Columbia College and are passionate about meshing the worlds of fashion and art with community and social justice.

Through Brittany’s experience as a Producer for Schawk!, a global brand production company, and Ruthie’s experience at Wind Point Partners, a private equity firm based in Chicago, they work daily to further the mission of 22|44, which is twofold. 22|44 exists to educate the public on all facets of modern-day slavery and to empower us to live a life that supports a world without it.

Their talk will show that shopping ethically isn’t a hardship on you, even if it is sometimes hard to find out who is really behind the product you’re buying.

jason peterson
Jason’s big break came at the age of 21 when Andy Berlin hired him as Head of Art for Volkswagen. Three years later he became a founding partner and Executive Creative Director at Berlin Cameron, conceiving the famous Bill Murray NBA campaign.

After 12 years at Berlin Cameron, Jason was hired as co-president and Executive Creative Director at Translation, a marketing agency founded by Steve Stoute and Jay-Z. There, he created campaigns for State Farm, McDonald’s, and Target.

Today, Jason is the Chief Creative Officer of Havas North America, headquartered in Chicago. His innate sense of digital media and acute understanding of the coveted Millennial market has put him ahead of the curve on modern brand building—firmly believing that art, music, fashion, and design hold the answers to every brand’s problem. He motivates his creative teams to generate content for clients that “doesn’t just live on social media, but thrives on it.”

Peterson’s 20 years in the business have made him a mainstay in both the ad industry and in the world of social media. Known for igniting cultural conversations across all channels, @JasonMPeterson has inspired more than 730K followers on Instagram through his signature monochromatic style. He understands the critical role social media plays in brand storytelling and sees social platforms as the perfect vehicles for creativity and community.


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