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One Man’s Reflection on Four Years of TEDxGrandRapids

Tedx Grand Rapids

Every year the TEDxGR brings awe-inspiring speakers to the stage to share, engage and inspire our community.  

While the startup years were full of heroic diving catches, sleepless nights and anxiety behind the scenes, the events were always outstanding.

Now in its fourth year, TEDxGR is one of the top TED events in the world – the result of 10,000 volunteer hours every year.

Despite all its success, volunteers still ask themselves: Does the community want this? Should we do it again? Is it worth it?

This year, I believe we saw that tipping point where it became obvious this is a part of the community calendar and future events are fait accompli.

Said another way, TEDxGrandRapids is “a thing.”

While I took a sabbatical from volunteering this year, my little part was to be a 4:00 AM “cabbie” for one of our speakers. This world-class thinker inadvertently silenced his alarm, so the morning was a scramble (but we did get to the airport on time). We laughed and sped through the city and recounted the day. While we were thinking how amazing he was on stage, he was thinking: "Wow, what energy this community has – the conversations I had at lunch, the people I met at lunch and reception – this is a force.”

As he settled into his “whew, I made it” moment waited for his plane to board he concluded our text-chat with this message: 

TEDx Grand Rapids text message

In my mind this is like the hokey-pokey – what is it all about. Every time we give our time to our community, we all benefit.

Thank you to the speakers that gave their time and passion, to the volunteers for your sleepless nights and generosity, and to all the sponsors for seeing what this means to our community. 

While this is a one-day event, the ripple effects can be felt all over our city.

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