One would question why a crowd of uni students can be found on campus on a Saturday especially considering the fact that they aren’t here to attend a replacement class. Well, the answer is pretty simple. Monash University Malaysia hosted its 2nd TEDx Talk on this particular Saturday, 18th August 2018. 13 cool, interesting and knowledgeable speakers from diverse backgrounds as well as different fields, like how could I miss this? The speakers spoke pertaining to the overriding theme of the event which was Linking the Dots.
This theme was meant to illustrate the significance of the human experience, whether if it’s past, present and future. The stories shared and experiences learned are for us as listeners to take home, connect it with our lives and hopefully bring it forward as we progress in life. In essence, this is done to form an entire constellation where in which we are all connected by the commonalities and information shared.
The first speaker was the founder of Teach for Malaysia (TFM), Dzameer Dzulkifli. He spoke about the unfortunate state Malaysia’s school systems, where 1 out of 5 youth do not complete their secondary education. He also emphasised that he’d like to link the dots towards instilling thematic learning and design thinking in the education system, for there to be an independent school boards system, increased representation in the Arts as well as female representation in STEM. Other plans include decentralising the education system, and instilling a school inspectorate that reports to Parliament. Currently, 9-year-old establishment has helped over 100 schools nationwide and has about 350 fellows. In essence, Dzammer solidified the idea that we are currently in this period of social movement and expressed hope that we do our part for the future in efforts to continue the empowerment of children through knowledge.
The next speaker was Dr. Felicia Chang. Originally from Setiawan, Perak, Dr. Felicia contracted the polio virus at the young age of 1. She spoke about the concept of a box and how it represents society’s’ tendency to pigeonhole and confine people to certain expectations. From young, Dr. Felicia was constantly told being a she wouldn’t amount to much. She spoke of the conscious decision to step out of the box and made the courageous path towards studying medicine in India and eventually became a palliative care doctor. “Stepping out of the box is just half way, staying out is another thing”. When asked the reason why she chose a field where she is known as the “Angel of Death” (she personally prefers “Angel of Healing”), she believes it to be her calling. Among the things she has learnt from being a palliative physician include prioritising those you care about, being generous, having fun and enjoying simplicity.
Following that speech was Ras Adiba. Ras is a well known figure in the broadcasting industry. She was a trained dancer, and enjoyed riding bikes. After experiencing a senseless act of violence which left Ras in a wheelchair, Ras who was initially a popular sports commentator and broadcast personality found it hard to get work. She eventually managed to embrace her situation, “I dream and I dream big… my disability is my ability…”. Ras is happily married with several foster children, manages Ras Network Sdn Bhd and founded a NGO to improve disabled people’s level of accessibility and standard called, OKU Sentral. As Ras ended her speech, she left the audience to the point of tears when she said “I need you to be my legs, run, dance, travel, see the world for me”.
John-Son Oei, founder and Group CEO of the Epic Collective, was the fourth speaker. Epic Collective which basically stands for Extraordinary People Impacting Community and is known for its program of building a house in 3 days. Much like Dzameer, John-Son Oei discussed social movements through the topic of ‘Discovery the EPIC in you’. He talked about utilising one’s abilities and finding their legacy. He closed his speech with his version of a popular quote “There are three important days in your life; the day you were born, the day you find out why you were born and the day you find what you were born to do.”
The talks progressed with Albert Nico, an actor, model and award winning hairstylist who talked about the power of persistence. Albert spoke about his difficult childhood, ‘Patience, passion, action and determination’ these were main things Albert stressed on during his speech. Albert’s road to success was met with trials and tribulations (like having to work day and night several jobs and being cheated out of his savings) but despite all the challenges, he managed to succeed and is currently working on his second book.
From the age of 14, Justin Yap fell in love with cooking while taking a job over the holidays. Now Justin is a talented chef. He spoke about the importance of looking to history as we progress. He illustrated his point with what he knows best: cooking and giving us a glimpse into the mind of a chef. Justin talked about the history of cuisine and how it has evolved, progressed and developed creatively whilst maintaining its historical background.
Moving on, En. Amran Hassan, the Head of Innovation at Maybank talked about the idea of embracing and adapting technology as we move forward in this globalised world. He spoke about this through the topic: the death of banks. He postulated that with the rise of technology, the traditional idea of banks that we grew up will seem less relevant. Fortunately, the evolving nature of banks will utilise technology to maintain its relevance, and transform, rather than killing itself.
Alphaeus Tan is a Monash graduate who became famous because of a viral clip of him asking the then President of the United States, Barack Obama regarding the 1MDB scandal and has since been politically active, working to launch the Red Circle. Alphaeus started out his speech in such a unique and unforgettable way by dressing up as a Power Ranger. Once he got the audience energised, he proceeded to ask, ‘Do you believe?”. Basically, he broke down the idea to the metaphor of a driving car whereby the engine is the belief, the dream is the car and to get to the destination you need to really believe. “Dreams start out crazy and may not make sense to everyone but it must only make sense to you”.
Lim Yi Wei, the current state assemblywomen for Kampung Tunku, Selangor was the next speaker. She talked about the idea of “Thinking fast and slow about politics” where in which she stressed the relationship between media and politics, the presence of ‘systematic depoliticization’ to dissuade the public from politics and urged us to view politics as a public good that is open, participatory and affinitive. She also encouraged us to talk to the other side and said, “Democracy is about the majority but it is also about finding space for the minority and forgiving the extreme. Laws only tells us what we can and cannot do, culture shows us what we achieve.”
Dr. Jason Leong was our 10th speaker of the day. You may have seen clips of his stand up comedy. He started the speech by commenting on the juxtaposition of him speaking after a politician, and how good jokes are grounded in truth. Centered around the importance of scientific methods, and the importance of evidence, Dr. Jason observed that the society lacks fact checking abilities, opting to believe in poorly-grounded rumors. His speech was done in a light comical way that it almost transformed the surroundings as if we were in a comedy club.
As a member of Global Bersih, an international network and advocacy arm of Bersih 2.0, Nirmala Devi Windgaetter talked about the voting issue for overseas Malaysians during the 14th general elections this year and how a postal discussion group became a platform for organizing a solution to the problem. This was playfully dubbed the “GE- Amazing Race”, where in which Malaysians all over the worked together to send in the votes and deliver them to their respective voting areas on voting day. Nirmala spok mostly about the driving force of everyone involved which was their love for their home and goes on to say, ‘This geographical border is not enough to define home. Home is when you have that feeling and need to do something about it’.
The last two speakers had several things in common, that being they both are young, smart and successful entrepreneurs. 16-year-old Harsha spoke first. Harsha is a founding member of Ascendence, a nationwide youth empowerment organization which focuses on helping youngsters turn their passion into something that could potentially help the community. ‘What we are doing is making this the new normal. For the world to change we need to work with the world. Every single one of us can create change’.
At the mere age of 16, Abe started her own online business selling shoes on Instagram, then moved on to open the bar and restaurant, Blackbird KL on top of owning several business (like a nightclub and coworking space) and founded the online furniture marketplace, Apver. Abe, a 22-years-old law student spoke about making the most out of technology in achieving success online, in particular Instagram. She gave us 10 lessons based her experience. Some of them included, “It’s more important to be best than good at something and don’t overestimate your competitor”, “Put a price tag on your time. You can’t have a million dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic” and “Listen. Humility is essential. If they’re wrong, educate them, not belittle them. Always be generous with sharing knowledge”.
The organizing team did such a great job setting up the event. Everything from the the round red rug on the centre of the stage to the block letters, the entire set up was quite impressive. Sam the MC was entertaining and even indulged us in several lame jokes.There was even two performances, one being from the Monash Dance Fusion Club and the other performance was from a group from the Monash Music Club called Connexon. There was also breakfast, lunch and tea provided in between the talks to give us a bit of a break to stretch our legs and fuel up.
So 13 speakers, 3 meals, 2 performances and photo taking session later, the end of the day had me exhausted and motivated to do more at the same time. There were moments where I was brought to tear and instances where I was laughing almost to the edge of my seat. Listening to these people who are amazing in their own right, be able to share their experiences was inspirational and eye opening. I walked away with a lot to think about which I suppose is the point of events like these. Really could not have asked more from a TEDx event.
Article by Sharifah Azlinah
Photos by Nalau Nobel