What is your “soul story” and how will you tell it? That’s the question that The Benjamin middle school’s TEDX talk sought to answer. The theme for this year’s TED talk, held on March 24 in the Barker Performing Arts Center, was Muthos, which is the Greek word for public authoritative speaking that has the power to effect change.
Program coordinator Dr. Tina James welcomed the audience of students, faculty and guests to the talk.
“It’s not always easy, even if you’re an adult, to exhume from your soul that which you truly need and want to say,” James said.
“And people’s soul stories are all very different. As you’ll hear today some soul stories are indeed very dramatic or tragic but still others are funny or quirky and just make you think. But it is incontrovertible that everyone in this audience today has a soul story that needs to be told.”
The talk, MC’ed by middle school teacher Nick Crisafi, was a celebration of the voices of 27 middle school students, speaking on everything from having big hair to living with the eye condition nystagmus. Muthos also featured a handful of guest speakers from a variety of disciplines, including Emmy award winning journalist John Hockenberry and aerialist Tina Reine.
Reine, who started her aerial career at 43, was the first guest speaker to take the stage. The lithe blonde began by telling the story of her childhood in Evansville, Indiana. Tina, born with severe facial deformities, was the subject of merciless bullying by her classmates for the entirety of her childhood.
“I had things thrown at me . . . kids would tease me . . . I was told it looked like I had been hit by a Mack truck.” With the help of multiple surgeries, Tina’s outward appearance is now that of a beautiful, poised woman, but it took time for her self-image to match the image she was projecting to the world.
Reine fielded audience questions at the conclusion of her talk, including a question from three-time Peabody Award winner John Hockenberry.
“When did you realize that you’re not your face,” Hockenberry said.
Reine paused, meditatively, choking back tears.
“It was hard,” she said. “If you face your fears little by little you usually overcome them. You learn not to focus on the piece that’s missing, but instead on all the pieces that you do have.”