Last Saturday, STO Talks stole the Mane Stage – quite literally. The event originated with one idea. It expanded to include an event, planning committee, 15 speakers and over 400 attendees.
As Bjorn Mellem ’12 said in his speech about space exploration, the Soviets viewed the Space Race as a means of building a road to the stars instead of a race to the finish. In a similar way, STO Talks introduced the initiative of building a road towards change and innovation.
I once read the “Bitch It Out” column in Cosmopolitan – a column allowing people to profess exactly what irks them. Most are entertaining, yet not life-changing. One issue had a sentence from a person with physical disabilities, who said that one of her pet peeves was people using handicapped stalls in bathrooms. I have not used a handicap stall since.
My first year at St. Olaf, I was introduced to the idea of people first language – a mechanism advocating against dehumanization for people suffering with disabilities. For example, it’s not a schizophrenic person, but a person living with the condition of schizophrenia. I immediately added this to my vernacular.
As a result of these experiences, I have developed aversions; I’ve been conditioned to be hyper-observational of these types of situations. And that very concept was one of the fundamental ideas behind STO Talks – exposing people to new concepts, whether miniscule or life lessons.
In the course of the two sessions of STO Talks, I experienced the prickling sensation of goosebumps 14 times. I made 46 notes. And I added 14 items to my already-brimming to do list. But those statistics, my friends, are from just me: one of 400 attendees, including only those physically present, excluding the online audience.
STO Talks was, without a doubt, one of the most riveting, thought-provoking productions I have been lucky enough to attend. It was the kind of event that made me feel honored to be a part of it – even as a mere guest. So much so, in fact, that whilst its other attendees mingled and enjoyed appetizers in Buntrock Crossroads during the intermission, I fled to the nearest office to frantically type my thoughts onto a keyboard (one of the great advantages, or disadvantages of being a writer – the insatiable need to spew your thoughts on paper immediately).
One of the most outstanding things about STO Talks remains that there was no one “best” speech – only speeches that resonated with a variety of people, depending on their base knowledge and individual interests.
After attending, I will associate my STO Pen with a plethora of things: integrative thinking, for one. The event was able to create a cohesive nature even between a wide array of topics. For example, Greg Carlson ’82 connected Michelangelo to Gandhi to farms, Charlotte Sivanich ’12 connected golf and social change to math curriculum. The possibilities are endless, just as Lars Leafbald ’99 suggested in his presentation about social networking, as he brought up books where you can build your own ending.
Well orchestrated down to every detail, STO Talks delivered a successful marketing plan, hired a vivacious emcee (Sian Muir) and created an anticipatory soundtrack. It even incorporated more artsy aspects, such as dancers in Sherry Freeman Saterstrom's '70 speech "do.move – duh!" and a solo dance piece by Richard Aviles '13.
I’ll be pinning my STO Talk ticket on my bulletin board for inspiration. While others may not reflect on the event as literally, I highly doubt I am the only beneficiary of Saturday’s event, which will continue to trigger other events from next year’s STO Talks to educational reform to novel ways to help those with HIV.
STO Talks served as a well-orchestrated catalyst for obscure ideas. Its contents are one step away from becoming reality. That one word? You.
Again, a huge thank you to initiator Nick Kang ’12, the planning committee and all speakers who were so willing to share their ideas.