“What is our generation’s mission statement?”
Fourteen Andover students sought to answer this question at Andover’s first ever TEDx Youth Conference last Saturday. Organized by Tanvi Kanchinadam ’19 with support from the Tang Institute and Stuart Paap, a third-party speech coach, the event covered a distinct set of topics that ranged from the dangers of artificial intelligence to the solution to world hunger.
“We should have a deep look on how our generation wants to reflect the changes that we want to see in society. Our generation lacks definition. It doesn’t lack passion or determination,” said Kanchinadam in her opening remarks to the conference.
Kanchinadam hopes to make the conference an annual occurrence at Andover. The three-hour-long conference was divided into three sessions and two intermissions, where attendees were encouraged to begin a dialogue with participants and ask any questions one-on-one. The event was also recorded and streamed at the Mural Room and on the Tang Institute website.
During a brief speech prior to student presentations, Head of School John Palfrey said, “What I’m so excited about is what we will see today in terms of the students’ commitment to figuring out ways to solve big problems. To make a case, to make an argument, to stand up in public and to apply the work they have been thinking about for so long.”
A long-time fan of TED conferences, Kanchinadam first pitched the idea of hosting one at Andover when she arrived on campus last year as a Junior. Planning sessions held in The Nest allowed her to collaborate with other students and brainstorm for this year’s conference.
“One of the hardest things that we had to do was finding a theme that [could] balance both the interest of our Andover’s community [and] the interest of the global TED community. We decided [on] the theme ‘What is our generation’s mission statement?’ [because] that question felt more like something other people had been trying to answer for us in our entire lives,” said Kanchinadam in an interview with The Phillipian.
While writing about their topics, students were instructed to draw from their own personal experiences and construct their arguments around issues they cared about. During the process of applying and preparing, participants submitted short paragraphs explaining their ideas, recorded videos of themselves giving their speeches, and practiced both in the library and on stage over the course of the week.
Hosshini Suraj ’19, who was in the audience last Saturday, said, “I thought [the conference] was a really great experience. Each talk uniquely contributed to the overall theme of ‘what is our generation’s mission statement?’ I really learned a lot from Makenna’s talk on gentrification. She had a lot of examples and really broke down the issue… I would encourage anyone who wasn’t able to make it this year to try to make it to the next conference.”
Kanchinadam hopes to improve upon the conference next year by inviting students from schools around the area to participate and to admit a larger audience.
“I believe that ideas and knowledge are worth sharing. They’re not properties of Phillips Academy or something else. I think that’s what made this project so amazing — that these ideas that often times seem trapped in the ‘Andover Bubble’ [were released],” said Kanchinadam.