The first TEDx Olympia promises a full day of inspiration and positive vibes with the theme “Point of No Return.”
The event takes place Sept. 12 at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts and features nearly a dozen local speakers — including Keith Edgerton, who says that going blind has been “one of the greatest things that ever happened to me.”
The 46-year-old Olympia resident suffers from a degenerative disease called retinitis pigmentosa. Edgerton’s point of no return came in 2005, when he became legally blind and had to stop driving.
The condition has caused gradual blindness over Edgerton’s lifetime and has so far eliminated his peripheral vision. Today, he describes his tunnel vision as “looking through straws” and expects his eyesight to eventually go completely dark.
However, this apparent setback has turned out to be a blessing. Life is harder as a blind man, he said, but is much more meaningful. He said blindness has forced him to slow down, savor the world and take nothing for granted. He said he has more compassion, empathy and friends.
At his TEDx Olympia presentation, Edgerton hopes to inspire people and challenge their assumptions about blindness.
“The struggle and the suffering from vision loss and life adjustments have made me a better person,” he said. “If I could do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
TED is a nonprofit conference series that stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The “x” means the event has been independently produced but licensed by TED.
Olympia resident Meg O’Leary said she organized the local event to help build community connections — especially connections that are unexpected. The theme “Point of No Return” is intended to cast a wide net and draw presenters from different disciplines who have their own interpretations of the theme’s meaning. These talks will focus on critical tipping points, she said, and what happens upon the realization that there is no turning back.
“I’m just passionate about creating an environment and conditions where people can come together and talk about different ideas,” O’Leary said. “We’re talking about themes that are applicable to everybody.”
▪ Max Brown, chair of the Olympia Planning Commission, will discuss the sacrifices and planning required for the city’s projected population growth of 20,000 new residents in 20 years.
▪ Daniel Cherniske, who operates the aquaponics program at the Organic Farm at The Evergreen State College, will share insights on a low-impact way to grow food.
▪ Stacy Flynn, a textile and apparel specialist, will discuss how clothing takes its toll on the environment and what people can do about it.
▪ Russell Kolts, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Eastern Washington University, will show how people can find strength through compassion.
▪ Meg Martin, a social worker and program director of the Interfaith Works Emergency Overnight Shelter, will share her experience in opening a shelter for vulnerable people living on Olympia’s streets.
▪ Diane Whalen, the first woman in Washington state to be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, will share her experiences in a segment called “Stepping Forward into Priesthood.”
The event will also include live entertainment from performers including circus artist Sara Sparrow and musician Maggie Neatherlin and her One-Man Orchestra, jazz guitarist Vince Brown.
CHECK IT OUT
The first TEDx Olympia event, “Point of No Return,” will run 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE. The one-day event will feature 11 speakers from the region along with three performers. The event is a mix of live talks, performances and pre-recorded TED talks. Tickets to the event and an all-ages reception are $60. Event-only tickets are $20 for youth and $40 for adults, with discounts for military and seniors. To learn more, visit .tedxolympia.org.