Most people have not visited a nudist colony, spent four weeks as a drag queen and become a manager for professional boxers. Billy Warden has.
During his speech at this year’s annual TEDxUNC conference, Warden, who is a journalist, talked about what he learned while writing a series of articles in which he immersed himself in these different communities. He urged the audience to look outside of themselves and explore unfamiliar experiences.
Warden was one of six speakers at this year’s conference, which was held on Sunday at Curtis Media Center. The conference, which was the first in-person TEDxUNC event since spring 2020, was organized around the theme of XYZ — which “explores and celebrates the human essence of curiosity and the pursuit of the unknown across generations.”
Warden said he chose the topic of his talk because he felt his immersive stories were all about being curious and within the spirit of the theme.
In addition to Warden, the professional speakers were Mark Lindquist and Dhiren Thakker. The student speakers were Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA student Claire Barnett, senior Carter Broome and sophomore T Lockamy. The talks encompassed a wide range of topics, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, how convenience services provide accessibility to disabled people, what it means to be queer and even competitive jump rope.
Co-curator Shai Sayeed said that the TEDxUNC planning committee picked the theme because of how broad it was and the potential for speakers to be able to integrate their talks into it.
“In terms of what it means, we went towards a lot of celebrating the idea of the unknown, and what it means to talk about curiosity in different generations and how the idea of curiosity is what has fueled generations x, y and z, throughout the years to continue to advance as a society,” she said.
Sayeed said many of the speakers talked about things that are unknown to them, as well as what the audience probably did not know about them.
She said the overall TEDx organization’s motto is “spreading ideas worth sharing,” and that the committee’s goal is to bring that motto to life at UNC. TEDxUNC's goal is to give a platform to people with diverse backgrounds and create a space for the sharing of diverse stories on campus, she said.