Margaret Hamer said driven people are the future of democracy.
Hamer was one of five local activist discussion leaders and the spokesperson of Moms Demand Action at the first TEDxUFSalon event.
Different than other TEDxUF events, the salon-style is an informal roundtable discussion that bridges the community and the university, said Laura Uribe, the TEDxUF’s license holder and curator. The theme for the first event was activism and hosted 40 guests. Upcoming events will be themed personal development, art and technology, science and storytelling will be hosted.
In the first salon at UF, Hamer said she wanted to talk to young people about their priorities and give them advice.
“I love anything that gets young people active and involved and excited,” Hamer said.
For TEDxUF’s 10th anniversary, organizers wanted to create more engagement between students and the Gainesville community, which inspired the salon idea, said Uribe, a 21-year-old UF political science senior.
She said she became involved with the organization because it allowed her to find her purpose and because she loved that TEDx discusses issues that relate to every type of person.
“What drove me to TED was that fascination with being able to know a little bit about everything,” she said.
Four other local activist leaders also led discussion roundtables at the event, including Jhody Polk, the executive director for the Florida Council for Incarcerated Women and Girls, and Giancarlo Tejeda, the president of CHISPAS UF, Uribe said.
Carole Fernandez, the president of the League of Women Voters of Alachua County and Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, a UF African studies and religion professor were some of the activists who came to talk with students about social issues, Uribe said.
The guests sat with the activists and engaged in discussion with people they’d never met and who likely had opposing views, Uribe said.
Each student had to apply to participate because the organizers were in search of participants who were eager to actively engage in debate, she said.
An icebreaker started off the discussion. Attendees all put a sticker with a social issue on their backs. Others had to explain the issue well enough so the person could guess what it was.
Toward the end of the event, guests exchanged contact information and spoke about ways they could work together in the future, which Uribe said was one of the purposes.
“There are so many great leaders in Gainesville that because we’re trapped in this bubble we don’t get exposed to, so this space here allows UF students to connect with the community and enact change,” Uribe said.
Cristian Guerrero, a 19-year-old UF psychology sophomore, said he was able to network and learn valuable lessons. Guerrero said it was interesting talking to the freshmen who sat at his table.
“Just to think that I was in their shoes last year, and they’re also trying to develop as students and professionals is really cool,” he said.