If you had the power to change anything in the world, what would it be? At TEDxUniversityofNevada’s 2015 event, there were several compelling talks that underscored issues of social responsiblity, and powerful calls to action were made. Erica Greve, Heidi Parker, Hugh Hempel, Nicole Hockley, and Vincent Cianni all shared personal stories of how they’ve been impacted by certain societal issues and why they’re demanding change. Issues ranged from anti-human trafficking, immunizations, and medical marijuana to gun violence and human rights, but all shared one common theme: the need for us to all be socially responsible.
Erica Greve is founder and CEO of the anti-human trafficking organization Unlikely Heroes. Greve has dedicated her life to seeing that vulnerable children receive protection and restoration across the world. In her talk she discussed some of the work her organization is doing, including how they most recently worked on the ground in Nigeria to counsel and provide medical assistance to the young girls who had escaped from the Chibok schoolgirl kidnapping. She explained how over 250 girls were kidnapped, only because they dared to get an education, and how only a few have managed to escape. She talked about the how the #bringbackourgirls hashtag on social media worked to raise the collective voice in support of the girls who did not have a voice, and she encouraged us to keep the conversation alive to help put an end to this type of violence across the world.
For Heidi Parker, her hope would be to more effectively immunize our children, specifically to put an end to HPV, which is a virus that causes cancer. As executive director of Immunize Nevada, Parker leads and engages a diverse coalition of staff, volunteers, member organizations and funders so they are passionate about vaccines and access to preventative health care across Nevada’s rural, urban, and frontier communities. In her talk she shared a personal story of how she was infected with HPV. She also talked about how we protect our babies with a series of life saving vaccines, but how we often fail our teenagers by not immunizing them against such vaccine-preventable diseases as Meningitis, HPV, and Pertussis. She stated, “One death from a vaccine preventable disease is one death too many.”
For Hugh Hempel, father of twin daughters with a disease known as Childhood Alzheimer’s, his hope would be to increase education on medical marijuana. A technology industry veteran turned healthcare entrepreneur, Hempel—who has held numerous senior management positions in many pioneering and innovative technology companies—is now the COO and co-founder of Hopelink, one of the first Healthcare Internet start-ups that matches cancer patents with online clinical trials. In his talk, he recounted his experience with raising his daughters while also trying to identify appropriate treatments to help with things like decreasing the up to 100 seizures per week Addi and Cassi would experience. Because Hempel and his wife immersed themselves in science and medicine, they were able to uncover on their own that a simple sugar compound could save their twins’ lives. As such, Hempel’s overall goal is to build knowledge about using cannabis to improve health. You can watch a video about his story and his plight at Here. Us. Now.
For Nicole Hockley, mother of son Dylan, who was a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, her hope would be to put an end to gun violence. Today she serves as the communications director for Sandy Hook Promise, an organization whose mission is to protect children from gun violence so no other parent experiences the loss of their child to gun violence. In her talk she recounted her life prior to the Sandy Hook shooting, which was filled with an overwhelming sense of love, joy, and gratitude. Never in a million years could she have prepared herself for what would happen after she said goodbye to her son on that final morning she would see him off on his way to school. After the Sandy Hook shooting, her entire life turned upside down.
For documentary photographer Vincent Cianni, his hope would be to put an end to the human rights abuses against homosexuals, resulting in lost careers and shattered lives. From 2009 to 2013 he made a series of road trips across the United States to interview and photograph gay and lesbian U.S. military veterans and active-duty service members. In his talk, he documented this process and what he learned along the way. His mission was to expose how the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian service personnel has impacted their careers in the armed forces and their civilian lives afterward. The culmination of this work was published in the book entitled “Gays in the Military.” You can learn more about Cianni and his work on his personal website.
Now that you’ve been educated on a few issues and how you can become more involved in an effort to help make a change, it’s your turn to choose and transform your thoughts into action.