Everyone these days needs some inspiration, when times are tough and spirits are low. Since the beginning of time, speeches have inspired soldiers, motivated voters, and sent a jolt through the heart of the apathetic.
Who wasn’t inspired by Churchill’s “we shall fight them on the beaches” or Kennedy’s “ask not what your country can do for you…” or Russell Crowe’s “what we do in life echoes an eternity” (oh wait, that was the “Gladiator” movie. Well, it was still a good speech though).
If you are a talk/speech junkie, then TED is pretty much the place to go to. It’s becoming a very prestigious institution to talk at, and speeches have ranged from human rights, to psychology, and from triumphs of the human spirit, to creativity. A lot of subjects have been covered at TED, so you could theoretically spend a long time working your way through the best of TED.
But the best ones are the ones that make you think, the ones that uplift you and inspire you. Here are five of the best.
We start with someone who is my personal hero. Janine Shepherd is Australian and a cross-country skier hoping to get an Olympic medal. But all that ended when a truck hit her while out on a bike ride, and left her a partial paraplegic. Defying doctors predictions that she would never recover, she learned to walk again. Then she became a pilot. Then a flying instructor.
This woman’s will to survive and to live life to the full is just utterly amazing. I can only hope that if I am ever in a situation that she was in, that I would have that same courage. I highly doubt it. She has very big shoes which are difficult to fill.
Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain researcher, and one morning in 1996, she had a massive stroke. During a period of 4 hours, she watched as the various functions of her brain shut down until, in her words, “she was an infant in a woman’s body”. She could not move, talk, or have any self-awareness whatsoever.
Obviously she survived this horrible ordeal, and now she tells TED what it felt like, as well as mentioning her schizophrenic brother, which was her motivation for getting into her field of study.
Oh and here’s the best bit. She had a real brain brought on-stage, with the spinal cord still attached.
I can see you’ve fainted. No worries. I’ll wait for you.
Zak Ebrahim is the son of a terrorist — a terrorist who helped to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993. Zak was groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps, but ultimately he decided to sever ties with his father and forge his own path, one which would make him a better person. A person without hate, bigotry, and violence.
This speech is inspiring because it shows that despite a child’s parents, and the child’s upbringing, nothing is set in stone. Things can change if the people involved want them to change. Zak could have easily been a terrorist like his father but he decided he wasn’t that kind of person.
Everyone knows Glenn Greenwald — he is the journalist who first wrote about and revealed the revelations leaked by Edward Snowden, about the NSA becoming Big Brother and spying on you. This is an excellent 20 minute talk by Greenwald in Rio De Janeiro, on the subject of “why privacy matters”.
It’s highly recommended for everyone. This will definitely make you think about your privacy and whether or not you want to have all of your private intimate details in the hands of a government agency.
We finish this article with not one TED video but actually 8 videos. It’s a playlist of talks about “restoring your faith in politics”. Fewer and fewer people are voting in elections. Why are people so indifferent and apathetic about who is in power and makes decisions in their name?
These series of talks are inspiring and will hopefully make you realise that, only by voting and getting involved, do we earn the right to complain about our politicians later. Hopefully it will want you to get involved politically, and maybe make a few speeches of your own?
Which TED talks have you recently found inspiring and uplifting? Let us know in the comments. And in the meantime, check out TED’s 20 most watched videos.