TEDxBeaconStreet Speaker Orientation / Pitch Session Sept 13, 2016

John Werner
9 min readSep 15, 2016


TEDxBeaconStreet community members met in the Life Long Kindergarten Group’s lab at the MIT Media Lab to hear pitches from 17 Speaker of our upcoming November Speakers. The energy in the room was palpable; people swarmed in, greeted old friends, and and sat on the edge of their seats, waiting to be impressed.

Our Speakers did not disappoint them! We had a pitch from Naomi McDougall Jones, who had some shocking statistics about the film industry: Only 4% of Hollywood films are directed by women, only 12% of screenplays are written by women, and speaking roles for men outnumber those for women 2:1. The problem with these statistics runs deeper than sheer inequality, though; the small number of films being written and produced by women means that only a small number of women’s stories are being told. We understand and define ourselves as humans through stories, and if we’re only hearing men’s stories, it means we’re creating a man’s world.

Speaker Crystal Emery, a screenwriter and producer herself, had some opinions about that. “Your talk is so important,” she told Naomi. Crystal reminded us that no woman of color has ever been nominated for the Best Director Oscar, and few women are even nominated at all. Crystal has devoted her life to telling untold stories, and she offered great support to Naomi.

We were a little in shock when Mike Scott Moore shared his story: he was captured and held by Somali pirates for over two years. Mike explained that humor and Buddhist detachment helped him overcome depression and suicidal urges during this time, and left us wondering how we would handle similar situations. (Hopefully we’ll never know for sure.)

There was one moment during the rehearsal that was particularly special. TEDxBeaconStreet founder John Werner announced, “this next guy is my hero, and has been my hero for years.” He then introduced Dan Bricklin, the co-creator of VisiCalc — first “Killer Application” for the Apple II computer, first digital spreadsheet. Dan told us about how he looks at problems and tools, and the perspective that helped him change the world of computing forever. When we asked the audience for comments, a PhD student in the corner raised his hand and said, “I wrote a paper on you in college…Wow!”

Everyone wanted to weigh in on Nagin Cox’s talk. Nagin is an engineer at the NASA jet propulsion laboratory and has been responsible for multiple robotic missions; she helped land the Curiosity rover on Mars. Her talk isn’t about the landing, though, but about time: the Martian day lasts 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds, and that tends to throw off the people whose work takes place on the red planet. It’s strange to live in a different time frame than the people around you, she said, and people were curious about that experience.

Pitichoke Chulapamornsri, Director of Business Development at Neighborly, talked about something that’s particularly salient this election year: municipal bonds. They’re one of those things you may not know about that has a very direct impact on your daily life! Pitichoke would like to see if there is a more efficient way to manage municipal budgets and fund projects that impact things like education, transportation, city parks, and other things we sometimes take for granted.

Lots of very educated and excited opinions flew around the room, and we’re thrilled to bring all of these people together. We heard from people in high-profile legal and investment careers, to musicians fighting for social justice, to health coaches and advocates; we talked about taxes, fertility, mental health, pirates, and Mars. If any of this sounds exciting to you, we hope you’ll join us for future events!

Meet the people who pitched on Tuesday: 1. award-winning actress/writer & producer; 2. founder of a education tech program; 3. ceo of a asset management company, 4. co-creators of Apple’s first “killer app”, 5. co-founder/ceo of a 3D tech startup; 6. president of medical device company; 7. author/surfer & survivor of being held by Somali pirates; 8. Mars Curiosity Rover Flight engineer; 9. producer & writer; 10. infertility activist; 11. black hole expert from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, 12. educator on awareness around sexual violence; 13. composer/musician/writer; 14. pioneer of computer technology, 15. health coach; 16. municipal finance innovator

Below are Speakers that presented and a bit on what they presented, in the order they pitched:

1. Naomi McDougall Jones, Award-Winning Actress, Writer, and Producer

Naomi stresses the importance of stories to identity formation and development, and notes that film is the primary story telling medium. With respect to film, only 4% of films are directed by women, only 12% of screenplays are written by women, and the ratio is 2 men for each woman featured on screen. The above affects women’s status in the world, and results in information being essentially filtered through the male brain.

2. Emmanuel Schanzer, Founder of Bootstrap

Emmanuel is passionate about algebra, and sets out a number of reasons underlying the importance of algebra, as a gateway and as an abstraction. He emphasizes math as a process, and as related to the order of various operations, as well as the correlation between early success in algebra and earning streams throughout life. He also explains why algebra can be a terrifying subject for many.

3. Karen Firestone, CEO of Aureus Asset Management

Risk is the focus of Karen’s presentation. She emphasizes how to conceptualize risk, through sizing, timing, knowledge and experience, and skeptical analytics. Risk is something that goes beyond mere financial calculations, and if risk analysis principles are applied correctly, then people will be better risk takers, have more freedom, and will waste less time and money.

4. Daniel Bricklin, Co-Creator of Visi-Calc

Dan relates how some of his critical ideas came about, as well as the circumstances that gave rise to those ideas, resulting in some key applications and breakthroughs. He describes what he was thinking, and how a couple of people working in an attic could see what makes a good tool and how to apply it. He notes the process and the inquiry, and points out that success can manifest when you’re aware of your unique self and your unique view of the world.

5. Tom Baran, Co-founder / CEO, Lumii

The subject covered in this presentation relates to founding a company and selling holograms. Some key questions are analyzed, such as why is now the time that something is possible, and what does it mean to create a new medium.

6. Chip Fisher, President of Fisher Wallace Laboratories

This founder has developed a medical device that treats both anxiety and insomnia, via an approved, portable, non-invasive method. He addresses the fact that depression is anticipated to be the number one illness in the year 2020. While there exists a stigma to mental health issues, celebrities and others are bringing this important topic to the forefront, by speaking about it openly and knowledgeably. He provided an overview of ‘electroceuticals’, treatment principles, and ways in which digital health can be scalable and useful.

7. Mike Scott Moore, author, surfer, and survivor of being held by Somali pirates

Mike was kidnapped by pirates in Somalia and held prisoner for 2.5 years. He came close to suicide and knew of others who were so desperate that they committed suicide. Mike makes note of an observation that some feel that only the humorless kill themselves. Key issues involve self-reliance, how to get out of a difficult situation, and how ideas like Buddhist detachment may help in such circumstances, and the interest of people in wondering what they would do in a similar quandary.

8. Nagin Cox, Mars Curiosity Rover Flight Team, Tactical Mission Lead, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Nagin is an engineer at the NASA jet propulsion laboratory and has been responsible for multiple robotic missions. Her presentation will take into account Mars time (24 hours and 39 minutes), and addresses how time zones impact logistics and schedules. Related large questions include why some want to go to Mars, the background of previous missions, and the philosophy of time.

9. Alicia Carroll, Producer & Writer

Alica is focusing her presentation on the shift from a culture of rape to a culture of consent. Key issues include how to communicate consent, and how to affect the media which reports on these issues, including the conduct of popular culture. Her goal is to shift the narrative to a more progressive formulation of many of these matters.

10. Lee Collins, Infertility Activist

Lee directly addresses the issue of infertility, from both a personal and professional perspective. She observes threats arising from different conceptions of when human life begins. In addition, Lee illuminates issues of insurance coverage, costs and accessibility.

11. Katie Bouman, PhD Student at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab

Katie’s talk is on the interplay between black holes and computer science. She explores theories, computational telescopes, imaging, spatial structure, and in addition, what information is missing and how images could be modeled.

12. Sarah Beaulieu, Consultant, Coach, and Advisor for many Boston-based national organizations

Sara’s talk addresses conversations about men and sexual violence. She covers issues of creating more connections in a possible way, how to tell the truth, dropping the blame game, being practical, and leaving behind a tragic narrative in favor of healing and resilience.

13. Tanis Chalopin, Composer, Musician, Writer

Tanis is a singer, songwriter and photographer, who became aware of suffering while living in China as a young girl, next door to an orphanage. Sarah relates her journey to staying true to her values in the face of opposition from popular music media.

14. Bob Frankston, Co-Creator of Visi-Calc

Bob related the importance in his life of seeing patterns and exploring meaning. He asks, how do we implement connectivity? He characterizes the internet as a by-product of software, and asks questions about meaning, noting it’s at the edges. He notes that software is like modeling clay, and that software is about stories.

15. Laura Ingalls, Health Coach

Laura notes the importance of how each culture and time views the human body. She notes the way that fashion judges, and emphasizes that skinny does not equal healthy. She chronicles how the microbiome, movement, relationships with ourselves and others, as well as sleep, all play key roles.

16. Pitichoke Chulapamornsri, Director of Business Development at Neighborly

Pittichoke brings a special focus and spotlight to the issue of municipal finance. He notes the need for an evaluation of the existing system for financing municipal bonds, noting that there are approximately 400 billion dollars involved on a country wide basis, and that such key items as school buildings are routinely covered by municipal bond financing methods.

17. Cecilia Smith, Renowned Vibraphonist

18. Chrystal Emery, Founder of URU: The Right to Be Entertainment Non-Profit