Smith is organizer of TEDxOmaha. Jager is organizer of TEDxUNO.
Anyone who has spent a small amount of time on YouTube in the last decade is probably familiar with the name TED.
Millions of people have tuned in to watch thousands of videos from this global conference series, spanning the fields of art, technology, religion, business and much more through personal stories, new research and performances.
Over the last six years, something exciting has happened here in Omaha: TED has found its way from computer, phone and television screens to packed metro auditoriums, through what are known as "TEDx" gatherings — independently organized events that highlight local innovators.
As the organizers for TEDxOmaha and TEDxUNO, we have been lucky to meet an incredible sample of the amazing citizens that make up the metro area.
The speakers come from our community, but their experiences span the globe. We have had speakers who call Omaha home but were raised in South Sudan, Kenya, Nepal and Zimbabwe, discussing topics of local and global impact.
Just this past year, we had 17 speakers and performers of all ages, ethnicities and religions discuss topics that range from the personal to global.
For example, at TEDxUNO in 2015, UNO forensics coach Cameron Logsdon discussed his experiences as a teen father and how, while shows such as MTV's "16 and Pregnant" have been linked to decreases in teen pregnancy, there are no role models or cautionary tales for teen fathers to follow.
At TEDxOmaha last year, Methodist Hospital nurse Unita Kham spoke about her experiences returning to her native Nepal on a relief mission following April's devastating earthquake. Rather than focus on loss, Kham spoke of the acts of courage and kindness she observed and how her ability to return home to provide aid was possible only through access to the education that she received. She explained that her goal is to be able to provide that same chance to the next generation of children in Nepal.
Those were just two of more than a dozen presentations in 2015. Also discussed over the past several years have been topics such as why breaking the rules can be a good thing in music, why a community of skateboarders banded together to provide help for the homeless, how to find meaning and purpose without acceptance from others, and how water has become one of the most important elements in addressing global conflict.
This year, TEDxUNO will add to this impressive list by featuring speakers such as UNO professor Jay Irwin, who will explain how language shapes our perceptions of the transgender community; Nancy Williams, the CIO of the Omaha-based nonprofit No More Empty Pots, who will discuss Omaha's opportunities to create and maintain its own food supply; and Stacey Flowers, an internationally known speaker, who will introduce us to five people we need in our lives to stay happy.
We are happy to report that TEDxUNO, which takes place on Saturday, has sold out its 425 tickets for a second year in a row.
The hope is that TEDxOmaha will return for a seventh year in October and continue its successful run. TEDxOmaha has sold out its 500-person venue every year since 2010.
While it is exciting to see the success of Omaha's TEDx events, their continued existence is not a given. It is possible for events like these to continue only if the community continues to show up and support them.
We believe it is through events such as TEDxOmaha and TEDxUNO that the next big idea can be discovered and the next generation of great thinkers can begin the road to creating a positive future.
TED's slogan is "ideas worth spreading," and there is no question that ideas discussed in Omaha have spread across the world. This is evident in the more than 100,000 YouTube views of several dozen presenters over the last six years.
These are not just ideas worth spreading but also ideas worth implementing, whether in our own lives, in our families, in our places of work or in society.
All it takes is one idea to spark change. That is what makes events such as TEDxOmaha and TEDxUNO so important to our city.