TED conferences are described as the free distribution of “Ideas worth spreading.” TED talks consist of monologues or speeches in which the speaker contributes their experiences within the social, cultural, or academic spheres. As young politicos and intellectuals, it’s important that we continue to learn about different lifestyles, absorb information, and adapt that knowledge to either introduce new views or empower those that already exist. Whether you are looking for the opposite point of view, or a new take on an issue you’re already passionate about, here are five TED Talks you need to watch.

  1. I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here’s why I left | Morgan Phelps-Roper

In her Ted Talk given at the 2017 TED conference, Morgan Phelps-Roper spoke about her journey as a member of the inflammatory, hateful, and self-proclaimed ‘baptist’ church, Westboro Church. She speaks on her experiences of picketing and protesting American military funerals, along with many other events. She shares her decision to leave the church and exiling herself from her family and life as a whole. How did she come to this decision, you may ask? Through the peaceful discourse and conversations on social media with those not of the church. Morgan Phelps-Roper shares her opinions on the extreme polarization within the world, and the necessity of having tough conversations.

  1. What the Columbine Shooting taught me about pain and addiction | Austin Eubanks

As the Opioid epidemic becomes a public health crisis, this TED talk is going to become more and more eye-opening. Austin Eubanks is a surviving student of the Columbine massacre. Following receiving medical treatment for his physical wounds, Eubanks found himself addicted to the pain medication in an attempt to heal his mental wounds. In his TED talk given in Colorado, he analyzes the use of big pharma companies and their ability to heal, but also destroy lives through his experiences in a decade long fight against opioids and many other drugs.

    1. Sex trafficking isn’t what you think it is | Meghan Sobel

In her TED talk given at TEDxMileHigh, Meghan Sobel speaks about the media representations and stigmas around the Sex Trafficking industry. She speaks on the international crisis that hits every corner of the earth, from urban metropolis cities, to rural areas and even down to tribes in Thailand. Sobel breaks down her research on this global epidemic, and explains the truth behind the topic so that citizens can truly combat the issue and eradicate sex trafficking for good. She explains the differences between sex work and sex trafficking, the common stories of trafficking versus the ‘hollywood’ version, and the psychological chains that hold a trafficked victim versus what is perceived as physical chains.

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  1. My son was a Columbine shooter. This is my story | Sue Klebold

Sue Klebold is the mother of one murderer from the Columbine massacre. She spoke in her TED talk about the importance of mental health advocacy and compassion. Klebold speaks on the trouble that her son and the other shooter faced, the impact of their mental troubles, and how they resulted to murder for validation. Sue opens up about the mental instability within her own self. She shares the struggles she faced as the mother of a mass shooter. It is a title that brings her harsh criticism, harmful insults, and social neglect. Throughout her TED talk, she explores the true amount of knowledge that we as a society have on the link between suicide and homicide, and how much deeper we must go in research.

  1. The Muslim on the airplane | Amal Kassir

This TED talk breaks down the stereotypes and stigmas of islamic peoples in America. In light of the refugee crisis in Europe, Amal initiates the importance of asking the simple question: “What’s your name?” She reminds listeners that terrorism has more than one meaning, that not all Islamic people pledge ISIS, and that media too often believe the opposite. While attending a private islamic school on September 11, 2001, Amal received several bomb threats. She had to learn from an early age how hurtful stereotypes are. Kassir shares how important it is to cross the threshold of fear and have a conversation. She shows the importance of asking people’s names, not assigning them.

The importance for a young person, especially one involved in the political process, to challenge their thinking and perception is vital. If you wish to better understand a topic of culture, you must ask questions. Whether you research to solidify your own beliefs, or to challenge them from someone with personal experience, there is a TED talk out there for you.

Riley J