This article originally appeared in The Pueblo Chieftain
In 2009, Jeremy Duhon had a big idea. The Pueblo native-turned-partner at Denver Investments wanted to host a barriers-free conference on innovation in all its forms. So Duhon—a Central High School alumnus, graduate of Claremont, Calif.-based Pomona College (he studied neuroscience), and former senior investment fellow of the El Pomar Foundation—convened a group to do just that. “Basically, we had the observation at the time that there are lots of events looking at innovation, but they were done by profession, so you may have teachers in one room and policy makers in another,” he said. “There didn’t seem to be many events or opportunities for the entire community to come together and discuss.” As it so happened, TED—the venerable nonprofit that promotes the global dissemination of ideas in the form of short, powerful talks and international online broadcasts—was interested in working with local groups and universities to take its macro format to the community stage. So in 2010, Duhon, already a fan of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) formatting and programs, launched TEDxMileHigh. Six years and 15 events later, thousands of Coloradans have packed into Denver’s Ellie Caulkins Opera House to hear from speakers ranging from Patagonia CEO Casey Sheahan to Gov. John Hickenlooper. Within the last year, attendees watched neuroscientist and mindfulness educator Kristen Race speak about breaking the cycle of stress; climate adaptation expert and scientist Marcus Moench discuss how ceramics relate to local, solution-oriented conversations about climate change; business teacher Andrew Johnston explain how marathon training and completion are some of the strongest forms of business education; and champion dancer and Denver Public Schools dance instructor Joe DeMers demonstrate how partner dance can create dialogue and community, records on TEDx-MileHigh.com reflected. “It’s a really wide variety of people in health, education, sports, business, science, even politics,” Duhon said. “It’s a form of education. “Whether the audience agrees with a particular idea, the ideas are supposed to be presented in such a way that they’re positive for discussion. It’s a powerful format.” As the curator and founder of TEDxMileHigh, Duhon works with a team of volunteers to narrow the field of would-be speakers to 15 for each program, and to handle the logistics of a major theatrical event. One that is being recorded on six cameras in preparation for global streaming. The next TEDxMile-High program is scheduled for June 25 at the Ellie Caulkins. That session is titled “Make + Believe” and it has generated some pretty strong interest. “We’ve probably had 1,000 (speaker submissions) in the last few months,” Duhon said, Tickets went on sale Tuesday—they range from $50 for general admission to $500 for the “Superhero package,” which sponsors 40 students to participate in year-round programming. And if history is any guide, the 2,225-seat venue could easily sell out. So why the interest in talking TED? “There’s huge demand for being a part of ideas that can empower and inspire people,” Duhon said. “Someone in Pueblo can go to TEDx [in] Ohio or TEDx Mumbai, or see [a talk] translated into English that took place in Shanghai or Seoul. “It’s been amazing to see it grow, but it’s also been a pleasure to get to meet so many amazing people in terms of our speakers, advisers, team members and attendees. It brings together people who enjoy … thinking about big ideas.”