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Tom Teves on Ending Notoriety for Mass Shooters

TEDxMileHigh Imagine speaker Tom Teves is the co-founder of NoNotoriety, a movement dedicated to reducing the notoriety mass murders receive in the media. He also co-founded the Alexander C. Teves to provide funding for scholarships, mentor programs, and opportunities for students with special needs.

As a Kid, What Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up?

I always dreamed of being a fighter pilot in the AirForce. I studied hard in STEM classes. I took all the required tests. When I didn’t get accepted into the AirForce Academy, I found out that I needed a nomination. They usually come from Congress and my family was not politically connected, especially in a densely populated state like New Jersey. Nominations went to applicants whose families were much more politically connected. I learned a lot about how the world worked through this experience. 

What Was the Biggest Turning Point in Your Life?

When my son was murdered in the Aurora Theatre shooting, it completely changed my life and my family’s life. At the age of 24, Alex had to make the split-second decision to either save himself or his girlfriend. He choose to save her but lost his life by doing so. No one at that young age should have to be forced to make that type of decision whilst enjoying a movie. 

The loss of a family member is traumatic to say the least but when it is something as unnatural as a child, it makes it exponentially worse. 

Even more so when it is due to someone wanting to become infamous by harming others. That was and is something that has been extremely difficult to overcome. Our organization, which was founded upon Alex’s death, has worked to dramatically reduce the notoriety that these murderers receive, in an attempt to eliminate the motivation that drives the majority of these horrible acts.

What Are Three Facts About You That Are Completely Unrelated to the Subject of Your Talk?

  • Growing up I was an avid water skier
  • I have a 16-year-old dog that looks exactly like Benji and today most people still think she is a puppy
  • I can type 60 words per minute which has helped me on many fronts in this digital age

Who Are Three People, Living or Dead, That Inspire You the Most? 

  • My son Alex who gave his life so another could live
  • My dad who was one of the nicest, most caring people 
  • My wife Caren who gave me the three best kids—Alex, Tommy, and Nick—that any dad could ever ask for

The one thing I would love to do the most right now is to have dinner with the four of us—Caren, Alex, and my dad. That would be the best day of my life. 

What’s a Piece of Advice That You Live By or That You Give Other People Constantly?

Stop and make sure the people you love know that you love them. As hard as it is, try to work to live, not live to work. I can’t say I always have or still follow that advice but I know it’s critical. 

Life moves too fast and can change in an instant. Once it does, most of the time you can’t go back. 

So, enjoy what makes you happy and don’t take it for granted.

What’s the Biggest Challenge You Face in Your Day-To-Day Work?

Finding and retaining the best talent to operate our business. We are constantly training and developing the team we have, driving them to more responsibility, which also allows them to further their careers. And, we are constantly recruiting talent. In today’s world, the more diverse and talented your team is, the more successful you will end up.

Name One Thing We Aren’t Spending Enough Time Thinking About as a Society. What Would Be a Good First Step?

Fixing the crisis of homelessness. There are many mentally ill, injured, and plain out-of-luck people who end up sleeping on the streets. Some do it because they have lost their safety net, some do it as they have lost touch with reality via mental illness or substance abuse, or both. We need to do something to help those folks to find a better way. We owe it to them and we owe it to our children. This issue it won’t go away on its own.

If You Could Achieve One Goal in the Next Year What Would It Be?

To get the media to change their behavior with respect to their coverage of random mass shooters. 

None of us know what we lose as a society every time we have one of these mass shootings but the impact is real and it is devastating.

To eliminate at least one factor of this horrible trend by taking away the notoriety that shooters are given. If we could accomplish that, I am certain it would reduce the amount of random mass killings. 

What Action Can the TedxMileHigh Community Take to Support Your Big Idea?

When the media does not act responsibly, follow the NoNotoriety protocol: send an email to media stations expressing your displeasure. As importantly, email the advertisers.

The idea of NoNotoriety doesn’t take an act of Congress, it takes an act of conscience.

If possible, get all of your friends, family, and social media contacts to do the same. We have to stop the carnage.

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