I've had the good fortune and privilege of traveling abroad twice as a Fulbright Scholar -- once to Islamic Malaysia in 2002 shortly after 9/11, and a second time to Bucharest, Romania in 2010. The first time I was a Fulbright Senior Scholar, the second, a Fulbright Senior Specialist in American Studies (Theater). Unlike most academics, I was not a "lecturer" per se; rather I was a teacher of theatrical workshops in solo performance, improvisation, and clowning.
Both Fulbright grants offered extraordinary experiences, for me personally, and I hope too, for my students and colleagues in each of these unique parts of the world. I like to think that I was able to spread the concepts and practices of freedom, initiative, self-expression, and creativity, things that America is known for throughout the world, and things for which I was funded to spread. You can read about my Fulbright experiences on TCG's (Theatre Communications Group) website.
On Saturday, September 26, 2015, the national Fulbright Association and LA's local Fulbright Chapter presented TEDxFulbright 2015 at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.
Fulbright and TED... were match made in heaven.
The international Fulbright Program, established in 1946 by Senator William J. Fulbright, is a competitive, merit-based program created to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills. It is currently the largest academic exchange program in the world. The Fulbright Association, established in 1977, was created to promote opportunities for life-long learning, collaborative networking, and service at home and abroad for alumni, supporters and friends of the Fulbright Program.
While TED, a nonprofit organization devoted to "Ideas Worth Spreading", started as a four-day conference in California 26 years ago, and has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives.
TEDx is a local, self-organized event (this one organized by the national Fulbright Association in Washington D.C. and the local LA Fulbright Chapter and its hard-working Board) that brings people together through TED talks, video and live speakers, all of which combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.
There was an impressive lineup of 18 speakers at TEDxFulbright 2015 including Hollywood action star, Dolph Lundgren, who presented a surprisingly personal Talk about the childhood abuse he grew up with in Sweden.
Most of the speakers were former Fulbright Scholars or Fulbright Students, and they included: Ryan Bart, magician, Alice Blumenfeld, flamenco dancer, Brian Boxer Wachler, physician, Ralph Gibson, photographer, Kate Conklin, performer/educator, Michael Goldberg, venture capitalist, Alice Kimm, architect, Samantha Lakin, genocide expert, Leland Lazarus, public relations expert, James Mary O'Connor, architect, Ruairi Robertson, nutritionist/microbiologist, Priyali Sur, journalist, Catalina Talero, civic engagement educator, Cristina Trenas, filmmaker/communications expert, Brigham Yen, broker and urban development expert, and yours Trulesly, Eric Trules, blogger/clown.
The event was organized by Kristina Hahn, co-organized by Juliane McCall and hosted by Debra Levine of "arts.meme" and Laura Trombley of the Huntington Library, the entire LA Fulbright Chapter worked together to produce the event, in tandem with the National Fulbright Association led by Shaz Akram, and all the speakers worked with coaches, John Bates and Grant Graves.
Sir Ken Robinson, who has delivered the most popular TED Talk of all time on the web, was a surprise speaker on the 26th. He said:
Aesthetics means a sense of beauty. It's as important in mathematics as it is in music, or dance. There is a difference between an aesthetic experience and one that it anesthetic. An anesthetic is something you take to dull your senses so you become immune to the world around you. An aesthetic experience is the opposite; it's one that heightens your experience of the world around you and opens your senses.
That's why the arts are so important. We live in two worlds, an interior world and an exterior world. The extent to which we connect with the world around us is the extent to which we understand and resonate with the world within us. The arts are channels for that.
TEDxFulbright's 2015 theme was "Fights Worth Fighting". "It reflects the spirit of Fulbrighters, spreading mutual understanding between the people of the US and the rest of the world, sharing ideas worth spreading, and the fierce fight Fulbrighters take on to protect their beloved Program." TEDx, similarly, has shown immense promise in furthering ideas for the benefit of all societies in a way that is both personable (revolutionary story-telling) and powerful (demonstrating incredible feats of intellect, creativity, and collaboration). It is TEDxFulbright's 2015 continuing desire to provide Fulbright alumni a unique framework to most effectively excite and gather others to join efforts in working for the sake of humanity's progress.
It may seem a rather odd theme to some, "Fights Worth Fighting For", because Fulbright is known for educational and cultural exchange through primarily peaceful and diplomatic means. But I will always remember, as a young teenager in October, 1962, American UN Ambassador , Adlai Stevenson, making his combative remark over the Cuban Missile Crisis, "I am prepared to wait for my answer until Hell freezes over." It was shocking. And confrontational. And Stevenson will always be remembered for it. Because sometimes, one simply has to hold one's ground. Stand up for one's principles. Not placate, not compromise, not fold -- in the face of stubborn opposition.
The all day event was entirely immersive, brought together current and former Fulbrighters from all over the world, and delievered on its promise of global immersion in the ideas, ideals, and practices of both TED and Fulbright. In a City of celebrity and reality shows, it offered a terrific alternative of immersing Angelenos and Fulbrighters in an all-day feast of the mind.
"The Fulbright Program aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship." - Senator William J. Fulbright
Please visit Trules' personal WordPress blog,"trules rules" at: www.erictrules.com/blog/
And his WordPress travel blog,"e-travels with e. trules", at: www.etravelswithetrules.com/blog/