After unleashing a burning passion for ideas in 2012, reuniting at the crossroads in 2013, and saving up the best of ideas inside a collective time capsule in 2014, TEDxLAU came back in 2016 to take the audience on a journey back to the very birthplace of ideas in its agora-themed 4th edition Saturday.

“Every TEDx event has its own charm, and at TEDxLAU, we’ve always invested in both our speakers and social space activities, ensuring that participants have an experience like no other,” TEDxLAU curator Reine Azzi told “This year, we’ve invested our energy in recreating the ancient Greek agora and bringing it back to life, both on stage and outside the theatre.”

The event brought together over 400 participants inside LAU Beirut’s Gulbenkian theatre to witness an inspiring lineup of 14 speakers and performers who took the stage in two adjacent sessions to deliver a diverse blend of knowledge, emotion and inspiration. And we’re here to bring you some fresh insights from the event.

1. There is more to fashion than glam.

Jason Steel, British assistant professor leading LAU’s fashion design program, built his talk around the notion of fashion vs. couture, challenging the audience to think of fashion beyond the aesthetic constraints of glamour and fancy brands in the heart of an appearance-driven Lebanese society. “You may think that fashion is glamour and beauty but in its purest form it is a creative expression of the soul,” he said, inviting people to actively instigate change in their community by giving alternatives to the existing celebrity-transmitted norms dictating what men and women should wear and letting go of judgmental tendencies.

2. Wasting time is NOT a waste of time.

Turns out napping is not a waste of time after all… Clinical psychologist and experienced student counsellor Norma Moussally walked us through the benefits of mental downtime and its influence on creativity and the quality of life, based on recent neurological research. “It’s time to encourage our kids and employees to stop and smell the roses every now and then and not rush things,” she observed, encouraging us to reevaluate our modern lifestyle and liberate from the constraints of a society that strives on pushing its individuals to do more and more to the detriment of their health and happiness. I’m excited to spend another morning in traffic for once!

3. If we believe our appearances do not define us, then why let appearances define our perception of others?

Pharmacy student Sally Beydoun and medical student Narjes Jaafar earned the first standing ovation of the day after sharing their contradicting yet complimentary personal journeys with the hijab in a joint talk with an aim to empower women to stand up for their choices. And while Jaafar found liberation in her decision to remove the veil a few months ago, Beydoun simply finds herself in it and has never considered it an obstacle to her success in life. “Today, we ask you to empower every woman to choose the life she wants, write her own story and leave her own mark in the world,” the girls concluded.

4. The solution to Lebanon’s Syrian refugee crisis starts at the individual level.

NGO volunteer Serene Dardari shared touching stories of Syrian refugee children she has worked with in Lebanon to illustrate the need for us to get personal and start viewing the refugee crisis from a human perspective rather than through mere numbers. “Unless we stop viewing all the refugees, all the homeless people and the thousands cramped in defective slums all over Lebanon as a still image somewhere in the background behind all the skyscrapers, we will only be falling deeper onto a very dark and violent future,” she told the audience with tears filling up her eyes. "I am not asking you to pull an Angelina and adopt a Syrian child and bring him home, just maybe be his friend, ask about him, can you picture it?"

5. Stop pressing that ‘delete’ button.

Every moment we capture is unique in time and we thus need to train ourselves to give up the social media-perpetuated habit of taking tons of random pictures and then impulsively pressing the ‘delete’ button until we settle on a picture that we think we look good in. This is in a nutshell the philosophy LAU photography instructor Bassam Lahoud tried to convey in his speech. "Keep your moments in life and accept every instance you capture, take photos mindfully while thinking of the moment and memory,” he explained. “Stop using the delete button!”

6. Public spaces can serve as a political tool for change.

Activist Rana Khoury beautifully illustrated the notion by which creating more public around the city can serve as a positive political tool to promote acceptance and love in our society, by drawing upon her experience as one of the founders of Beirut Madinati. "Love doesn’t mean being blinded and naive. Love is a political tool. Love gives hope, hope gives power and power leads to change,” she observed.

7. Dare to dream big.

A couple months ago, Lebanese financier Micky Chebli embarked on a 4000-kilometer, 30-day cycling journey from Paris to Beirut to raise funds for three Lebanese NGOs, it was his 50th birthday gift to himself. Hearing him talk about his unique experience at TEDxLAU was truly inspiring. “I want to tell my kids and all kids to dare and dream big, to go all the way…this experience brought balance and inner peace and now I’m ready for the next cycle of my life,” he concluded.

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