Nine Boston College students shared their thoughts on the topic of “bringing people together” at Thursday’s TEDx Student Speaker Competition. The competition, independently organized by TEDxBostonCollege, gave students a platform to individually showcase their rhetorical abilities and potentially win an opportunity to speak at the main TEDx conference at BC in April.
The students who competed varied in terms of school-year and background, with some even enrolled in BC’s graduate programs. While all nine centered their speeches around the given topic, students personalized their presentations by reflecting on past experiences where they were faced with the challenges of community and relationship building.
It was this process of reflection that made many of the speeches in the contest exceptional.
“We didn’t expect the quality of the speeches to be as good as it was, no disrespect to BC students, but it was just at a really high level,” said Jacob Kozhipatt’s, the lead curator and CSOM ’20. “We felt like it could have been a TED Talk itself.”
For the audience, one student who spoke stood out from the rest.
Kofi Nimo, CSOM ’21, delivered his speech, entitled “The Role of Acceptance in Bringing People Together,” in a manner best described as inspirational.
He began by asking the listeners to close their eyes, and encouraged them to imagine the version of themselves that they choose to hide from others.
“Why do you hide from that person? Are you ashamed of it? Is it because you’re not at peace with yourself?” Nimo asked.
Nimo went on to explain that many people tend to put on a mask, obscuring the part of themselves that they don’t want others to see. When he first came to BC, Nimo thought that he was the only one who was self-conscious in this way. He feared being judged for his socioeconomic background and he didn’t want other students to know about the poverty his family had endured. Yet Nimo quickly found that his peers were struggling to hide what they were ashamed of as well—he discovered that he wasn’t the only one with a mask.
Nimo also emphasized that in order to accept others and build relationships, people must begin to accept their own differences and shortcomings.
“How can we expect to bring other people together if we can’t even bring the inner-folds of ourselves together?” Nimo asked.
Nimo said that he began to realize this—that he began to remove that mask—when he joined the step team Sexual Chocolate, a group which Nimo believes is about much more than dancing. Being among a diverse, candid group of people encouraged Nimo to open up about his own problems. Through sharing his flaws and differences, Nimo said, he became incredibly close to the other members of the group.
Nimo ended his speech by asking the audience members to close their eyes again, and to imagine exposing their true selves to others by removing their masks.
“See yourself taking that mask off, see yourself becoming that person that you’re afraid for people to see, because that is the only way that you will make true friends, friends that care about you,” Nimo said.
Nimo’s story and message won the crowd’s support, and he was voted by the audience to speak at the conference in April.
Khozipatt believes that Nimo will represent BC community values well at the conference, and that the connection Nemo makes between diversity and community building was exceptionally important given that the BC population, he said, is largely homogeneous.
Both Khozipatt and TEDxBostonCollege head organizer Elizabeth Kopec MCAS ’18 agreed that the event Thursday was a huge success, with Nimo representing one of many talented speakers from that night. They also believe that the student speaker competition will only get better in the future.
“We think the student speaker competition could become a staple at BC in the future,” Khozipatt said.
Featured Image by Young Kim / Heights Staff