Amit Banerjee, a freshman at Heritage High School, invited the world to listen to his thoughts about philanthropy on Friday, November 30, at the TEDxKIDS@SMU conference at the Dallas City Performance Hall.
Banerjee’s message was simple. You don’t have to be old or rich to be a philanthropist.
TEDTalks, individuals sharing ideas about Technology, Entertainment and Design, brings people together at conferences around the world. The TED community tunes in to see and hear speakers from all walks of life, all ages, and many different countries.
The TED community is open to all who access the talks on the Internet, through Netflix, on public radio or live streaming from conferences like the one in Dallas hosted by Southern Methodist University. In an age where the world is connected through technology, TEDTalks is a sort of like a global town hall meeting.
Banjeree was one of several secondary and college students who spoke, but he was also joined by several local adults who have embraced TEDTalks as a way to share their expertise or thoughts on how to improve the world.
“Think about what you have done today,” Banerjee said, standing alone in the middle of a giant red circle with a huge screen projecting his image to the world.
Speaking clearly with great feeling, Banerjee noted that acts of philanthropy just keep growing and changing as people become more involved.
“Think about your role in society,” he told middle school students seated in the hall.
Banerjee explained his personal view that philanthropy doesn’t have to be extravagant to be effective. He noted several students in the Dallas area who have been philanthropic.
Banerjee highlighted the students in a magazine he produced earlier this year called Philanthropy Kids. Working with schools, scouting programs and faith-based organizations, the young people stepped up to become philanthropists.
Banerjee used the magazine - and his message – to urge others to join students who visit nursing homes, help struggling families, organize food drives or operate their own after-school tutoring program.
Several Maus Middle School students attended the SMU junior version of TEDTalks last year, where Banerjee had the opportunity to introduce one of the conference speakers. The confidence he gained and people he met at the conference with his Gifted and Talented class led to his talk at this year’s event.
In the audience this year were current Maus eighth graders, Banerjee’s former teacher Charlotte Caskey and Madison Presenza, also a Maus teacher, who volunteered with the conference. The remainder of the audience was scattered across the world as Banjeree’s discussion on philanthropy streamed live on the Internet.
Caskey’s students participate in classroom versions of TEDTalks and watch TEDTalks as part of their class assignments.
Caskey says that from an educational standpoint, “TED and the TEDTalks inspires everyone, including our youth, to act now; they can and do change the world they live in and they don’t need money or permission to do good in the world. It inspires kids to believe in the 'what if,' to be free thinkers and to share and participate in these ideas on a mass scale.”
Caskey says TEDTalks exemplify 21st century learning because they’re free and accessible 24 hours a day.
“TED and the TEDTalks also promote skills for the 21st century such as problem solving, entrepreneurialism, curiosity, leadership, analyzing information and communication,” she said.
Banerjee’s participation in the conference inspired Caskey’s current students, who rushed to meet other speakers and participate in projects during the event’s breakout period. They had the opportunity to meet a filmmaker, an expert on Japanese tea bowls, a talented pianist and many other people with ideas worth sharing.
"The ideas spread that day reminded me why I walked into education and ignited a fire to share great ideas with the minds that will lead us into tomorrow," Presenza said.
Banerjee was still very excited after he spoke, admitting that he had become nervous as the day approached.
“I was excited and then Thursday I was in panic attack,” he said. “Friday morning I was still nervous.”
As he watched speakers before him go onstage, Banerjee said he was still nervous, but at the last minute, “I just told myself, yes! Do it!”
This is the same advice he shared with the world in his TEDTalk. Don’t wait to be an adult or to strike it rich before trying to change the world – be a philanthropist now. Just psych yourself up and do it.
Watch the Video
- Catch Banerjee's talk above at approximately 1:21:50.