October 23, 2021

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A world without hate: One student’s vision of a more accepting future

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Zach Touger

High school sophomore Zach Touger reflects on his experience with the TED-Ed Student Talks program over the past 6 years, what he’s learned during the challenging year of 2020, and his belief in the power of ideas to create lasting impact.

Regardless of your age or where you are from, we are all passionate about something, and there comes a time when we want to share these passions with others. After living through a year like 2020, spreading my ideas seemed even more important. We are living through a time like no other, and although it is tough, we should take advantage of the opportunity to learn from it. I learned that one person’s voice can carry, and if you want to make a change, don’t be silent. Speak your mind, and speak it with pride. That’s exactly what I wanted to do on the TED stage.

The first time I had the opportunity to do this was in the 4th grade— at the time my passion was Galapagos Penguins— when I first stepped foot on a TEDx stage after developing my Talk in a TED-Ed Club. Then 6 years later, in 9th grade, I stood on stage again, but this time to share one of the most challenging experiences of my life: I was attacked for my religion.

Sharing this difficult moment wasn’t easy, but I wanted to open other people’s eyes to the fact that no matter who you are, you will experience a time in your life when you are hurt by someone, and how you react and heal from these moments can affect you forever.

After trying to process what happened to me and how I wanted to respond, I realized I could either internalize the anger I felt towards the person or I could focus on healing myself. I learned the importance of not falling into the vicious cycle of becoming a hateful or resentful person and not responding to someone who treated you poorly in this same terrible way. I realized that by converting the resentment I felt into open-mindedness, I could grow from the dark place that was created by the hateful words that were said to me.

My Talk is about the necessity of targeting hate through open-mindedness. Rather than perpetuating negativity, we can create a future where people are more accepting of one another. Everyone faces challenging moments in their lives, and how you choose to grow from those experiences will have a lasting impact.

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Touger delivering his Talk at [email protected]

I hope my Talk reaches not only those in my community, but also those who may not live even remotely near me. In fact, isn’t that what makes TED such an incredible opportunity and platform? I can give a Talk in a small town in Alabama and somebody across the world could hear what I have to say. And if somebody disagrees with what I have to say, that’s okay. I simply want to continue conversations around open-mindedness, and make people stop and think to themselves: “Wow. What can I do?” Whether I can do this by speaking to people across the world or simply people across the street, I am happy to have an impact on others’ lives.

Participating in the TED-Ed Student Talks program was more than simply writing and memorizing a Talk; it was time that I could reflect on a moment in my life that changed me, and also share what I learned about myself with others.

Despite the challenges and bumps I have faced in my journey developing my Talk in my TED-Ed Club and then sharing it on the TEDx stage, I wouldn’t trade it away. Not only have I learned about public speaking in general, but I have also learned so much about myself. This process is among one of the most rewarding I have ever experienced, and I hope to continue to build on what I’ve created.

Watch his TEDx Talk here:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zach Touger is currently a high school sophomore in the Birmingham, Alabama metro area where TED-Ed and TEDx clubs have been a staple in his community for many years. Whether spending time with his  friends and family, traveling, or even running on his high school track team, the one thing that he finds himself constantly doing is wanting to share his ideas with others.

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