By Becca Bayham

You may have some superhero in you, according to a speaker at TEDxDuke, March 31. Borrowing the format of TED, a popular lecture series, the second-annual event featured 12 mini-lectures spanning subjects from poetry to ballet to historical architecture. Below, I discuss the three speakers that resonated with me the most.

Dasan Ahanu, poet and spoken word performer

Batman might win in a popularity contest, but fellow superhero the Green Lantern has a lot to teach us, according to Dasan Ahanu.

Ahanu described several parallels between artists and the green-garbed superhero. The Green Lantern overcomes his fear and protects the Earth by tapping into an energy source with a magic ring. Artists channel power too, Ahanu said — but with a pen, paintbrush or microphone instead of a fancy ring.

Artists, too, have to overcome fear, but it’s fear of criticism and embarrassment, rather than fear of interstellar criminals (fortunately). Also like the Lantern, artists access a central source of energy — creativity.

“The only limit to their power is imagination,” Ahanu said.

Patty Kennedy, marketing and communications professional

Patty Kennedy opened with a clip from the Matrix, when Morpheus tells Neo to jump from one building to another. Neo tries… and fails.

“Sometimes we jump, and we fall really hard,” Kennedy said. “What we’ll talk about today is why you need to jump anyway.”

Babies fall all the time when they’re learning how to walk, but that doesn’t keep them from trying.

“If we’re born with the willingness to move forward, what happened to us?” she asked. “My theory is that we unlearned courage.”

Courage doesn’t imply the absence of fear, she said. It means overcoming your fear — jumping even though you know you might fall.

“In all respect to this esteemed university, it’s not what made you great — you started that way.”

Jimmy Soni, Duke ’07 and chief of staff at the Huffington Post

History is like castor oil, Jimmy Soni said. It’s good for us, but it tastes bad.

“I might be going out on a limb, but I think we can make history taste better.”

To demonstrate, he told a story. He described how the Eiffel Tower was heavily criticized by Parisians during the years after its construction in 1889 (indeed, it was almost torn down in 1909). One particularly-vocal critic could be seen eating at a cafe under the landmark every day. When questioned about this, he said: “It’s the only place where I can’t see the Eiffel Tower.”

Our cultural past is full of interesting stories, Soni said. Working those stories into the curriculum could make history a lot more appetizing.