It was April of 2009, the financial crisis was still not fully understood. KCRW and National Public Radio did a live show called Planet Money – Live! The show was held at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.

I remember walking across the parking lot and seeing this guy in tight jeans, and a really bright blue, green and red cowboy shirt. He had this straw colored hair and bright blue eyes and was so alive. I instantly liked him. John K. Bates is his name. We’ve been friends ever since that day.

John is a professional speaker and a coach for people who want to become known for their TEDx talks ( He is one of the organizers of TEDxSantaMonica and they put on events around town that involve viewing TED talks and instigating interesting conversations. I’ve been to many events with John, and when he says something is going to be interesting, I listen.

This past Saturday John was the emcee at a TEDx event that was put on, again at the Broad Stage, but this time it was with the Fulbright Association. TEDxFulbright was a year in the making. Shaz Akram is the senior director with the Fulbright Association and she was in charge of this well put together and exciting event.

TEDxFulbright is an international effort and the participants come from all over the world. Cristina Galalae had flown in from London, where she lectures on business at Coventry University. I had the chance to speak with her briefly at lunch. She was so busy working behind the scenes that she barely got to see the speakers.

A word about the speakers; all Fulbright scholars and students, all amazing.

Fulbright students and scholars are winners. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. Department of State’s flagship exchange program, administered through bilateral agreements with 155 countries. The Fulbright Program awards U.S. citizens who are students and scholars scholarships to go abroad to teach or study; and awards scholarships to international citizens to study, teach or research in the U.S. There have been 360,000 alumni of the Fulbright Program since 1946. The Fulbright Association is the official alumni association of the U.S. Fulbright Program and they organize TEDxFulbright events annually. The Fulbright Association is based in Washington, D.C.

Saturday was awesome, with speakers sharing their experiences, their dreams and visions. The day started out with a speech by James Mary O’Connor about his role as architect on the Grangegorman Urban Quarter Master Plan in Dublin, Ireland. He had worked with John Bates on his speech presentation and he clearly did his homework. A well presented, clearly articulated talk that showed both logic and emotion. It was a wonderful way to open the presentation session.

Brigham Yen did a review and a forecast of downtown Los Angeles that was truly eye opening for me. I’ve lived here since 1989 and downtown has always been someplace to pass through, but after Brigham’s talk, I could see the vibrancy and life that has returned to the core of Los Angeles.

For me though the most interesting presentation was by Ralph Gibson, a professional photographer who did a presentation on his lifetime behind the lens and about finding a visual identity. I’ve spent many hours behind the lens and found his incites intriguing. Photography is a form of revealing yourself through the pictures you take. As we are in a new era of recording our lives, I found this to be especially intriguing. I often note the number of expensive cameras that hang off the necks of tourists going unused. Contrast that with the rise of the selfie and the foodie and it makes for a sad commentary on the state of humanity’s creativity.

But Gibson’s talk sparked a thought in me about my own photographic work. The photos I’ve taken over the years, my view of the camera as a tool and the subconscious consistency of my subjects. This is the point of TEDx talks. They are Ideas Worth Spreading.

If you like well educated people, who have travelled, explored and experienced, then this is the group for you. TEDxFulbright was a great event. I met some very interesting people and I hope that they return to Santa Monica again.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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