full transcript
"From the Ted Talk by Mariana Atencio: What makes you special?"

Unscramble the Blue Letters

Thank you so much. I am a journalist. My job is to talk to people from all wlkas of life, all over the world. Today, I want to tell you why I decided to do this with my life and what I've learned. My story begins in Caracas, vnzeeeula, in South America, where I grew up; a place that to me was, and always will be, filled with magic and wonder. Frоm a very young age, my parents wanted me to have a wider view of the wrlod. I remember one time when I was around seven years old, my dad came up to me and said, "Mariana, I'm going to send you and your little sister..." - who was six at the time - "...to a place where nobody sekaps Spanish. I want you to experience different cultures." He went on and on about the benteifs of spending an entire summer in this summer camp in the United States, stressing a little phrase that I didn't pay too much attention to at the time: "You never know what the future holds." Meanwhile, in my seven-year-old mind, I was thinking, we were going to get to summer camp in mimai. (Laughter) Maybe it was going to be even better, and we were going to go a little further north, to Orlando, where Mickey Mouse lived. (Laughter) I got really excited. My dad, however, had a slightly different plan. Frоm Caracas, he he sent us to Brainerd, moeistnna. (leghtaur) Mickey Mouse was not up there, (Laughter) and with no cell phone, no Snapchat, or Instagram, I couldn't look up any ioimronfatn. We got there, and one of the first things I noticed was that the other kids' hair was several shades of blonde, and most of them had blue eyes. Meanwhile, this is what we looked like. The first night, the camp director gathered everyone around the campfire and said, "Kids, we have a very international camp this year; the anoiects are here from Venezuela." (Laughter) The other kids looked at us as if we were from another planet. They would ask us things like, "Do you know what a hamburger is?" Or, "Do you go to school on a donkey or a canoe?" (Laughter) I would try to answer in my broken English, and they would just laugh. I know they were not trying to be mean; they were just trying to uantdnresd who we were, and make a correlation with the world they knew. We could either be like them, or like characters out of a book filled with adventures, like aiaddln or the Jungle Book. We certainly didn't look like them, we didn't spaek their language, we were different. When you're seven years old, that hurts. But I had my little sister to take care of, and she cried every day at summer camp. So I decided to put on a brave face, and embrace everything I could about the American way of life. We later did what we called "the summer camp experiment," for eight years in different cities that many Americans haven't even heard of. What I remember most about these moments was when I filalny clicked with someone. Making a friend was a special reward. Everybody wants to feel valued and accepted, and we think it should happen spontaneously, but it doesn't. When you're different, you have to work at belonging. You have to be either really hfulepl, smart, funny, anything to be cool for the crowd you want to hang out with. Later on, when I was in high school, my dad expanded on his smeumr plan, and from Caracas he sent me to Wallingford, Connecticut, for the snoeir year of high school. This time, I remember daydreaming on the panle about "the American high school experience" - with a locker. It was going to be perfect, just like in my favorite TV show: "Saved by the Bell." (Laughter) I get there, and they tell me that my assigned roatmome is ealgrey waiting. I opened the door, and there she was, sinttig on the bed, with a headscarf. Her name was fimtaa, and she was mluism from Bahrain, and she was not what I expected. She probably sensed my disappointment when I looked at her because I didn't do too much to hide it. See, as a tneegaer, I wanted to fit in even more, I wanted to be popular, maybe have a boirnyefd for prom, and I felt that Fatima just got in the way with her shyness and her strict dress code. I didn't realize that I was making her feel like the kids at summer camp made me feel. This was the high school equivalent of asking her, "Do you know what a hbueamrgr is?" I was consumed by my own selfishness and uablne to put myself in her shoes. I have to be hensot with you, we only lasted a cpuloe of mnhots together, because she was later sent to live with a cesuoonlr instead of other students. I remember thinking, "Ah, she'll be okay. She's just different." You see, when we lbeal someone as different, it dehumanizes them in a way. They become "the other." They're not worthy of our time, not our problem, and in fact, they, "the other," are probably the cause of our problems. So, how do we recognize our blind spots? It begins by understanding what makes you different, by embracing those traits. Only then can you begin to appreciate what makes others special. I remember when this hit me. It was a couple months after that. I had found that boyfriend for prom, made a group of friends, and practically fttergoon about Fatima, until everybody signed on to participate in this talent show for charity. You needed to offer a talent for auction. It seemed like everybody had something special to offer. Some kids were going to play the violin, others were going to recite a theater monologue, and I remember thinking, "We don't practice talents like these back home." But I was determined to find something of value. The day of the talent show comes, and I get up on stage with my little boom box, and put it on the side and press "Play," and a song by my favorite emerging atsirt, Shakira, comes up. And I go, "Whenever, wherever, we're meant to be together," and I said, "My name is Mariana, and I'm going to atioucn a dance class." It seemed like the whole school raised their hand to bid. My dance class really stood out from, like, the 10th violin class oefrefd that day. Going back to my dorm room, I didn't feel different. I felt really special. That's when I started thinking about Fatima, a person that I had faelid to see as siecpal, when I first met her. She was from the Middle East, just like Shakira's family was from the Middle East. She could have probably taught me a thing or two about belly dancing, had I been open to it. Now, I want you all to take that sctiker that was given to you at the beginning of our session today, where you wrote down what makes you special, and I want you to look at it. If you're watching at home, take a piece of paper, and write down what makes you different. You may feel guarded when you look at it, maybe even a little ashamed, maybe even pruod. But you need to begin to embrace it. Remember, it is the first step in appreciating what makes others special. When I went back home to Venezuela, I baegn to understand how these experiences were ciahgnng me. Being able to speak different laueaggns, to navigate all these different people and places, it gave me a unique sensibility. I was finally beginning to understand the iacpontmre of putting myself in other people's sheos. That is a big part of the reason why I decided to become a journalist. Especially being from a part of the world that is often labeled "the backyard," "the illegal aliens," "third-world," "the others," I wanted to do something to change that. It was right around the time, however, when the vzeeeluann government shut down the biggest television station in our country. Censorship was grinwog, and my dad came up to me once again and said, "How are you going to be a journalist here? You have to leave." That's when it hit me. That's what he had been preparing me for. That is what the future held for me. So in 2008, I packed my bags, and I came to the United States, without a return ticket this time. I was pllufainy aware that, at 24 years old, I was becoming a reugfee of sorts, an immigrant, the other, once again, and now for good. I was able to come on a scholarship to sdtuy journalism. I remember when they gave me my first assignment to coevr the historic election of President Barack Obama. I felt so lucky, so hopeful. I was, like, "Yes, this is it. I've come to post-racial America, where the notion of us and them is being erdoed, and will probably be eradicated in my lifetime." Boy, was I wrong, right? Why didn't Barack Obama's presidency alleviate racial tensions in our country? Why do some people still feel threatened by immigrants, LGBTQ, and minority gurops who are just trying to find a space in this United States that should be for all of us? I didn't have the answers back then, but on November 8th, 2016, when Donald tmurp became our president, it became clear that a large part of the electorate sees them as "the others." Some see people coming to take their jobs, or potential terrorists who speak a different language. Meanwhile, minority groups oftentimes just see hatred, intolerance, and narrow-mindedness on the other side. It's like we're stuck in these bubbles that nobody wants to burst. The only way to do it, the only way to get out of it is to realize that being different also means thinnkig differently. It takes courage to show respect. In the words of Voltaire: "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fgiht to the daeth to defend your right to say it." Failing to see anything good on the other side makes a dialogue impossible. Without a dialogue, we will keep repeating the same meatisks, because we will not learn anything new. I creeovd the 2016 election for NBC News. It was my first big assemnnigt in this mtrnisaaem norwtek, where I had crossed over from Spanish television. And I wanted to do something different. I wheactd election results with utoumeenncdd families. Few thought of sharing that mmnoet with people who weren't cznteiis, but actually stood the most to lose that night. When it became apparent that Donald Trump was winning, this eight-year-old girl named agnenlia reushd up to me in tears. She sobbed, and she asked me if her mom was going to be deported now. I hugged her back and I said, "It's going to be okay," but I really didn't know. This was the photo we took that night, forever iinaegnrd in my heart. Here was this little girl who was around the same age I was when I went to camp in Brainerd. She already knows she is "the other." She walks home from school in fear, every day, that her mom can be taken away. So, how do we put ourselves in Angelina's shoes? How do we make her understand she is special, and not simply unworthy of having her family together? By giving camera time to her and families like hers, I tried to make people see them as human beings, and not smpily "illegal aniles." Yes, they bkore a law, and they should pay a penalty for it, but they've also given everything for this country, like many other immigrants before them have. I've already told you how my path to personal gorwth started. To end, I want to tell you how I hit the worst bump in the road yet, one that sohok me to my very core. The day, aripl 10th, 2014, I was driving to the studio, and I got a call from my parents. "Are you on the air?" they asked. I immediately knew something was wrong. "What happened?" I said. "It's your sister; she's been in a car accident." It was as if my heart stopped. My hands gripped the steering wheel, and I rmemeber hearing the words: "It is unlikely she will ever walk again." They say your life can change in a spilt second. Mine did at that moment. My sister went from being my sseucscufl other half, only a year apart in age, to not being able to move her legs, sit up, or get dressed by herself. This wasn't like summer camp, where I could magically make it better. This was terrifying. Throughout the course of two yares, my sister underwent 15 surgeries, and she snept the most of that time in a wheelchair. But that wasn't even the worst of it. The worst was something so pfuinal, it's hard to put into wdros, even now. It was the way people looked at her, leokod at us, changed. People were unable to see a successful lawyer or a mielnailnl with a sharp wit and a kind heart. Everywhere we went, I realized that ploepe just saw a poor girl in a wheelchair. They were unable to see anything beyond that. After fhginitg like a warrior, I can thankfully tell you that today my sister is walking, and has recovered beyond anyone's eacpnetxiots. (Applause) Thank you. But during that traumatic ordeal, I learned there are differences that simply suck, and it's hard to find potiisve in them. My sister's not better off because of what happened. But she taught me: you can't let those differences define you. Being able to reimagine yourself beyond what other people see, that is the toughest task of all, but it's also the most beautiful. You see, we all come to this world in a body. People with physical or naerlgoiocul dcliteffuiis, elenminanrlvtoy impacted communities, immigrants, boys, girls, boys who want to dress as girls, girls with vleis, women who have been sexually assaulted, athletes who bend their knee as a sign of protest, black, white, aiasn, ntvaie amceiran, my sister, you, or me. We all want what everyone wants: to dream and to achieve. But sometimes, sioecty tells us, and we tell ourselves, we don't fit the mold. Well, if you look at my story, from being born somewhere different, to belly dancing in high soochl, to telling stories you wouldn't normally see on TV, what makes me different is what has made me stnad out and be successful. I have traveled the world, and tlekad to people from all walks of life. You know what I've learned? The single thing every one of us has in common is being human. So take a stand to defend your race, the human race. Let's aeappl to it. Let's be humanists, before and after everything else. To end, I want you to take that sticker, that piece of paper where you worte down what makes you different, and I want you to celebrate it tdoay and every day, shout it from the rooftops. I also encourage you to be curious and ask, "What is on other people's pieces of pepar?" "What makes them different?" Let's celebrate those iotnmicrfeeps that make us special. I hope that it teaches you that nobody has a cialm on the word "normal." We are all different. We are all quirky, and unique, and that is what makes us wonderfully human. Thank you so much. (Applause)

Open Cloze

Thank you so much. I am a journalist. My job is to talk to people from all _____ of life, all over the world. Today, I want to tell you why I decided to do this with my life and what I've learned. My story begins in Caracas, _________, in South America, where I grew up; a place that to me was, and always will be, filled with magic and wonder. Frоm a very young age, my parents wanted me to have a wider view of the _____. I remember one time when I was around seven years old, my dad came up to me and said, "Mariana, I'm going to send you and your little sister..." - who was six at the time - "...to a place where nobody ______ Spanish. I want you to experience different cultures." He went on and on about the ________ of spending an entire summer in this summer camp in the United States, stressing a little phrase that I didn't pay too much attention to at the time: "You never know what the future holds." Meanwhile, in my seven-year-old mind, I was thinking, we were going to get to summer camp in _____. (Laughter) Maybe it was going to be even better, and we were going to go a little further north, to Orlando, where Mickey Mouse lived. (Laughter) I got really excited. My dad, however, had a slightly different plan. Frоm Caracas, he he sent us to Brainerd, _________. (________) Mickey Mouse was not up there, (Laughter) and with no cell phone, no Snapchat, or Instagram, I couldn't look up any ___________. We got there, and one of the first things I noticed was that the other kids' hair was several shades of blonde, and most of them had blue eyes. Meanwhile, this is what we looked like. The first night, the camp director gathered everyone around the campfire and said, "Kids, we have a very international camp this year; the ________ are here from Venezuela." (Laughter) The other kids looked at us as if we were from another planet. They would ask us things like, "Do you know what a hamburger is?" Or, "Do you go to school on a donkey or a canoe?" (Laughter) I would try to answer in my broken English, and they would just laugh. I know they were not trying to be mean; they were just trying to __________ who we were, and make a correlation with the world they knew. We could either be like them, or like characters out of a book filled with adventures, like _______ or the Jungle Book. We certainly didn't look like them, we didn't _____ their language, we were different. When you're seven years old, that hurts. But I had my little sister to take care of, and she cried every day at summer camp. So I decided to put on a brave face, and embrace everything I could about the American way of life. We later did what we called "the summer camp experiment," for eight years in different cities that many Americans haven't even heard of. What I remember most about these moments was when I _______ clicked with someone. Making a friend was a special reward. Everybody wants to feel valued and accepted, and we think it should happen spontaneously, but it doesn't. When you're different, you have to work at belonging. You have to be either really _______, smart, funny, anything to be cool for the crowd you want to hang out with. Later on, when I was in high school, my dad expanded on his ______ plan, and from Caracas he sent me to Wallingford, Connecticut, for the ______ year of high school. This time, I remember daydreaming on the _____ about "the American high school experience" - with a locker. It was going to be perfect, just like in my favorite TV show: "Saved by the Bell." (Laughter) I get there, and they tell me that my assigned ________ is _______ waiting. I opened the door, and there she was, _______ on the bed, with a headscarf. Her name was ______, and she was ______ from Bahrain, and she was not what I expected. She probably sensed my disappointment when I looked at her because I didn't do too much to hide it. See, as a ________, I wanted to fit in even more, I wanted to be popular, maybe have a _________ for prom, and I felt that Fatima just got in the way with her shyness and her strict dress code. I didn't realize that I was making her feel like the kids at summer camp made me feel. This was the high school equivalent of asking her, "Do you know what a _________ is?" I was consumed by my own selfishness and ______ to put myself in her shoes. I have to be ______ with you, we only lasted a ______ of ______ together, because she was later sent to live with a _________ instead of other students. I remember thinking, "Ah, she'll be okay. She's just different." You see, when we _____ someone as different, it dehumanizes them in a way. They become "the other." They're not worthy of our time, not our problem, and in fact, they, "the other," are probably the cause of our problems. So, how do we recognize our blind spots? It begins by understanding what makes you different, by embracing those traits. Only then can you begin to appreciate what makes others special. I remember when this hit me. It was a couple months after that. I had found that boyfriend for prom, made a group of friends, and practically _________ about Fatima, until everybody signed on to participate in this talent show for charity. You needed to offer a talent for auction. It seemed like everybody had something special to offer. Some kids were going to play the violin, others were going to recite a theater monologue, and I remember thinking, "We don't practice talents like these back home." But I was determined to find something of value. The day of the talent show comes, and I get up on stage with my little boom box, and put it on the side and press "Play," and a song by my favorite emerging ______, Shakira, comes up. And I go, "Whenever, wherever, we're meant to be together," and I said, "My name is Mariana, and I'm going to _______ a dance class." It seemed like the whole school raised their hand to bid. My dance class really stood out from, like, the 10th violin class _______ that day. Going back to my dorm room, I didn't feel different. I felt really special. That's when I started thinking about Fatima, a person that I had ______ to see as _______, when I first met her. She was from the Middle East, just like Shakira's family was from the Middle East. She could have probably taught me a thing or two about belly dancing, had I been open to it. Now, I want you all to take that _______ that was given to you at the beginning of our session today, where you wrote down what makes you special, and I want you to look at it. If you're watching at home, take a piece of paper, and write down what makes you different. You may feel guarded when you look at it, maybe even a little ashamed, maybe even _____. But you need to begin to embrace it. Remember, it is the first step in appreciating what makes others special. When I went back home to Venezuela, I _____ to understand how these experiences were ________ me. Being able to speak different _________, to navigate all these different people and places, it gave me a unique sensibility. I was finally beginning to understand the __________ of putting myself in other people's _____. That is a big part of the reason why I decided to become a journalist. Especially being from a part of the world that is often labeled "the backyard," "the illegal aliens," "third-world," "the others," I wanted to do something to change that. It was right around the time, however, when the __________ government shut down the biggest television station in our country. Censorship was _______, and my dad came up to me once again and said, "How are you going to be a journalist here? You have to leave." That's when it hit me. That's what he had been preparing me for. That is what the future held for me. So in 2008, I packed my bags, and I came to the United States, without a return ticket this time. I was _________ aware that, at 24 years old, I was becoming a _______ of sorts, an immigrant, the other, once again, and now for good. I was able to come on a scholarship to _____ journalism. I remember when they gave me my first assignment to _____ the historic election of President Barack Obama. I felt so lucky, so hopeful. I was, like, "Yes, this is it. I've come to post-racial America, where the notion of us and them is being ______, and will probably be eradicated in my lifetime." Boy, was I wrong, right? Why didn't Barack Obama's presidency alleviate racial tensions in our country? Why do some people still feel threatened by immigrants, LGBTQ, and minority ______ who are just trying to find a space in this United States that should be for all of us? I didn't have the answers back then, but on November 8th, 2016, when Donald _____ became our president, it became clear that a large part of the electorate sees them as "the others." Some see people coming to take their jobs, or potential terrorists who speak a different language. Meanwhile, minority groups oftentimes just see hatred, intolerance, and narrow-mindedness on the other side. It's like we're stuck in these bubbles that nobody wants to burst. The only way to do it, the only way to get out of it is to realize that being different also means ________ differently. It takes courage to show respect. In the words of Voltaire: "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will _____ to the _____ to defend your right to say it." Failing to see anything good on the other side makes a dialogue impossible. Without a dialogue, we will keep repeating the same ________, because we will not learn anything new. I _______ the 2016 election for NBC News. It was my first big __________ in this __________ _______, where I had crossed over from Spanish television. And I wanted to do something different. I _______ election results with ____________ families. Few thought of sharing that ______ with people who weren't ________, but actually stood the most to lose that night. When it became apparent that Donald Trump was winning, this eight-year-old girl named ________ ______ up to me in tears. She sobbed, and she asked me if her mom was going to be deported now. I hugged her back and I said, "It's going to be okay," but I really didn't know. This was the photo we took that night, forever _________ in my heart. Here was this little girl who was around the same age I was when I went to camp in Brainerd. She already knows she is "the other." She walks home from school in fear, every day, that her mom can be taken away. So, how do we put ourselves in Angelina's shoes? How do we make her understand she is special, and not simply unworthy of having her family together? By giving camera time to her and families like hers, I tried to make people see them as human beings, and not ______ "illegal ______." Yes, they _____ a law, and they should pay a penalty for it, but they've also given everything for this country, like many other immigrants before them have. I've already told you how my path to personal ______ started. To end, I want to tell you how I hit the worst bump in the road yet, one that _____ me to my very core. The day, _____ 10th, 2014, I was driving to the studio, and I got a call from my parents. "Are you on the air?" they asked. I immediately knew something was wrong. "What happened?" I said. "It's your sister; she's been in a car accident." It was as if my heart stopped. My hands gripped the steering wheel, and I ________ hearing the words: "It is unlikely she will ever walk again." They say your life can change in a _____ second. Mine did at that moment. My sister went from being my __________ other half, only a year apart in age, to not being able to move her legs, sit up, or get dressed by herself. This wasn't like summer camp, where I could magically make it better. This was terrifying. Throughout the course of two _____, my sister underwent 15 surgeries, and she _____ the most of that time in a wheelchair. But that wasn't even the worst of it. The worst was something so _______, it's hard to put into _____, even now. It was the way people looked at her, ______ at us, changed. People were unable to see a successful lawyer or a __________ with a sharp wit and a kind heart. Everywhere we went, I realized that ______ just saw a poor girl in a wheelchair. They were unable to see anything beyond that. After ________ like a warrior, I can thankfully tell you that today my sister is walking, and has recovered beyond anyone's ____________. (Applause) Thank you. But during that traumatic ordeal, I learned there are differences that simply suck, and it's hard to find ________ in them. My sister's not better off because of what happened. But she taught me: you can't let those differences define you. Being able to reimagine yourself beyond what other people see, that is the toughest task of all, but it's also the most beautiful. You see, we all come to this world in a body. People with physical or ____________ ____________, _______________ impacted communities, immigrants, boys, girls, boys who want to dress as girls, girls with _____, women who have been sexually assaulted, athletes who bend their knee as a sign of protest, black, white, _____, ______ ________, my sister, you, or me. We all want what everyone wants: to dream and to achieve. But sometimes, _______ tells us, and we tell ourselves, we don't fit the mold. Well, if you look at my story, from being born somewhere different, to belly dancing in high ______, to telling stories you wouldn't normally see on TV, what makes me different is what has made me _____ out and be successful. I have traveled the world, and ______ to people from all walks of life. You know what I've learned? The single thing every one of us has in common is being human. So take a stand to defend your race, the human race. Let's ______ to it. Let's be humanists, before and after everything else. To end, I want you to take that sticker, that piece of paper where you _____ down what makes you different, and I want you to celebrate it _____ and every day, shout it from the rooftops. I also encourage you to be curious and ask, "What is on other people's pieces of _____?" "What makes them different?" Let's celebrate those _____________ that make us special. I hope that it teaches you that nobody has a _____ on the word "normal." We are all different. We are all quirky, and unique, and that is what makes us wonderfully human. Thank you so much. (Applause)

Solution

  1. talked
  2. groups
  3. words
  4. school
  5. appeal
  6. wrote
  7. proud
  8. auction
  9. growing
  10. finally
  11. people
  12. eroded
  13. honest
  14. angelina
  15. network
  16. refugee
  17. death
  18. stand
  19. muslim
  20. growth
  21. fighting
  22. veils
  23. looked
  24. artist
  25. trump
  26. neurological
  27. sticker
  28. rushed
  29. counselor
  30. moment
  31. imperfections
  32. ingrained
  33. aliens
  34. claim
  35. months
  36. painful
  37. study
  38. mainstream
  39. positive
  40. simply
  41. forgotten
  42. millennial
  43. unable
  44. covered
  45. label
  46. senior
  47. helpful
  48. boyfriend
  49. speak
  50. importance
  51. april
  52. cover
  53. watched
  54. remember
  55. years
  56. today
  57. venezuelan
  58. spent
  59. summer
  60. changing
  61. understand
  62. undocumented
  63. languages
  64. couple
  65. walks
  66. special
  67. native
  68. miami
  69. expectations
  70. shook
  71. sitting
  72. fatima
  73. society
  74. paper
  75. began
  76. plane
  77. mistakes
  78. difficulties
  79. successful
  80. failed
  81. american
  82. fight
  83. speaks
  84. venezuela
  85. split
  86. roommate
  87. world
  88. thinking
  89. eagerly
  90. teenager
  91. minnesota
  92. asian
  93. shoes
  94. painfully
  95. citizens
  96. offered
  97. atencios
  98. hamburger
  99. broke
  100. environmentally
  101. benefits
  102. information
  103. assignment
  104. laughter
  105. aladdin

Original Text

Thank you so much. I am a journalist. My job is to talk to people from all walks of life, all over the world. Today, I want to tell you why I decided to do this with my life and what I've learned. My story begins in Caracas, Venezuela, in South America, where I grew up; a place that to me was, and always will be, filled with magic and wonder. Frоm a very young age, my parents wanted me to have a wider view of the world. I remember one time when I was around seven years old, my dad came up to me and said, "Mariana, I'm going to send you and your little sister..." - who was six at the time - "...to a place where nobody speaks Spanish. I want you to experience different cultures." He went on and on about the benefits of spending an entire summer in this summer camp in the United States, stressing a little phrase that I didn't pay too much attention to at the time: "You never know what the future holds." Meanwhile, in my seven-year-old mind, I was thinking, we were going to get to summer camp in Miami. (Laughter) Maybe it was going to be even better, and we were going to go a little further north, to Orlando, where Mickey Mouse lived. (Laughter) I got really excited. My dad, however, had a slightly different plan. Frоm Caracas, he he sent us to Brainerd, Minnesota. (Laughter) Mickey Mouse was not up there, (Laughter) and with no cell phone, no Snapchat, or Instagram, I couldn't look up any information. We got there, and one of the first things I noticed was that the other kids' hair was several shades of blonde, and most of them had blue eyes. Meanwhile, this is what we looked like. The first night, the camp director gathered everyone around the campfire and said, "Kids, we have a very international camp this year; the Atencios are here from Venezuela." (Laughter) The other kids looked at us as if we were from another planet. They would ask us things like, "Do you know what a hamburger is?" Or, "Do you go to school on a donkey or a canoe?" (Laughter) I would try to answer in my broken English, and they would just laugh. I know they were not trying to be mean; they were just trying to understand who we were, and make a correlation with the world they knew. We could either be like them, or like characters out of a book filled with adventures, like Aladdin or the Jungle Book. We certainly didn't look like them, we didn't speak their language, we were different. When you're seven years old, that hurts. But I had my little sister to take care of, and she cried every day at summer camp. So I decided to put on a brave face, and embrace everything I could about the American way of life. We later did what we called "the summer camp experiment," for eight years in different cities that many Americans haven't even heard of. What I remember most about these moments was when I finally clicked with someone. Making a friend was a special reward. Everybody wants to feel valued and accepted, and we think it should happen spontaneously, but it doesn't. When you're different, you have to work at belonging. You have to be either really helpful, smart, funny, anything to be cool for the crowd you want to hang out with. Later on, when I was in high school, my dad expanded on his summer plan, and from Caracas he sent me to Wallingford, Connecticut, for the senior year of high school. This time, I remember daydreaming on the plane about "the American high school experience" - with a locker. It was going to be perfect, just like in my favorite TV show: "Saved by the Bell." (Laughter) I get there, and they tell me that my assigned roommate is eagerly waiting. I opened the door, and there she was, sitting on the bed, with a headscarf. Her name was Fatima, and she was Muslim from Bahrain, and she was not what I expected. She probably sensed my disappointment when I looked at her because I didn't do too much to hide it. See, as a teenager, I wanted to fit in even more, I wanted to be popular, maybe have a boyfriend for prom, and I felt that Fatima just got in the way with her shyness and her strict dress code. I didn't realize that I was making her feel like the kids at summer camp made me feel. This was the high school equivalent of asking her, "Do you know what a hamburger is?" I was consumed by my own selfishness and unable to put myself in her shoes. I have to be honest with you, we only lasted a couple of months together, because she was later sent to live with a counselor instead of other students. I remember thinking, "Ah, she'll be okay. She's just different." You see, when we label someone as different, it dehumanizes them in a way. They become "the other." They're not worthy of our time, not our problem, and in fact, they, "the other," are probably the cause of our problems. So, how do we recognize our blind spots? It begins by understanding what makes you different, by embracing those traits. Only then can you begin to appreciate what makes others special. I remember when this hit me. It was a couple months after that. I had found that boyfriend for prom, made a group of friends, and practically forgotten about Fatima, until everybody signed on to participate in this talent show for charity. You needed to offer a talent for auction. It seemed like everybody had something special to offer. Some kids were going to play the violin, others were going to recite a theater monologue, and I remember thinking, "We don't practice talents like these back home." But I was determined to find something of value. The day of the talent show comes, and I get up on stage with my little boom box, and put it on the side and press "Play," and a song by my favorite emerging artist, Shakira, comes up. And I go, "Whenever, wherever, we're meant to be together," and I said, "My name is Mariana, and I'm going to auction a dance class." It seemed like the whole school raised their hand to bid. My dance class really stood out from, like, the 10th violin class offered that day. Going back to my dorm room, I didn't feel different. I felt really special. That's when I started thinking about Fatima, a person that I had failed to see as special, when I first met her. She was from the Middle East, just like Shakira's family was from the Middle East. She could have probably taught me a thing or two about belly dancing, had I been open to it. Now, I want you all to take that sticker that was given to you at the beginning of our session today, where you wrote down what makes you special, and I want you to look at it. If you're watching at home, take a piece of paper, and write down what makes you different. You may feel guarded when you look at it, maybe even a little ashamed, maybe even proud. But you need to begin to embrace it. Remember, it is the first step in appreciating what makes others special. When I went back home to Venezuela, I began to understand how these experiences were changing me. Being able to speak different languages, to navigate all these different people and places, it gave me a unique sensibility. I was finally beginning to understand the importance of putting myself in other people's shoes. That is a big part of the reason why I decided to become a journalist. Especially being from a part of the world that is often labeled "the backyard," "the illegal aliens," "third-world," "the others," I wanted to do something to change that. It was right around the time, however, when the Venezuelan government shut down the biggest television station in our country. Censorship was growing, and my dad came up to me once again and said, "How are you going to be a journalist here? You have to leave." That's when it hit me. That's what he had been preparing me for. That is what the future held for me. So in 2008, I packed my bags, and I came to the United States, without a return ticket this time. I was painfully aware that, at 24 years old, I was becoming a refugee of sorts, an immigrant, the other, once again, and now for good. I was able to come on a scholarship to study journalism. I remember when they gave me my first assignment to cover the historic election of President Barack Obama. I felt so lucky, so hopeful. I was, like, "Yes, this is it. I've come to post-racial America, where the notion of us and them is being eroded, and will probably be eradicated in my lifetime." Boy, was I wrong, right? Why didn't Barack Obama's presidency alleviate racial tensions in our country? Why do some people still feel threatened by immigrants, LGBTQ, and minority groups who are just trying to find a space in this United States that should be for all of us? I didn't have the answers back then, but on November 8th, 2016, when Donald Trump became our president, it became clear that a large part of the electorate sees them as "the others." Some see people coming to take their jobs, or potential terrorists who speak a different language. Meanwhile, minority groups oftentimes just see hatred, intolerance, and narrow-mindedness on the other side. It's like we're stuck in these bubbles that nobody wants to burst. The only way to do it, the only way to get out of it is to realize that being different also means thinking differently. It takes courage to show respect. In the words of Voltaire: "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it." Failing to see anything good on the other side makes a dialogue impossible. Without a dialogue, we will keep repeating the same mistakes, because we will not learn anything new. I covered the 2016 election for NBC News. It was my first big assignment in this mainstream network, where I had crossed over from Spanish television. And I wanted to do something different. I watched election results with undocumented families. Few thought of sharing that moment with people who weren't citizens, but actually stood the most to lose that night. When it became apparent that Donald Trump was winning, this eight-year-old girl named Angelina rushed up to me in tears. She sobbed, and she asked me if her mom was going to be deported now. I hugged her back and I said, "It's going to be okay," but I really didn't know. This was the photo we took that night, forever ingrained in my heart. Here was this little girl who was around the same age I was when I went to camp in Brainerd. She already knows she is "the other." She walks home from school in fear, every day, that her mom can be taken away. So, how do we put ourselves in Angelina's shoes? How do we make her understand she is special, and not simply unworthy of having her family together? By giving camera time to her and families like hers, I tried to make people see them as human beings, and not simply "illegal aliens." Yes, they broke a law, and they should pay a penalty for it, but they've also given everything for this country, like many other immigrants before them have. I've already told you how my path to personal growth started. To end, I want to tell you how I hit the worst bump in the road yet, one that shook me to my very core. The day, April 10th, 2014, I was driving to the studio, and I got a call from my parents. "Are you on the air?" they asked. I immediately knew something was wrong. "What happened?" I said. "It's your sister; she's been in a car accident." It was as if my heart stopped. My hands gripped the steering wheel, and I remember hearing the words: "It is unlikely she will ever walk again." They say your life can change in a split second. Mine did at that moment. My sister went from being my successful other half, only a year apart in age, to not being able to move her legs, sit up, or get dressed by herself. This wasn't like summer camp, where I could magically make it better. This was terrifying. Throughout the course of two years, my sister underwent 15 surgeries, and she spent the most of that time in a wheelchair. But that wasn't even the worst of it. The worst was something so painful, it's hard to put into words, even now. It was the way people looked at her, looked at us, changed. People were unable to see a successful lawyer or a millennial with a sharp wit and a kind heart. Everywhere we went, I realized that people just saw a poor girl in a wheelchair. They were unable to see anything beyond that. After fighting like a warrior, I can thankfully tell you that today my sister is walking, and has recovered beyond anyone's expectations. (Applause) Thank you. But during that traumatic ordeal, I learned there are differences that simply suck, and it's hard to find positive in them. My sister's not better off because of what happened. But she taught me: you can't let those differences define you. Being able to reimagine yourself beyond what other people see, that is the toughest task of all, but it's also the most beautiful. You see, we all come to this world in a body. People with physical or neurological difficulties, environmentally impacted communities, immigrants, boys, girls, boys who want to dress as girls, girls with veils, women who have been sexually assaulted, athletes who bend their knee as a sign of protest, black, white, Asian, Native American, my sister, you, or me. We all want what everyone wants: to dream and to achieve. But sometimes, society tells us, and we tell ourselves, we don't fit the mold. Well, if you look at my story, from being born somewhere different, to belly dancing in high school, to telling stories you wouldn't normally see on TV, what makes me different is what has made me stand out and be successful. I have traveled the world, and talked to people from all walks of life. You know what I've learned? The single thing every one of us has in common is being human. So take a stand to defend your race, the human race. Let's appeal to it. Let's be humanists, before and after everything else. To end, I want you to take that sticker, that piece of paper where you wrote down what makes you different, and I want you to celebrate it today and every day, shout it from the rooftops. I also encourage you to be curious and ask, "What is on other people's pieces of paper?" "What makes them different?" Let's celebrate those imperfections that make us special. I hope that it teaches you that nobody has a claim on the word "normal." We are all different. We are all quirky, and unique, and that is what makes us wonderfully human. Thank you so much. (Applause)

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
summer camp 6
high school 5
united states 3

Important Words

  1. accepted
  2. accident
  3. achieve
  4. adventures
  5. age
  6. agree
  7. air
  8. aladdin
  9. aliens
  10. alleviate
  11. america
  12. american
  13. americans
  14. angelina
  15. answer
  16. answers
  17. apparent
  18. appeal
  19. applause
  20. appreciating
  21. april
  22. artist
  23. ashamed
  24. asian
  25. asked
  26. assaulted
  27. assigned
  28. assignment
  29. atencios
  30. athletes
  31. attention
  32. auction
  33. aware
  34. backyard
  35. bags
  36. bahrain
  37. barack
  38. beautiful
  39. bed
  40. began
  41. beginning
  42. begins
  43. beings
  44. bell
  45. belly
  46. belonging
  47. bend
  48. benefits
  49. bid
  50. big
  51. biggest
  52. black
  53. blind
  54. blonde
  55. blue
  56. body
  57. book
  58. boom
  59. born
  60. box
  61. boy
  62. boyfriend
  63. boys
  64. brainerd
  65. brave
  66. broke
  67. broken
  68. bubbles
  69. bump
  70. burst
  71. call
  72. called
  73. camera
  74. camp
  75. campfire
  76. canoe
  77. car
  78. caracas
  79. care
  80. celebrate
  81. cell
  82. censorship
  83. change
  84. changed
  85. changing
  86. characters
  87. charity
  88. cities
  89. citizens
  90. claim
  91. class
  92. clear
  93. clicked
  94. code
  95. coming
  96. common
  97. communities
  98. connecticut
  99. consumed
  100. cool
  101. core
  102. correlation
  103. counselor
  104. country
  105. couple
  106. courage
  107. cover
  108. covered
  109. cried
  110. crossed
  111. crowd
  112. cultures
  113. curious
  114. dad
  115. dance
  116. dancing
  117. day
  118. daydreaming
  119. death
  120. decided
  121. defend
  122. define
  123. dehumanizes
  124. deported
  125. determined
  126. dialogue
  127. differences
  128. differently
  129. difficulties
  130. director
  131. disappointment
  132. donald
  133. donkey
  134. door
  135. dorm
  136. dream
  137. dress
  138. dressed
  139. driving
  140. eagerly
  141. east
  142. election
  143. electorate
  144. embrace
  145. embracing
  146. emerging
  147. encourage
  148. english
  149. entire
  150. environmentally
  151. equivalent
  152. eradicated
  153. eroded
  154. excited
  155. expanded
  156. expectations
  157. expected
  158. experience
  159. experiences
  160. experiment
  161. eyes
  162. face
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  166. families
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  207. headscarf
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  215. historic
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  222. hugged
  223. human
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  232. importance
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  273. mainstream
  274. making
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  280. mickey
  281. middle
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  312. oftentimes
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  315. ordeal
  316. orlando
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  320. paper
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  360. quirky
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  380. room
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  384. school
  385. sees
  386. selfishness
  387. send
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  393. shades
  394. shakira
  395. sharing
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  398. shook
  399. shout
  400. show
  401. shut
  402. shyness
  403. side
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  408. sister
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  411. slightly
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  415. society
  416. song
  417. sorts
  418. south
  419. space
  420. spanish
  421. speak
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  423. special
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  434. steering
  435. step
  436. sticker
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  442. strict
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  472. ticket
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  482. unable
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