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 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 sotry begins in Caracas, Venezuela, in sotuh 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 erinte 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 hldos." 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 odlrnao, where Mickey Mouse lievd. (Laughter) I got really excited. My dad, however, had a sglthily different plan. Frоm Caracas, he he sent us to bnairerd, meitonnsa. (Laughter) mcikey Mouse was not up there, (lagthuer) 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 noetcid was that the other kids' hair was several shades of bdolne, and most of them had blue eyes. Meanwhile, this is what we lkeood like. The first nhigt, 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 pnlaet. 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 engslih, 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 luganage, 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 bavre face, and eramcbe everything I could about the American way of life. We later did what we caelld "the summer camp eeexminrpt," for eight years in different cities that many Americans haven't even herad of. What I remember most about these moments was when I finally clicked with someone. Making a fnried was a special reward. Everybody wants to feel valued and accepted, and we think it should hppean 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 crwod 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 shocol. 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 baarihn, and she was not what I exeptecd. 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 bieyrfnod 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 mhtons together, because she was later sent to live with a coosuenlr instead of other sntteuds. 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 stops? It bgenis 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 ptlrlacaicy forgotten about Fatima, until everybody signed on to participate in this talent show for charity. You nedeed to ofefr 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 thaeetr mnogoolue, and I remember thinking, "We don't practice talents like these back home." But I was dmienreetd to find something of value. The day of the talent show comes, and I get up on stgae with my little boom box, and put it on the side and press "Play," and a song by my favorite engemrig artist, srhikaa, 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 csals 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 flmaiy was from the Middle East. She could have probably tuhgat 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 wchtanig at home, take a piece of paepr, 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 appcnraietig what makes others special. When I went back home to Venezuela, I bagen to understand how these experiences were changing me. Being able to speak different laneauggs, to naivgtae 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 seohs. 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 ilalgel 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. cissrehnop 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 pckead my bags, and I came to the United States, without a return ticket this time. I was painfully aware that, at 24 yreas 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 anisesngmt to cveor 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 aremcia, where the notion of us and them is being eroded, and will probably be eradicated in my liemfite." Boy, was I wrong, right? Why didn't Barack Obama's presidency alleviate raaicl tosinens 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 tumrp became our president, it became clear that a lgrae part of the eltarceote sees them as "the others." Some see people coming to take their jobs, or potential terrorists who sepak a different language. Meanwhile, minority groups oneemfttis 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 tkeas 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." fianilg to see anything good on the other side makes a dialogue impossible. Without a dlgouaie, we will keep repeating the same mistakes, because we will not learn anything new. I coreved the 2016 election for NBC News. It was my first big assignment in this mainstream network, where I had crossed over from sspnaih 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 hugegd her back and I said, "It's going to be okay," but I really didn't know. This was the pthoo we took that night, forever iegiarnnd 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 usenandrtd she is special, and not simply unworthy of having her family together? By gviing camera time to her and families like hers, I tried to make people see them as human beings, and not silpmy "illegal aliens." Yes, they broke a law, and they should pay a pentlay 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 wsort bump in the road yet, one that shook me to my very core. The day, apirl 10th, 2014, I was dviring to the stdiuo, 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 stppoed. My hdnas gepripd the sineretg wheel, and I rbememer hearing the words: "It is unlikely she will ever walk again." They say your life can cgnhae 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 tiferinryg. 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 pnaufil, 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 sarhp wit and a kind heart. Everywhere we went, I realized that people just saw a poor girl in a whelcheiar. They were unable to see anything beyond that. After fighting like a warrior, I can thankfully tell you that today my sstier is walking, and has recovered beyond anyone's expectations. (Applause) Thank you. But during that traumatic ordeal, I learned there are dfceefiners 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 diefne you. Being able to raneiimge yourself beyond what other people see, that is the toughest task of all, but it's also the most bfuuaetil. You see, we all come to this world in a body. People with physical or neurological difficulties, environmentally impacted communities, immigrants, boys, gilrs, 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, wthie, Asian, Native American, my sister, you, or me. We all want what everyone wants: to dream and to achieve. But sometimes, society tlels 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 teakld to people from all walks of life. You know what I've learned? The sligne thing every one of us has in common is being human. So take a sntad 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 egruncoae you to be curious and ask, "What is on other people's pieces of paper?" "What makes them different?" Let's clebertae 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 qkriuy, and uqinue, 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 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 _____ begins in Caracas, Venezuela, in _____ 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 ______ 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 _____." 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 _______, where Mickey Mouse _____. (Laughter) I got really excited. My dad, however, had a ________ different plan. Frоm Caracas, he he sent us to ________, _________. (Laughter) ______ Mouse was not up there, (________) 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 _______ was that the other kids' hair was several shades of ______, and most of them had blue eyes. Meanwhile, this is what we ______ like. The first _____, 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 ______. 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 _______, 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 ________, 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 _____ face, and _______ everything I could about the American way of life. We later did what we ______ "the summer camp __________," for eight years in different cities that many Americans haven't even _____ of. What I remember most about these moments was when I finally clicked with someone. Making a ______ was a special reward. Everybody wants to feel valued and accepted, and we think it should ______ 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 _____ 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 ______. 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 _______, and she was not what I ________. 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 _________ 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 ______ together, because she was later sent to live with a _________ instead of other ________. 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 _____? It ______ 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 ___________ forgotten about Fatima, until everybody signed on to participate in this talent show for charity. You ______ to _____ 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 _______ _________, and I remember thinking, "We don't practice talents like these back home." But I was __________ to find something of value. The day of the talent show comes, and I get up on _____ with my little boom box, and put it on the side and press "Play," and a song by my favorite ________ artist, _______, 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 _____ 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 ______ was from the Middle East. She could have probably ______ 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 ________ at home, take a piece of _____, 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 ____________ what makes others special. When I went back home to Venezuela, I _____ to understand how these experiences were changing me. Being able to speak different _________, to ________ 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 _____. 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 _______ 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. __________ 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 ______ my bags, and I came to the United States, without a return ticket this time. I was painfully aware that, at 24 _____ 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 __________ 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 _______, where the notion of us and them is being eroded, and will probably be eradicated in my ________." Boy, was I wrong, right? Why didn't Barack Obama's presidency alleviate ______ ________ 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 _____ became our president, it became clear that a _____ part of the __________ sees them as "the others." Some see people coming to take their jobs, or potential terrorists who _____ a different language. Meanwhile, minority groups __________ 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 _____ 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." _______ to see anything good on the other side makes a dialogue impossible. Without a ________, we will keep repeating the same mistakes, because we will not learn anything new. I _______ the 2016 election for NBC News. It was my first big assignment in this mainstream network, where I had crossed over from _______ 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 ______ her back and I said, "It's going to be okay," but I really didn't know. This was the _____ 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 __________ she is special, and not simply unworthy of having her family together? By ______ camera time to her and families like hers, I tried to make people see them as human beings, and not ______ "illegal aliens." Yes, they broke a law, and they should pay a _______ 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 _____ bump in the road yet, one that shook me to my very core. The day, _____ 10th, 2014, I was _______ to the ______, 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 _______. My _____ _______ the ________ wheel, and I ________ hearing the words: "It is unlikely she will ever walk again." They say your life can ______ 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 __________. 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 _______, 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 _____ wit and a kind heart. Everywhere we went, I realized that people just saw a poor girl in a __________. They were unable to see anything beyond that. After fighting like a warrior, I can thankfully tell you that today my ______ is walking, and has recovered beyond anyone's expectations. (Applause) Thank you. But during that traumatic ordeal, I learned there are ___________ 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 ______ you. Being able to _________ yourself beyond what other people see, that is the toughest task of all, but it's also the most _________. You see, we all come to this world in a body. People with physical or neurological difficulties, environmentally impacted communities, immigrants, boys, _____, 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, _____, Asian, Native American, my sister, you, or me. We all want what everyone wants: to dream and to achieve. But sometimes, society _____ 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 ______ to people from all walks of life. You know what I've learned? The ______ thing every one of us has in common is being human. So take a _____ 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 _________ you to be curious and ask, "What is on other people's pieces of paper?" "What makes them different?" Let's _________ 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 ______, and ______, and that is what makes us wonderfully human. Thank you so much. (Applause)

Solution

  1. penalty
  2. simply
  3. failing
  4. hugged
  5. reimagine
  6. begins
  7. south
  8. laughter
  9. theater
  10. giving
  11. tells
  12. gripped
  13. trump
  14. lifetime
  15. stage
  16. night
  17. brainerd
  18. understand
  19. story
  20. began
  21. april
  22. english
  23. cover
  24. spots
  25. languages
  26. covered
  27. painful
  28. remember
  29. talked
  30. experiment
  31. quirky
  32. assignment
  33. terrifying
  34. takes
  35. change
  36. boyfriend
  37. appreciating
  38. slightly
  39. stopped
  40. white
  41. language
  42. lived
  43. planet
  44. years
  45. entire
  46. school
  47. minnesota
  48. dialogue
  49. emerging
  50. class
  51. america
  52. offer
  53. counselor
  54. censorship
  55. oftentimes
  56. determined
  57. tensions
  58. heard
  59. packed
  60. expected
  61. speak
  62. practically
  63. looked
  64. girls
  65. family
  66. paper
  67. shakira
  68. studio
  69. needed
  70. shoes
  71. differences
  72. wheelchair
  73. driving
  74. sister
  75. orlando
  76. electorate
  77. holds
  78. single
  79. happen
  80. navigate
  81. encourage
  82. racial
  83. ingrained
  84. taught
  85. crowd
  86. blonde
  87. friend
  88. brave
  89. stand
  90. beautiful
  91. months
  92. embrace
  93. unique
  94. photo
  95. called
  96. sharp
  97. mickey
  98. watching
  99. steering
  100. worst
  101. illegal
  102. bahrain
  103. monologue
  104. large
  105. spanish
  106. hands
  107. define
  108. noticed
  109. students
  110. celebrate

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)

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
summer camp 5
high school 3
mickey mouse 2
talent show 2
minority groups 2
donald trump 2

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
  163. fact
  164. failed
  165. failing
  166. families
  167. family
  168. fatima
  169. favorite
  170. fear
  171. feel
  172. felt
  173. fight
  174. fighting
  175. filled
  176. finally
  177. find
  178. fit
  179. forgotten
  180. friend
  181. friends
  182. funny
  183. future
  184. gathered
  185. gave
  186. girl
  187. girls
  188. giving
  189. good
  190. government
  191. grew
  192. gripped
  193. group
  194. groups
  195. growing
  196. growth
  197. guarded
  198. hair
  199. hamburger
  200. hand
  201. hands
  202. hang
  203. happen
  204. happened
  205. hard
  206. hatred
  207. headscarf
  208. heard
  209. hearing
  210. heart
  211. held
  212. helpful
  213. hide
  214. high
  215. historic
  216. hit
  217. holds
  218. home
  219. honest
  220. hope
  221. hopeful
  222. hugged
  223. human
  224. humanists
  225. hurts
  226. illegal
  227. immediately
  228. immigrant
  229. immigrants
  230. impacted
  231. imperfections
  232. importance
  233. impossible
  234. information
  235. ingrained
  236. instagram
  237. international
  238. intolerance
  239. job
  240. jobs
  241. journalism
  242. journalist
  243. jungle
  244. kids
  245. kind
  246. knee
  247. knew
  248. label
  249. labeled
  250. language
  251. languages
  252. large
  253. lasted
  254. laugh
  255. laughter
  256. law
  257. lawyer
  258. learn
  259. learned
  260. leave
  261. legs
  262. lgbtq
  263. life
  264. lifetime
  265. live
  266. lived
  267. locker
  268. looked
  269. lose
  270. lucky
  271. magic
  272. magically
  273. mainstream
  274. making
  275. mariana
  276. means
  277. meant
  278. met
  279. miami
  280. mickey
  281. middle
  282. millennial
  283. mind
  284. minnesota
  285. minority
  286. mistakes
  287. mold
  288. mom
  289. moment
  290. moments
  291. monologue
  292. months
  293. mouse
  294. move
  295. muslim
  296. named
  297. native
  298. navigate
  299. nbc
  300. needed
  301. network
  302. neurological
  303. news
  304. night
  305. north
  306. noticed
  307. notion
  308. november
  309. obama
  310. offer
  311. offered
  312. oftentimes
  313. open
  314. opened
  315. ordeal
  316. orlando
  317. packed
  318. painful
  319. painfully
  320. paper
  321. parents
  322. part
  323. participate
  324. path
  325. pay
  326. penalty
  327. people
  328. perfect
  329. person
  330. personal
  331. phone
  332. photo
  333. phrase
  334. physical
  335. piece
  336. pieces
  337. place
  338. places
  339. plan
  340. plane
  341. planet
  342. play
  343. poor
  344. popular
  345. positive
  346. potential
  347. practically
  348. practice
  349. preparing
  350. presidency
  351. president
  352. press
  353. problem
  354. problems
  355. prom
  356. protest
  357. proud
  358. put
  359. putting
  360. quirky
  361. race
  362. racial
  363. raised
  364. realize
  365. realized
  366. reason
  367. recite
  368. recognize
  369. recovered
  370. refugee
  371. reimagine
  372. remember
  373. repeating
  374. respect
  375. results
  376. return
  377. reward
  378. road
  379. rooftops
  380. room
  381. roommate
  382. rushed
  383. scholarship
  384. school
  385. sees
  386. selfishness
  387. send
  388. senior
  389. sensed
  390. sensibility
  391. session
  392. sexually
  393. shades
  394. shakira
  395. sharing
  396. sharp
  397. shoes
  398. shook
  399. shout
  400. show
  401. shut
  402. shyness
  403. side
  404. sign
  405. signed
  406. simply
  407. single
  408. sister
  409. sit
  410. sitting
  411. slightly
  412. smart
  413. snapchat
  414. sobbed
  415. society
  416. song
  417. sorts
  418. south
  419. space
  420. spanish
  421. speak
  422. speaks
  423. special
  424. spending
  425. spent
  426. split
  427. spontaneously
  428. spots
  429. stage
  430. stand
  431. started
  432. states
  433. station
  434. steering
  435. step
  436. sticker
  437. stood
  438. stopped
  439. stories
  440. story
  441. stressing
  442. strict
  443. stuck
  444. students
  445. studio
  446. study
  447. successful
  448. suck
  449. summer
  450. surgeries
  451. takes
  452. talent
  453. talents
  454. talk
  455. talked
  456. task
  457. taught
  458. teaches
  459. tears
  460. teenager
  461. television
  462. telling
  463. tells
  464. tensions
  465. terrifying
  466. terrorists
  467. thankfully
  468. theater
  469. thinking
  470. thought
  471. threatened
  472. ticket
  473. time
  474. today
  475. told
  476. toughest
  477. traits
  478. traumatic
  479. traveled
  480. trump
  481. tv
  482. unable
  483. understand
  484. understanding
  485. underwent
  486. undocumented
  487. unique
  488. united
  489. unworthy
  490. valued
  491. veils
  492. venezuela
  493. venezuelan
  494. view
  495. violin
  496. waiting
  497. walk
  498. walking
  499. walks
  500. wallingford
  501. wanted
  502. warrior
  503. watched
  504. watching
  505. wheel
  506. wheelchair
  507. white
  508. wider
  509. winning
  510. wit
  511. women
  512. wonderfully
  513. word
  514. words
  515. work
  516. world
  517. worst
  518. worthy
  519. write
  520. wrong
  521. wrote
  522. year
  523. years
  524. young