On Wednesday, Nov. 30, University of Maryland students, faculty and alumni gathered in the Riggs Alumni Center to listen to six Terps give impassioned TED Talks-style speeches.
Although the topics ranged from mental illness to the Black Lives Matter movement to marital infidelity, all of the “Terp Talks” had an underlying theme: the importance of fearlessness. This theme was meant to play off of one of Maryland’s most recognizable slogans; most UMD students are familiar with the “be fearless” mantra that covers banners, posters and even buses all across campus.
All six of the student speakers were given the same challenge — to prepare a seven to 10 minute speech that answered the question, “What does it mean to be fearless?”
The students took that question and ran with it, preparing speeches that were all very different despite their common goal.
The room was strikingly decorated with lights, streamers and balloons. As 7 p.m. grew nearer, the chairs filled up so much that ushers had to turn people away.
Irene Solaiman, a senior international relations major, was the first to speak. She told the audience about her experiences with sexual assault and how she learned the importance of being fearless in overcoming trauma.
“My identity is not one of a sexual assault victim or survivor,” she said. “You are not what happens to you, you are what you choose to be.”
Some of the audience members attended the event because it was offered as extra credit for communications classes. Others, like junior government and politics major Lilia Damalouji, were there to watch their friends and classmates speak.
“One of my best friends, Justin, is speaking tonight,” Damalouji said. “I wanted to be here to support him … I hope he gives a great speech.”
Justin Silverberg spoke about the stigma surrounding mental illness. He was very open with the audience about his own experiences with anxiety and depression, and his confessions were met with applause.
After all six Terps presented their speeches, the audience heard from the event’s keynote speaker, former NBA and Maryland basketball legend, Walt Williams.
Williams expressed his amazement at the poise and talent of the student speakers that had preceded him.
“I was so impressed,” he told Stories Beneath the Shell. “They were absolutely awesome.”
Williams spoke about the importance of hard work and confidence in order to achieve success, citing his experiences with professional basketball.
“I hope [the students] take away that it’s within you,” he said. “You control your destiny — it’s about your belief in yourself. Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Most speakers and attendees agreed that the TerpTalks event was a success. Karen Lamb, a communications professor who helped coach three of the speakers, described the experience as “fantastic.”
“I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to work with them … They’re pros,” Lamb said. “It was phenomenal.”