This is my most favorite presentation and can be adapted and delivered to a variety of audiences - schools (K-12, public, private), colleges, businesses, non-profits, government agencies. Opening activity - The Circle If the group is small and there is an open space, I will actually have people get into a circle. Whether or not we can physically create a circle, I always begin this activity by having participants describe the characteristics of a circle (as compared to a square, a triangle, a rectangle) - no end, continuous, inclusive, no corners, equa-distant from the center, “we can see one another”. I then have a conversation with the audience about the importance of connection, about the reality that we spend a great deal of time focused on computer screens and social media, where we can learn ABOUT people but not get to know them. KNOWING a person can only happen when we learn one another’s stories, face-to-face. I talk about the fact that we have seen circles as something we only do with little people, not with older children or with adults. However, if we look at cultures across the globe, circles are very culturally-appropriate. We have lost touch with authentic connection. We need to spend more time face-to-face. I give the “rules” for the activity - “I will read about 20 statements out loud. Raise your hand each time you hear a statement that is true for you. Do your best to not make any noise during this activity.” I read the statements (which I’ve included in the file above), and people raise their hands. I encourage them to not focus their attention on me but on those around them. Pay attention to others. After reading the last statement, I ask what people have noticed. Inevitably, wherever I am, people respond, “We have a lot in common.” Then I ask, “If I were to do this same activity in South Chicago or East LA or translated in Spanish with migrant laborers, how many of you believe the answers would be significantly different?” Everyone always believes the answers would be significantly different elsewhere, but the truth is I have done this activity with over 50,000 people now, and the answers are always about 80-90% the same, no matter where I am, no matter with whom. I always start with this activity when I have time, because I want to help people focus on their common ground, not their differences, the reality that we all experience struggle, and we all experience success (at some level). We all experience sickness and sorrow. We all have the potential for greatness. I then launch into my personal story. You can see a version of it in my TEDx called “Passion for Change”. The 3 key points are: 1. It’s not about where you start but where you finish. 2. Every choice you make matters. Mistakes will happen, but they don’t have to paralyze you. 3. Greatness is not about riches and fame but about becoming the best version of yourself and then investing that in others. Depending upon the size of the group, I will end either with Q&A (my story is pretty unique - orphaned at birth by a White mother who had a baby with a Black man, adopted by a White couple from Northern Minnesota, raised at the American School of The Hague where my parents taught and I traveled and became quadralingual, graduate of Bryn Mawr College, a lifetime educator and athlete - 2 tryouts for the WNBA and local, state, national recognition as an educator, first Black woman to run for statewide office, a race I lost in 2016 by less than 1%) AND/OR, if there are smaller numbers and space, I will do an activity called “Break It Up”. For this activity I call out a category and ask people to find everyone else who you believe belong in the same group: -same shirt color -same shoe type -same eye color -same hair color Debrief: How many times were there more than one of the same group created? Why? The point: sometimes we don’t communicate or we move too quickly and don’t take the time to see if there are others around us who are “the same”. Were there any occasions when you could have chosen to join more than one group? There are always people who say YES. The point of this activity: to help us recognize the importance of clear communication and how much we actually have in common. I always end by explaining that NONE of us ever fit neatly into any one box, that we shouldn’t limit ourselves or others to “neat” categories. Each one of us is too beautiful and too unique to be confined.