Harvard Thinks Big

The Harvard Crimson just ran a great article and video on Harvard Thinks Big. Here’s the video:

Here’s the original pitch video (apologies for sounding so lame):

Here’s one of the hit speeches from the night — David Malan’s:

Spencer Lenfield wrote a great roundup for Harvard Magazine:

Davis was thrilled with the result. “One of the goals was for people to go there and be reminded, even though we grind away at our homework, in the end, what’s our goal? It’s the whole idea of Veritas, truth… It’s to take big ideas and mix them together, to share them and make them accessible to people, to make them meaningful.” The crowd that night clearly left with a sense of intellectual enthusiasm beyond that of a normal day of classes. Cynically, one might ask whether such energy is merely ephemeral, spurred on by the dynamism of a one-night event. But it is encouraging that, even before the lecture began, Sanders was packed full merely at the prospect of a night dedicated to the sharing of ideas.

And here’s part of an essay I wrote for the Harvard Gazette on the event:

The real innovation of “Harvard Thinks Big” (and the West Coast “TEDTalks” that inspired it), though, is not that it made knowledge bite-size. It was that it made professors take their years of work and boil it down to its core, to find the driving force behind their passion for exploration, to find and share the answer to the lingering question: “Professor, what’s the takeaway? What’s the big idea?”

And what they shared was not “truth for dummies” or “truth, glamorized” or “truth, action-packed.” What they shared was an idea, a tremendously important form of veritas that has been lost to many in academia. Ideas are infused with passion. Ideas are often subjective and often have (gasp!) a spiritual element. Ideas are organized and poetic. Ideas are relevant. They take data and make it matter to people. All ideas, as English Professor Matthew Kaiser said that night, “start as emotion.”

(Cambridge, MA - February 11, 2010) Ten Harvard Professors talk for ten minutes about what they are passionate about during Harvard Thinks Big at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University. Staff Photo Kristyn Ulanday/Harvard University

(Cambridge, MA – February 11, 2010) Ten Harvard Professors talk for ten minutes about what they are passionate about during Harvard Thinks Big at Sanders Theatre at Harvard University. Crimson Staff Photo Kristyn Ulanday/Harvard University

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