Carolyn Gentry (right) speaks to TEDxJacksonville speakers Nancy Soderberg, former Ambassador to the United Nations and member of the Clinton Administration's National Security Council, and Donna Orender, former president of the WNBA, PGA Tour executive, and the founder of Generation W.

Meet Carolyn Gentry, TEDxJacksonville's Repeat Attender

From the regenerative sciences to intelligent transportation systems, TEDxJacksonville has featured talks from more than 90 speakers since it first launched in 2012.

“The conference opens the mind and refreshes the soul,” says Carolyn Gentry, who’s attended the annual event every year since its inception. “It makes you more aware, and awareness creates a better Jacksonville.”

The retired public affairs director for The Florida-Times Union and Jacksonville native says Al Letson’s talk “How I Learned to Fly” is by far her favorite talk.

“It was unbelievable to hear him share his personal journey to overcome dyslexia by reading comic books. He found his voice through the art of poetry, and that really spoke to me,” Carolyn says. “I left feeling very inspired.”

That feeling is what’s kept Carolyn coming back to TEDxJacksonville year after year.

“It was never ‘should I or shouldn’t I.’ It was like “I have to go. This is a marvelously innovative event.”

Another talk she finds very memorable is attorney Hank Coxe’s “When Will Your Child Be Eligible for Parole?” The talk from the 2013 conference delved into Florida’s disproportionately high juvenile incarceration rate.

“He explained the development of the teenage brain in reference to a child who at age 12 was the youngest person in Jacksonville charged with first-degree murder as an adult,” Carolyn says. “That was probably one of the best talks I’ve heard, and one that lingers each time I hear about young people going to jail.” 

Gentry displays her collection of TEDxJacksonville programs after the 2018 conference.

For Carolyn, the conference not only serves as a forum for new ideas, it also helps her stay abreast of compelling social currents.

“TEDxJacksonville has successfully distilled those ideas by selecting speakers whose topics encouraged further reading, discussion and thought,” Carolyn says.

She also notes the ripple effect the event has had on the larger community.

“The conference instills in us a real source of pride. It’s fodder for the causes that you care about. It activates people,” Carolyn says. ”Knowledge is power, and some of the talks about the quality of education and learning have moved the conversation forward on public schools.”

In addition to the insightful speakers, Carolyn has enjoyed the live musical performances and the opportunity to socialize with friends.

She’s very excited about this year’s “Embrace” conference being held from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 23 at the Times-Union Center’s Terry Theater. Tickets for virtual and in-person attendance are available.

“I’m really looking forward to the talk about mental health in the workplace and hearing the senior class president of Robert E. Lee Senior High School talk about the school’s recent name change to Riverside High,” Carolyn says. “Each event is always new and exciting, and perhaps this year more than ever we want something new.”

~ by Natalie Halpern