2024 has been described as a make-or-break year for democracies worldwide.

Nearly half the world’s population will choose their leaders in elections this year. But, as a new report highlights, the traditional bedrocks of democracy — including free and fair elections, the commitment to universal human rights, and formal checks and balances on power — are weakening across the globe. 

The TED Democracy Initiative began this important conversation last November. Now, TED is supporting seven TEDx events around the world — including right here in Jacksonville — to inspire locally-adapted conversations and advance civic solutions within our own communities. 

We don’t need to tell you that Florida is a battleground state. Competing interests and agendas are engaged in near-constant legislative and cultural combat. It feels like we’re at an inflection point. Indeed, a majority of Americans across political parties share a common fear: that our liberal democracy is being undermined, institutional guardrails are eroding, and authoritarianism is on the rise.

It’s not enough just to see the problem. We have to do something about it — and that starts with rejecting feelings of hopelessness about our divisions. TEDxJacksonville believes that dialogue about democracy is a positive, patriotic, and cross-party endeavor.

Our goal is to create forward-looking programming that catalyzes important conversations in our community around civic education and engagement. We believe the way to safeguard our rights and ensure our systems are more representative is to listen to a diversity of voices, and build unlikely allies in the fight against illiberalism. We know that working together is the best way to build a better future for everyone. 

Our 2024 TEDx Democracy programming will be multi-pronged. It includes a special Salon, collaboration with local artists, the creation of a democracy ‘Zine and digital toolkit, and a dedicated session of democracy-centered talks at our annual conference this Fall.

TEDxJacksonville Democracy Salon

May 30th, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

This special Salon will take place Thursday, May 30th, at The Jessie Ball duPont Center downtown. We’ll be screening four original talks filmed specifically for this event. We’ll hear from citizens whose unique perspectives — journalist, artist, activist, and technologist — inform their ideas about how we can build a more collaborative, responsive, and expansive democracy. We’ll also engage in dynamic breakout sessions with skilled facilitators to discuss these ideas with our audience.

Attendance will be limited to 140 people. Tickets will go on sale May 1st.

Will Brown

Idea: What Little League can teach us about strengthening democracy

Will Brown is a native Floridian whose curiosity about politics and policy started as a 7-year-old observer of the 1992 presidential election. He is a journalist and photographer who has worked for publications in Florida and Texas. He has earned awards for breaking news and social media. In 2020, he contributed photographs for WFSU News/Health News Florida’s national Murrow Award-winning series “Committed: How and Why Children Became the Fastest Growing Group Under Florida’s Baker Act.” He has earned journalism degrees from Florida A&M and the University of South Florida.

Hope McMath

Hope McMath

Idea: Art animates democracy by amplifying stories, building empathy, countering erasure, organizing action, and speaking truth.

Hope McMath is a cultural leader, educator, artist, curator, and activist whose knowledge of, and passion for, the arts is matched by a strong commitment to effecting positive change. She’s founder of Yellow House, an organization that sits at the intersection of art, social justice, and community care. Hope is a facilitator and curator with Humanities in Medicine at Mayo Clinic and maintains an active studio art practice. Her work, including her long career at the Cummer Museum, has been recognized nationally by organizations including the Kennedy Center, American Art Museum Association, and Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville.


Desmond Meade

Idea: If we as a people allow our shared humanity — rather than our differences — to guide our engagement in democracy, democracy will thrive.

Desmond Meade is a formerly homeless returning citizen who overcame many obstacles to eventually become the President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), Chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy, a graduate of Florida International University College of Law, and a winner of the MacArthur Genius Award. As President and Executive Director of FRRC, which is recognized for its work on voting and criminal justice reform issues, Desmond led the FRRC to a historic victory in 2018 with the successful passage of Amendment 4, a grassroots citizen’s initiative that restored voting rights to over 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions. Amendment 4 represented the single largest expansion of voting rights in the United States in half a century.

Ramon Perez

Idea: Our government gets bad outcomes because we have a bad process, not because we’re bad people. Modern, inclusive evolution and reinvention can help American democracy survive its structural deficiencies.

An AI technology executive and military veteran, Ramon Perez founded Digital Democracy Project to address systemic problems in our electoral system that result in hyper-partisanship and widespread voter alienation. He believes that, to achieve better outcomes, we must use technology to give greater control directly to voters.