On April 25, the TED 2017 conference was all set to present speakers on the theme of “Health, Life, Love”, within the larger subject, “The Future You”.
The already publicised speaker line-up included athletes Serena Williams, surgeon and public health journalist Atul Gawande, and archaeologist Sarah Parcak. Not expected that day was Pope Francis.
The pontiff’s speech was kept a secret till the end – TED’s international curator Bruno Giussani had coordinated the arrangements for almost a year with the Vatican.
“How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” observed the Pope in his 18-minute speech, filmed in the Domus Sanctae Marthae in Vatican City, where he lives. It was subtitled in 20 different languages.
In his first international conference, the 80-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church used his personal experiences to comment on the current socio-economic situation.
“I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today’s ‘discarded’ people. And that’s why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: ‘Why them and not me?’”
Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 1936 in Argentina. His father was an Italian immigrant.
Upon election as the 266th Pope, he became vocal about global hot buttons like immigration and climate change during Brexit, the European refugee crisis, and the Trump administration’s “America First” policies.
“Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”
His speech echoed the same thoughts, along with his constant criticism of unbridled capitalism and consumerism. He spoke about overcoming the “culture of waste,” where some people are excluded from “techno-economic systems, which are now, without even realising it, putting products ahead of people.”
The Pope signed off advocating a revolution of a different kind: that of “tenderness”.
“The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies.”
Of course, the talk raised questions in the minds of many people, including US talk show host Stephen Colbert, who wondered what a TED Talk by Jesus of Nazareth might be like.