A Constructive Procrastination: the Festival of Ideas | By Dongwoo Kim

Well, I have done zero work for school and now have a few hundred pages of reading to catch up and an entire paper to be worked on before the end of this week. But it was a good procrastination. I spent most of my weekend attending the Festival of Ideas, a series of talks in which inspiring people from all over the world and disciplines come to Edmonton, Camrose and Calgary to share their stories. I attended three talks throughout the weekend, which somehow took most of my Saturday and Sunday.

I started off with the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2011, Professor Thomas Sargent‘s talk on political economy. It was an interesting and informative talk, but I won’t say much, as fellow Wanderer Emerson will have a piece about it on Tuesday.

The highlight of the Festival of Ideas for me was the talk with Jian Ghomeshi on Sunday afternoon. He opened up big by addressing the crowd as “Calgary,” and throwing out “Death to America” jokes. He based his talk on his memoir-esque book (he was hesitant in referring to it as a memoir), 1982, sharing his stories as an “ethnic” teenager who wanted to “fit in” in the suburbs during the 1980s. However, the most interesting thing that he shared was his thoughts on his identity as a Canadian. He said that he has not left Canada (and isn’t intending to do so) because he feels that Canada is a place that could serve as a role model for a quickly diversifying world, and that he can contribute to the new “story” that Canada has been writing.

Honest confession here: I have never listened to Q with Jian before and didn’t even know how to spell his name (thought it was Gian Gomesh). But I was so intrigued by his stories that were both told and untold, as well as his insight on multiculturalism and identity, that I stood in the line for more than 2 hours to get my copy of 1982 signed by the man himself. Although I’m a tad bitter about him giving me a porn star name (DONGWOOD), the talk was amazing and really thought-provoking and I became a fan of Jian.

After grabbing a quick dinner with my friend on Jasper Avenue, we rushed back to the Winspear Centre to catch the last talk of the Festival of Ideas with Tawakkol Karman and Leymah Gbowee, two female human rights activists from Yemen and Liberia, compered by a middle east conflict resolution specialist. Both Tawakkol and Leymah received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Both of them were extremely charismatic and intelligent speakers and I felt privileged for having been there to hear their stories and thoughts on activism and reconstruction of war-torn countries.

All in all, I feel as if it was a weekend well-spent – although I haven’t done much for school. See, we students, get caught in this cycle of exams and papers, and let slip opportunities like the Festival of Ideas. Nobel Prize winners and authors of best-selling books aren’t always available nearby to have a conversation with us. Sometimes, we should just make some time and go out to these talks; it’s totally worth procrastinating a bit on papers (at least for now).

Dongwoo Kim (@dongwookim_) is studying political science and history at the University of Alberta. He enjoys breakfasts, americanos, and stimulating conversations. He just started reading Jian Ghomeshi’s 1982.

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