What makes you special?

NBC News journalist Mariana Atencio is the speaker of this talk. Mariana Atencio is a Peabody Award-winning journalist, currently a national correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC.

In her TEDx talk, Mariana tells us how the people she’s met along the way and her own immigrant experience have taught her that the only thing we all have in common is being human.

She opened the talk by letting the audience know about her profession where she talks to the people all walks of life. She continued the talk by telling her childhood days in Caracas, Venezuela in South America. She said that was the place filled with magic and wonder. From a very young age, her parents wanted her to have a wider view of the world. She remembered the time when she was around seven years of age, her father came to her and said Mariana, “I am going to send you and your little sister to a place where nobody speaks Spanish”. Her father wanted them to experience different cultures and he continued saying the benefits of spending an entire summer in the summer camp in the United States. she said in her seven-year-old mind she was thinking, they were going to summer camp in Miami or maybe a little further north, to Orlando, where Micky Mouse lived. Her dad had a slightly different plan. From Caracus, he sent them to Brainerd, Minnesota. They got there and she noticed the first thing there was other kid's hair was several shades of blonde, and most of them have blue eyes. She said the first night in camp, the camp director gathered everyone around the campfire and said, Kids, we have a very international camp this year, the Atencios are here from Venezuela”. The other kids look at them as if they were from a different planet. She said they would ask them the things like Do you know what a hamburger is? or Do you go to school on Donkey or a Canoe? She tried to answer them in her broken English, and they would just laugh in response. She said they were not mean but trying to understand who they were and make a correlation with the world they knew. She said that they certainly don't look like them and they didn't speak their language, they were different. She said for seven years old these kinds of discrimination hurts but her little sister cried every day at summer camp so she decided to put on a brave face and embrace everything she could about the American way of life. They went summer camp for eight years in different cities that many Americans haven't even heard of. She said what she remembered most about these moments was making a friend was a special reward. Everybody wants to feel valued and accepted and we think it should happen spontaneously but it doesn’t. When you different you have to work at belonging. You have to be either helpful, smart, funny, anything to be cool for the crowd you want to hang out with.

She now explained about her high school, her dad expanded on his summer camps, and from Caracus he sent her to Wallingford, Connecticut. This time she remembers daydreaming on the plane about the American high school experience. she got there and they told her assigned roommate is eagerly waiting. She opened the door and there she was sitting on the bed with a headscarf. Her name was Fatima and she was Muslim from Bahrain, and she was not what she expected and she probably sensed her disappointment when she looked at her because she didn't do too much to hide it. She said as a teenager she wanted to fit in more and wanted to become popular, or maybe have a boyfriend but Fatima got in with her with shyness and strict dress code. She said she didn't realize that she was making her feel like the kids at summer camp made her feel. She was consumed by her own selfishness and unable to put herself in her shoes and they lasted for the only a couple of months together because she was later sent to live with a counselor instead of other students. She then thought to herself that she will be okay and defined that she is just different. She said that when we define or label someone as different, it dehumanizes them in a different way. They become “the other.” They are not worthy of our time, not our problem. In fact, they “the other” are the probably cause of our problems. She said how do we recognize our blind spots?

It begins by understanding what makes you different, by embracing those traits only then can you begin to appreciate what makes others special. she remembered when this hit her consciousness it was just a couple of months after that made a group of friends, got boyfriend, parties and slowly forgotten about Fatima until everybody signed on to this participate in a talent show for charity. You needed to offer talent for auction and everybody had something special to offer. some kids planning to play the violin, others going to recite a theater monologue, and she then remembered thinking “ We don't practice talents like this back home.” but she was determined to find something of value. The day of the talent show and she performed dance by famous artist Shakira and she said she wanted to auction a dance class and then the whole school raised their hands to bid and she felt really special not different.

This was the time where she started thinking about Fatima, a person that she had failed to see as special when she first met her. She was from the Middle East just like Shakira’s family. She could probably teach her about belly dancing but unfortunately, she ignored her. Here, she referred the audience to make a note about how do they feel about themselves? Whatever the answer may be she said you need to embrace it. When she went back home to Venezuela, she began to understand how these experiences were changing her. She then finally understand the importance of putting her in other people’s shoes and that is the big reason why she wanted to become a journalist especially being from a part of the world that is often labeled as “the backyard”, “the others” she wanted to do something to change that. During then Venezuela government shutdown television stations in their country. she recollected how her dad came up to her and said how are you going to be a journalist here? You have to leave. That's when she packed her bags and reached the United States without a return ticket this time. She said she can remember that pain at the age of 24 years she was undergoing as a refugee and immigrant and the other. She was able to come on a scholarship to study Journalism and she remembers her first assignment to cover the historic election of #Barack Obama. She felt so lucky and so hopeful and she thought she has come to post-racial America. She thought where the notion of immigrants and them is being eroded and will probably be eradicated in her lifetime. She then rhetorically asked Why didn't Barak Obama’s presidency alleviate racial tensions in their country? Why do some people still feel threatened by immigrants, LGBT, and minority groups whoa re just trying to find some space in the United State of America? She said she was not having answers for all of those questions back then but on Nov 8th, 2016 when Donald Trump becomes the president, it became clear that a large part of the electorate sees them as “the others.” She said being different is just meant thinking differently. It takes courage to show respect. In the words of Voltaire “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.” Failing to see anything other side makes the dialogue impossible without a dialogue we will keep repeating the same mistakes because we will not learn anything new. She covered 2016 elections for NBC News, It was her first assignment in the mainstream network where she crossed over from Spanish television and she wanted to do something different and she watched elections results with undocumented families. When Trump becomes the president, 8 years old girl named Angelina rushed up to her in tears and she asked her if her mom going to be deported from her now. She comforts her but she was not sure about that. She recollected her memories of her childhood of the same age as Angelina in Brainerd. She already knows she is “the other.” So, how do we put ourselves in Angelina's shoes? How do we make her understand she is special, and not simply unworthy of having her family together? She tried to make people see them as human beings, not simply illegal aliens.

She ended the talk by explaining the people that we all come into this world in a body. physical and neurological problems, immigrants, boys, girls, black, white, Asian, Native American, you and me we all want what everyone wants: to dream and to achieve but sometimes society tells us and we tell ourselves we don't fit the mold. She has taken her life as an example of being born in different, to belly dancing in high school, to telling stories you would not normally see on TV, She said whats make her different is what has made

her stand and successful. She has learned from, all over the world is The single thing every one of them and us has in common is being human. So she said to take a stand to define you #race, the #human race. she said let's be humanists before and after everything else.

#Race #Being Human #unique #different #wonderful human.




Bharathi is a self driven and purpose-oriented person.The main mission is to create profound change in her career. contact her on bharathi.batthula6@gmail.com

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Bharathi Batthula

Bharathi Batthula

Bharathi is a self driven and purpose-oriented person.The main mission is to create profound change in her career. contact her on bharathi.batthula6@gmail.com

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