Attorney John Beckmann gives his talk Saturday morning titled “Law’s Empire” during the TEDx conference at The Hormel Institute. Eric Johnson/
Attorney John Beckmann gives his talk Saturday morning titled “Law’s Empire” during the TEDx conference at The Hormel Institute. Eric Johnson/

Archived Story

Volunteers bring ‘brain food’ to Austin

Published 2:13pm Monday, March 3, 2014

On Saturday, Austin attorney John Beckmann told a story in a Hormel Institute conference room of a Minnesota Vikings season ticket holder that once asked Beckmann to help sue the team for losing an important game, wanting to allege negligence in the performance of football duties and breaches of contracts with fans. The team had failed to live up to the coach’s promise of making it to the Super Bowl.

The season ticket holder wasn’t joking.

Beckmann told this story at Austin’s first TEDx talk as an example of how legal remedies are now often a first resort, not a last ditch effort.

“Law and legal remedies are now perceived as a kind of universal panacea — a universal antidote for all social ills,” Beckmann said.

Beckmann’s talk was just one example of the “brain food” shared at the TEDx event meant to inspire ideas and spur conversation in the community.

Austin Public Library Executive Director Ann Hokanson and Penny Kinney organized TEDx talks at The Institute from 8 a.m. to about 1 p.m. Saturday. The series is based on TED talks, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The nonprofit brings several speakers together to talk about a variety of subjects and is devoted to the motto of “ideas worth spreading.” The TEDx series is organized independently by local leaders like Hokanson and Kinney.

“You see so many unique ideas come forth,” Kinney said.

The talks offer people a chance to share ideas and experiences.

Hy-Vee dietitian Jen Haugen talked about how moms can change the world through gardening and cooking, instilling healthy values for children.

“All of the talks have some sort of message that you can take away,” Hokanson said.

For the most part, the speakers are normal everyday people willing to share their idea with the world, Kinney noted.

“They all are great,” Kinney said.

Kinney described herself as a TED series junkie of many years, and she gets an email with a talk a day. She discussed the idea with Vision 2020’s community pride committee, but she and the group didn’t think it was right at the time.

Then, Hokanson got the license, and a group started meeting in November to plan the event.

“It’s just really awesome to host an event like this,” Kinney said.

All of the talks have been curated and brought together to create an experience. The talks were recorded by KSMQ and will be uploaded to the TEDx to the Youtube channel.

Hokanson described the experience as a fun event for all the organizers and speakers, and she said she hopes they’ll do it again.

“It’d be great if we can cycle in new ideas and new volunteers,” she said.

TEDx, as opposed to the official TED talks, are locally organized in the style of a TED event. The talks must meet a certain criteria for the license to be renewed and for the talks to be posted online.

The presentations are available by going to to find presentations online.

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