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TED2016

Dan Pallotta: The dream we haven't dared to dream

February 15, 2016

What are your dreams? Better yet, what are your broken dreams? Dan Pallotta dreams of a time when we are as excited, curious and scientific about the development of our humanity as we are about the development of our technology. "What we fear most is that we will be denied the opportunity to fulfill our true potential," Pallotta says. "Imagine living in a world where we simply recognize that deep, existential fear in one another -- and love one another boldly because we know that to be human is to live with that fear."

Dan Pallotta - Author, speaker, reformer
We dream boldly in the dimension of our doing, but set the bar no higher than stability in our emotional lives. It’s time to dream in multiple dimensions at the same time, says AIDSRide Founder Dan Pallotta. He aims to transform the way society thinks about giving, and being. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
When I think about dreams,
00:13
like many of you,
00:15
I think about this picture.
00:17
I was eight when I watched Neil Armstrong
00:20
step off the Lunar Module
onto the surface of the Moon.
00:24
I had never seen anything like it before,
00:29
and I've never seen
anything like it since.
00:32
We got to the Moon for one simple reason:
00:36
John Kennedy committed us to a deadline.
00:40
And in the absence of that deadline,
00:44
we would still be dreaming about it.
00:47
Leonard Bernstein said two things
are necessary for great achievement:
00:51
a plan and not quite enough time.
00:55
(Laughter)
00:59
Deadlines and commitments
01:03
are the great and fading
lessons of Apollo.
01:08
And they are what give the word
"moonshot" its meaning.
01:14
And our world is in desperate need
of political leaders
01:19
willing to set bold deadlines
01:24
for the achievement of daring dreams
on the scale of Apollo again.
01:27
When I think about dreams,
01:34
I think about the drag queens
of LA and Stonewall
01:35
and millions of other people
risking everything
01:39
to come out when that
was really dangerous,
01:42
and of this picture of the White House
lit up in rainbow colors,
01:45
yes --
01:49
(Applause) --
01:50
celebrating America's gay and lesbian
citizens' right to marry.
01:56
It is a picture that in my wildest dreams
I could never have imagined
01:59
when I was 18
02:04
and figuring out that I was gay
02:06
and feeling estranged from my country
02:09
and my dreams because of it.
02:13
I think about this picture of my family
02:17
that I never dreamed I could ever have --
02:21
(Applause) --
02:25
and of our children holding this headline
02:30
I never dreamed could ever be printed
about the Supreme Court ruling.
02:33
We need more of the courage
of drag queens and astronauts.
02:40
(Laughter)
02:46
(Applause)
02:48
But I want to talk
about the need for us to dream
02:51
in more than one dimension,
02:54
because there was something about Apollo
that I didn't know when I was 8,
02:56
and something about organizing
that the rainbow colors over.
03:02
Of the 30 astronauts in the original
Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs,
03:07
only seven marriages survived.
03:12
Those iconic images of the astronauts
bouncing on the Moon
03:17
obscure the alcoholism
and depression on Earth.
03:21
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk,
03:26
asked during the time of Apollo,
03:29
"What can we gain by sailing to the moon
03:31
if we are not able to cross the abyss
that separates us from ourselves?"
03:35
And what can we gain by the right to marry
03:43
if we are not able to cross the acrimony
03:46
and emotional distance
that so often separates us from our love?
03:49
And not just in marriage.
03:54
I have seen the most hurtful, destructive,
03:56
tragic infighting in LGBT and AIDS
04:04
and breast cancer and non-profit activism,
04:08
all in the name of love.
04:11
Thomas Merton also wrote
about wars among saints
04:14
and that "there is a pervasive form
of contemporary violence
04:19
to which the idealist
most easily succumbs:
04:25
activism and overwork.
04:29
The frenzy of our activism
neutralizes our work for peace.
04:33
It destroys our own
inner capacity for peace."
04:38
Too often our dreams become
these compartmentalized fixations
04:43
on some future
04:49
that destroy our ability to be present
for our lives right now.
04:51
Our dreams of a better life
for some future humanity
04:56
or some other humanity in another country
05:00
alienate us from the beautiful
human beings sitting next to us
05:02
at this very moment.
05:06
Well, that's just the price
of progress, we say.
05:10
You can go to the Moon
05:13
or you can have stability
in your family life.
05:14
And we can't conceive of dreaming
in both dimensions at the same time.
05:19
And we don't set the bar
much higher than stability
05:23
when it comes to our emotional life.
05:27
Which is why our technology
for talking to one another
05:30
has gone vertical,
05:33
our ability to listen
and understand one another
05:36
has gone nowhere.
05:39
Our access to information
is through the roof,
05:43
our access to joy, grounded.
05:47
But this idea, that our present
and our future are mutually exclusive,
05:53
that to fulfill our potential for doing
we have to surrender
05:59
our profound potential for being,
06:03
that the number of transistors
on a circuit can be doubled and doubled,
06:06
but our capacity for compassion
and humanity and serenity and love
06:10
is somehow limited
06:14
is a false and suffocating choice.
06:16
Now, I'm not suggesting
06:22
simply the uninspiring idea
of more work-life balance.
06:23
What good is it for me to spend
more time with my kids at home
06:31
if my mind is always somewhere else
while I'm doing it?
06:34
I'm not even talking about mindfulness.
06:38
Mindfulness is all of a sudden becoming
a tool for improving productivity.
06:40
(Laughter)
06:45
Right?
06:48
I'm talking about dreaming
06:49
as boldly in the dimension of our being
06:52
as we do about industry and technology.
06:57
I'm talking about
an audacious authenticity
06:59
that allows us to cry with one another,
07:04
a heroic humility that allows us
to remove our masks and be real.
07:08
It is our inability
to be with one another,
07:13
our fear of crying with one another,
that gives rise to so many
07:16
of the problems we are frantically
trying to solve in the first place,
07:20
from Congressional gridlock
to economic inhumanity.
07:23
(Applause)
07:27
I'm talking about what Jonas Salk
called an Epoch B,
07:31
a new epoch in which we become
as excited about and curious about
07:35
and scientific about
the development of our humanity
07:40
as we are about the development
of our technology.
07:44
We should not shrink from this opportunity
07:49
simply because
we don't really understand it.
07:51
There was a time
when we didn't understand space.
07:55
Or because we're more used
to technology and activism.
07:58
That is the very definition
of being stuck in a comfort zone.
08:01
We are now very comfortable imagining
unimaginable technological achievement.
08:05
In 2016, it is the dimension
of our being itself
08:11
that cries out for its fair share
of our imagination.
08:15
Now, we're all here to dream,
08:23
but maybe if we're honest about it,
08:25
each of us chasing our own dream.
08:27
You know, looking at the name tags
to see who can help me with my dream,
08:30
sometimes looking right through
one another's humanity.
08:34
I can't be bothered with you right now.
I have an idea for saving the world.
08:37
Right?
08:41
(Laughter)
08:42
Years ago, once upon a time,
I had this beautiful company
08:45
that created these long journeys
for heroic civic engagement.
08:50
And we had this mantra:
08:54
"Human. Kind. Be Both."
08:56
And we encouraged people to experiment
outrageously with kindness.
09:00
Like, "Go help everybody
set up their tents."
09:07
And there were a lot of tents.
09:11
(Laughter)
09:13
"Go buy everybody Popsicles."
09:15
"Go help people fix their flat tires
09:17
even though you know
the dinner line is going to get longer."
09:19
And people really took us up on this,
09:22
so much so that if you got
a flat tire on the AIDS ride,
09:24
you had trouble fixing it, because there
were so many people there asking you
09:27
if you needed help.
09:31
For a few days,
for tens of thousands of people,
09:33
we created these worlds
09:37
that everybody said were the way
they wish the world could always be.
09:39
What if we experimented
with creating that kind of world
09:46
these next few days?
09:50
And instead of going up to someone
and asking them, "What do you do?"
09:53
ask them, "So what are your dreams?"
09:59
or "What are your broken dreams?"
10:02
You know, "TED."
Tend to Each other's Dreams.
10:05
(Applause)
10:10
Maybe it's "I want to stay sober"
10:15
or "I want to build
a tree house with my kid."
10:18
You know, instead of going up
to the person everybody wants to meet,
10:21
go up to the person who is all alone
10:24
and ask them if they want
to grab a cup of coffee.
10:26
I think what we fear most
10:30
is that we will be denied the opportunity
to fulfill our true potential,
10:32
that we are born to dream
10:37
and we might die
without ever having the chance.
10:39
Imagine living in a world
10:45
where we simply recognize
that deep, existential fear in one another
10:47
and love one another boldly
because we know
10:53
that to be human
is to live with that fear.
10:56
It's time for us to dream
in multiple dimensions simultaneously,
11:01
and somewhere that transcends
all of the wondrous things
11:08
we can and will and must do
11:12
lies the domain of all
the unbelievable things we could be.
11:16
It's time we set foot into that dimension
11:23
and came out about the fact
that we have dreams there, too.
11:27
If the Moon could dream,
11:33
I think that would be its dream for us.
11:37
It's an honor to be with you.
11:43
Thank you very much.
11:45
(Applause)
11:46

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Dan Pallotta - Author, speaker, reformer
We dream boldly in the dimension of our doing, but set the bar no higher than stability in our emotional lives. It’s time to dream in multiple dimensions at the same time, says AIDSRide Founder Dan Pallotta. He aims to transform the way society thinks about giving, and being.

Why you should listen

"The nonprofit sector is critical to our dream of changing the world. Yet there is no greater injustice than the double standard that exists between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. One gets to feast on marketing, risk-taking, capital and financial incentive, the other is sentenced to begging,” Dan Pallotta says in discussing his book Charity Case. This economic starvation of our nonprofits is why he believes we are not moving the needle on great social problems. “My goal … is to fundamentally transform the way the public thinks about charity within 10 years.”

Pallotta is best known for creating the multi-day charitable event industry, and a new generation of philanthropists with the AIDS Rides and Breast Cancer 3-Day events, which raised $582 million in nine years. He is president of Advertising for Humanity, which helps foundations and philanthropists transform the growth potential of their favorite grantees. He is also the founder and President of the Charity Defense Council .

The original video is available on TED.com
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