Students Speak about Big Ideas, Issues, and Interests

Hannah K Rasmussen

Peter G. Machtiger ‘14 discusses the potential benefits of employing veterans in relief efforts after natural disasters.

Students gathered for Harvard Speaks’s first event of the semester on Tuesday night, where undergraduates delivered presentations on topics ranging from disaster in Madagascar to a time management iPhone app. Harvard Speaks—a speaker series that hosts undergraduate students to speak to each other about their passions—was founded last semester.

“Every student here is so incredible with a wonderful story to tell,” co-founder Eliza L. Malkin ’13 said. “This is a chance for Harvard students to get an opportunity to be heard, to grow as a community, and get a sense of their fellow students’ passions.”

In addition to giving students a platform to speak about issues, Harvard Speaks was also created to spread awareness of charity organizations. Every student speaker chooses a charity to support, and ties their speech into the charity’s mission. The group hopes to have an event each month this semester.

Danamona H. Andrianarimanana ’13, the first speaker, talked about her home country of Madagascar. After recent political strife left the formerly flourishing nation in crisis, Andrianarimanana got involved with organizations to help rebuild and rejuvenate her home country.

“It is easy to destroy. Rebuilding is harder, whether you’re rebuilding a project, a dream, or a country,” Andrianarimanana said. “No matter what happens, I will never stop trying,” she added.

After Andrianarimanana, speaker Jalem D. Towler ’15 addressed the issue of self-love in a spoken word performance.

“We’re all struggling with something. A lot of that for me was love,” Towler said. “Love lifted me, and it can lift everyone else in this room.”

Another speaker, Peter G. Machtiger ’14, gave a presentation on Team Rubicon—a veteran service organization that uses disaster response to help reintegrate veterans into society. According to Machtiger, inadequate disaster response and inadequate veteran reintegration are two problems that can solve each other.

Former speaker and event attendee Kristina Saffran ’14 said Harvard Speaks brings valuable perspective to participants.

“It’s a really great way of getting to know your fellow students and being reminded of how impressive your peers are,” Saffran said.

The event ended with group leaders thanking all attendees and encouraging people to apply to be speakers.

Every speech that is given is videotaped and uploaded to the Harvard Speaks YouTube channel for others to enjoy. Students can apply to speak themselves or fill out an application for a fellow student they would like to hear speak.

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