TEDxStLouis Rewind: Can You Make a Difference?

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  • Published on November 30, 2021
  • Last Updated December 2, 2021
  • In News

“How can you make a difference? First look into what breaks your heart and what makes you come alive,” says Dan Parris, Dan Parris, a St.Louis based award-winning filmmaker and founder of Speak Up Productions.

If learning disabilities, homelessness, young people without a purpose or poor education breaks your heart, and if storytelling/film making, journalism, administration, tutoring is what you are good at, it should be used to make a difference, he suggests.

Check out the full video on TedXStLouis.


Dan Parris, a documentary filmmaker, shares how anyone can make a difference in this talk from the TEDxStLouis archive.

As the founder of a documentary production company at St. Louis, Speak Up Productions, Dan helps connect people. He creates documentaries and films about extreme poverty, human trafficking, and is the award-winning filmmaker of the documentary Show Me Democracy.

He starts with the humble question, “Can you make a difference?” and answers, “Absolutely!” The question starts with answering your own question of ‘can’ you make a difference – and then giving your time, talent and treasures.

Time, Talent & Treasure

When you have time, you can either watch Netflix or surf around Facebook for a couple of hours, or you can devote the time to teach a 19 year old to drive and open a bank account. This would make a difference in his life, and a domino effect on his family and a ripple effect on the city. 

He brings out to understand talent through his video production company. Dan has the choice of making a jingle for an organization to make some money or to make a video for non-profit pro bono to show tens and thousands of people their impact and inspire them. 

Tresure is what you value – and according to Parris, it can be your car, home and money. Again, spend $30 and go for a dinner with beer and wine, or spend the money to help people access clean water. He shares the statistics around people and accessibility to clean water in the world. 

Where Do I Start?

Ponder what breaks your heart – it can be poverty, crime or as simple as the daily commute traffic. If you are sitting at a TEDx, you want to make a difference, but what most struggle with is – ‘I ca make a difference, I want to make a different but where do I start’.

Dan moves on to say if you can find out what makes you come alive, what you love doing, what is a gift or a talent that you developed or born with – that you can offer to the world – that’s where you start. 

Parris draws a famous quote by Howard Thurman ‘Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, then go and do that’. Dan Parris loves what he does, he doesn’t feel like a job, it doesn’t make him feel like a career but a purpose. 

Stages of Grief

In the life of a changemaker, Dan says the five stages of grief can keep you away from making a difference. And he, has experienced all five stages – denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. Further, he states that these are the same emotions and activist goes through in grief to change the world.

Dan Parris ends the talks at TEDxStLouis by advocating Ask Yourself 2 Questions: what breaks your heart? And what makes you come alive?

That is all you need to start making a difference. 

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