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Wofford president to address conference

Article published Mar 8, 2007

SEAN P. FLYNN, Staff Writer

Dr. Benjamin Dunlap_03What do Bill Clinton, Paul Simon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wofford president Benjamin Dunlap have in common?

All four are among the 50 speakers at the prestigious TED conference this weekend in Monterrey, Calif.

Dunlap will speak in front of an invitation-only crowd of the world's intellectual elite -- businessmen, artists, politicians and the like, who have paid $4,400 to attend the week of seminars.

"It's really like a science-fiction premise," Dunlap said.

" 'I'm going to get yo•the most powerful, wealthy, influential audience yo•will ever speak to in your entire lifetime.' Then they give yo•18 minutes."

Those 18 minutes will be the time Dunlap has to speak on Saturday morning. He may not use a script or any notes, and the speech length rule is strictly upheld.

Dunlap is believed to be the first college president to speak at the conference, which is now in its 24th year. The session he will speak at is called "Imagined Futures," reserved for

visionaries.

"This crowd does not regard college presidents as a likely source of highly creative ideas," Dunlap said. "What they're looking for is originality as well as passion. What they're looking for is people who have creative ideas. They're not looking for bureaucrats, administrators, people who uphold conventional truths. They want something more challenging and more provocative."

Citing superstition, Dunlap declined to say what he will talk about, except to say it would probably come from his successful career as a poet, author, speaker and television producer. The general rule is that the presenter must talk about something he or she is passionate about.

This year's speakers include Clinton, Simon and Abdul-Jabbar, as well as singer Tracy Chapman and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.

Dunlap said that the connections he has made in more than 20 years as a moderator for the Aspen Institute in Colorado probably drew the TED organizers to him.

"I think they may have just wanted somebody with a Southern accent," Dunlap said.

According to the TED Web site (www.ted.com), yo•must fit these criteria to get the opportunity to buy one of the 1,000 tickets ($4,400 each) to this year's conference:

yo•are curious, open-minded, playful, smart, creative

yo•have achieved notable success in your chosen field

yo•are able to make a valuable contribution to the exchange of ideas that takes place at TED

yo•are interested to help create a better future for our world