TED Talks highlighted by Monica Lewinsky

Photo of  Monica Lewinsky by James Duncan Davidson/TED.
Photo of Monica Lewinsky by James Duncan Davidson/TED.

Former White House intern discussed cyber bullying and taking her life back

By Angela Espinoza, News Editor

TED Talks returned to Vancouver on March 16, showcasing another year’s-worth of presentations between then and March 20.

The 2015 TED Talk presentations were once again hosted at the Vancouver Convention Centre, under the theme “Truth and Dare.” Over 90 speakers were scheduled for the event, discussing topics focussing on various arts and sciences, advancements in technology, social practices, and philanthropy and activism.

Some big name speakers at this year’s conference included former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, former prime minister of Australia Kevin Rudd, musician Aloe Blacc, and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Of the many presentations at TED 2015, Lewinsky’s arguably garnered the most media attention. Lewinsky spoke on cyber bullying, addressing the media frenzy that occurred following her public affair with then-US president Bill Clinton in 1998.

Lewinsky’s talk description on the TED website reads, “After becoming the focus of the history-changing federal investigation into her private life, Monica Lewinsky found herself, at 24 years old, one of the first targets of a ‘culture of humiliation.’”

Lewinsky remained out of the public eye until 2014, when she wrote for Vanity Fair detailing how the experience had affected her life, and how a lack of feminist public speech and support at the time inspired her to enter the world of social activism.

“Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of my mistake. And I regret that mistake deeply,” said Lewinsky during her presentation.

Amongst other statements made during Lewinsky’s presentation, Jeff Lee of the Vancouver Sun live-tweeted, “This culture of humiliation and public shaming has developed into an industry; the more shame, the more clicks.” Lewinsky then described various unrelated instances since the scandal that followed her where others have been harmed by cyber bullying or public shaming, including Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide at the age of 18 on September 22, 2010. Lewinsky recounted that following Clementi’s suicide, her mother feared she would do the same if she were not able to recover from the scandal.

The rest of Lewinsky’s speech detailed how the Internet has developed into something of a public-shaming forum, and how not stopping such behaviour can often negatively affect the lives of other. Lewinsky ended her speech with, “We all deserve compassion, and to live both online and off in a more compassionate world.”

Between now and next year’s TED conference, which will also be held in Vancouver, the TED Women 2015 chapter will run from May 27 to 29 in Monterey, California.