Brad Meltzer ’96 Gives TED Talk on Building a Legacy

Fall 2011

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Brad Meltzer ’96, the bestselling author of political thrillers, recently delivered a TED talk to a sold-out crowd in Miami on building a legacy that endures long after the ink has dried on one’s obituary.

The September 13 speech, titled “How to Write Your Own Obituary,” was part of the popular nationwide series of talks under the auspices of the TED conferences, which features speakers with “ideas worth spreading.”

Meltzer relayed the tale of a Wall Street Journal reporter who in passing mentioned something about the content of the author’s eventual obituary. Intrigued, Meltzer pondered how the retrospective of his life might read. A person’s lasting imprint on the world, he concluded, is what one does for others—friends, family, community, strangers—rather than for one’s self. “Figure out who will remember you, and you’ll know how you will be remembered,” he said.

Meltzer recalled his mother, who by the force of love helped make her small town the nation’s leading market for his books; his father-in-law, who in 1968 bought and desegregated the Miami soul food restaurant Jumbo’s; and Frank Shankwitz, a policeman whose decision to help a dying boy led to the creation of the Make a Wish Foundation.

Meltzer also told of his ninth-grade English teacher who pushed him toward writing. She contemplated retiring several years ago because she thought she was not making a difference, he said. When he returned to thank her for her immeasurable influence on his life, she wept. “She had no idea of her impact,” Meltzer told the audience.

Watch Brad Meltzer’s Ted talk here
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Photographed by Jeffery Salter