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March Mania

OUR OPINION: TEDx event: Still an 'idea worth spreading'

"Suppose now a traveler, who, towards evening, expects to reach the two stations at the end of his day's journey, (which will be) four or five leagues, with post horses, on the high road -- it is nothing," Clausewitz writes.

"He arrives now at the last station but one, finds no horses, or very bad ones; then a hilly country, bad roads; it is a dark night, and he is glad when, after a great deal of trouble, he reaches the next station and finds there some miserable accommodation.

"So in war," he continues.

And with that, Clausewitz introduces his famous concept of "friction" -- "the only concept which, in a general way, corresponds to that which distinguishes real war from war on paper."

Expect the unexpected, in other words -- in traveling, in war and also in politics.

Then skirt or surmount those obstacles. For while "activity in war is movement in a resistant medium," a person in water can, in fact, advance through that "resistant medium" -- by swimming.

All of which is a long way of saying that where a TEDx conference is concerned, Tyrone and Becca Grandstrand should press on.

Yes, they ran into a blind alley by trying and failing to get sponsorship money from the city. (That's a textbook example of friction.)

Yes, it can be argued that Tyrone in particular shouldn't have turned down that alley in the first place. He's a Grand Forks City Council member. So, regardless of the rightness of his cause (and a TEDx conference is a terrific cause; more about that in a minute), his position as co-organizer of the conference probably ruled out the prospect of city aid.

Too many taxpayers would look upon such help as cronyism, no matter how diligently Grandstrand recused himself from voting on the issue.

Of course, that's a lot clearer in hindsight than it was before the City Council took its vote.

And more important, the setback need not be permanent. In this case, there's a good chance the friction can be overcome, and the Grandstrands can raise the rest of the $23,000 that they need.


First, because TEDx and TED, its parent organization, are respected and tremendously exciting brands. There are some 1,500 TED talks available online; and as of this time last year, they had been viewed more than a billion times.

Second, because TEDx conferences already have been successfully organized and carried out in both Fargo and Minot. (Job 1 for the Grandstrands should be to contact those organizers to see how it was done.)

Third, because $23,000 is not a huge sum fundraising standards, and the Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau already has given $5,000 (and a crucial stamp of approval) toward that goal.

And fourth, because there are other fundraising sources available. In particular, the Knight Foundation may be worth approaching. "To help sustain healthy communities in a democracy, Knight aims to increase the ability of individuals to engage in change," the foundation's website notes. That sounds like TEDx's mission statement, too.

The Grandstrands have a super idea. Here's hoping they don't get set back by their setback, and that they instead set about finding another path to their goal.