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When TED Talks, people listen

Popular lecture series is a modern campfire where stories get told, knowledge is spread and lives can change

The TED Talks lecture series has become one of the Internet's most popular and powerful platforms where important ideas spread around the world through the stories of remarkable people. Charlie Rose speaks to the people whose stories have changed lives and to the man who decides who talks and how far their messages will resonate. TED Talks meets 60 Minutes Sunday, April 19 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


Attorney Bryan Stevenson had been trying to reform the criminal justice system for years when he was asked to be a speaker by the lecture series. He didn't know what a TED Talk was; he wound up raising a million dollars for his cause, the Equal Justice Initiative.

"[TED Talks] created an echo that has allowed us to push some things that we would not have been able to push otherwise," he tells Rose. "Hundreds and hundreds of people were now going to have a chance to get fairer sentences." His talk was put online and "Even now, I get lots and lots of people responding to the TED Talk," says Stevenson.

Chris Anderson is the man who decides who speaks at the TED conferences now held around the world and which lectures go online. Running TED is a way to spread the wealth that is knowledge. "There are numerous brilliant people out there....our role is to help them make their knowledge accessible," says Anderson. "It is a campfire," he says, "Someone stands up and everyone's eyes are on them, they tell a story."

Anderson bought TED years ago and turned it into a nonprofit. The group's website,, has some 2,000 talks on everything from how to build a nuclear reactor to stopping cyberbullies. There were more than a billion views of TED Talks last year. The website includes the famous, like Monica Lewinsky speaking about cyberbullying, and the relatively obscure, such as Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy. Her talk about nonverbal communication contained a revelation that she had suffered a traumatic brain injury. It received 23 million views says Anderson, making Cuddy one of TED's biggest stars.

Maysoon Zayid is a comedienne who has cerebral palsy. She thought giving a TED Talk would boost her career from the clubs to television. It didn't get her more television work, but it did much more for many of the six million who viewed it. "I didn't expect to hear from so many people that felt the talk was about them," she tells Rose. "What I've done is really empower people to be proud of who they are."