Simon Tam: The power of language

By TEDxSalem Storyteller, July 3, 2014

SIMON_TAMIf you knew you had a finite number of words you had left to speak in this life, what would they be?

Would they be words of love, healing and understanding? Or would they defend justice, bravery and sacrifice?

What would the world look like if we all thought a little bit longer before we spoke?

Simon Tam will illustrate at TEDxSalem this year how words have started wars, can break or make relationships and heal or hurt people.

“My talk in particular is about the way we use language and how we should treat our language carefully and consider our words and make every word count,” Tam said.

Tam uses his words daily to further his cause, communicate his expertise and build relationships. He’s a founder and bassist for an Asian American band, The Slants, and a public speaker. He has written two books on thriving in the music business and regularly speaks about racial justice and diversity.

Tam particularly seems to enjoy using words to challenge common definitions and cause us to rethink what they represent. The fact that he started an Asian band named The Slants is a good example. The name takes charge of the caricature of the slanted-eyed Asian, and gives it a new meaning, Tam says.

“It would be an opportunity to talk about our slant, or our perspective, as people of color,” he said. “It’s a play on words, re-appropriating the term.”

The band has become a way to honor Asian heritages and activists and break stereotypes.

But no matter what your goals or message is, choosing your words wisely can only help, Tam says. And that’s only the beginning.

Some say actions speak louder than words, but it is when they match your words that you are most effective.

Currently, Tam is the marketing director for Oregon Environmental Council, but he has about a million other jobs, touring with his band, speaking at anime conventions and teaching.

We’re so glad he has chosen TEDxSalem as one of his many platforms to spread his idea. If we’re lucky, The Slants may also make an appearance.

Get your tickets at the Historic Elsinore Theatre or online: