My TEDx Talk – Turn the ‘Other’ into a Brother

Sharing with you my journey of transformation from seeing Iraqis as the 'Other' to seeing them as brothers.

Sharing this TEDx talk with you feels like sharing a piece of me, and I want to thank you at the outset for joining me in this journey of transformation from seeing people as the ‘Other’ to seeing them as brothers. In preparing for it, I uncovered for the first time this theme weaving through the different parts of my life, much like the Euphrates river flowing through Iraq.

–My brother with mental disabilities who can’t talk or take care of himself. Most people view him as an ‘Other’, as someone different.

–At 12 years old, living abroad for a year with a foreign family. I was suddenly the ‘Other’ and discovered what an isolating feeling it was.

–Seeing Iraqis as the “enemy” as a counterinsurgency analyst in Al Anbar province and realizing that simply taking bad guys out didn’t solve the problem, much like catching drops of water from a leaky faucet doesn’t fix the faucet.

I believe the transformation I experienced is possible for each one of us when we open our hearts and minds to whomever the ‘Other’ is to us in our lives. Who is your ‘Other’? Is it a group from a different religion, nation, ethnicity, race, gender, political party? We have all at various times been the ‘Other’ and there are people who are the ‘Other’ to us.


  • What if you turned your ‘Other’ into your brother? How do you do that?
  • How do the changes you make on an individual level affect the world? How does major social change happen from the grassroots?
  • What are examples of transformation and of individuals making a difference in the most difficult of circumstances: war, conflict? (If they can do it, we can, too.)

I’m truly honored to share this message with you and to hear who your ‘Other’ is and how you might open to experiencing them in a new way. Let me know how it goes. Share with me in the comments below or share with us on social media with the hashtag: #othertobrother.

TED‘s tagline is “Ideas worth spreading.” If you feel this message is one worth spreading, please do. (The more views the video receives, the more likely it is to be posted on!)

With a heart full of gratitude,


What Do You Think?

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  • Rick Zeller says:

    Hi Janessa,
    Thank you for sharing your TED talk. I can already see applications in my life that will help me see other people’s stories, and be able to better relate to them. I have always thought of myself as a peace keeper or peace promoter, and I am glad to have found the Euphrates Institute.
    Thanks for what you do!

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