Introducing the 2022 TEDxBigSky speaker lineup
By Mira Brody EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Whether it’s surviving under 9 and a half feet of snow, moving across the state after a decade to restart your life or recovering both physically and mentally after returning from the Army, this week’s featured TEDxBigSky speakers truly embody the act of resilience.
Saul Martinez is a former Army Infantryman and Purple Heart recipient; Ken Scott survived after being buried by two consecutive avalanches and Monique Benabou is a musician looking to “trigger” her audience in the best way. Meet each ahead of Outlaw Partners’ TEDxBigSky event Jan. 29 and 30, 2022, and learn what resilience means to them.
Saul Martinez is a former Army Infantryman and Purple Heart recipient who made Bozeman his home for his wife and two kids a decade ago shortly after participating in a Warriors and Quiet Waters fishing experience. Since being wounded and leaving the Army, Martinez has graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Montana State University, was a subject of President George W. Bush in “Portraits of Courage,” is a George W. Bush Institute Veteran Leadership scholar and remains an active advocate for veterans nationally.
He is the chief program officer for WQW, a nonprofit whose programs have helped provide veterans respite from the stresses of war and help integrate them back into their home community through the healing power of the outdoors.
To Martinez, resilience is an everyday practice. It’s taking care of himself through daily tasks, whether putting on his prosthetic legs and going for a walk, taking care of his family or the community around him. He also warns that it’s an easy tank to drain and that self care is vital to being consistently resilient.
“It’s contagious,” Martinez said. “If someone sees me being active and motivated and taking care of myself, that can be interpreted as resiliency given the trauma I’ve been through the injuries I’ve sustained—letting others know it is possible. It’s a pursuit. It’s hard work.”
For Ken Scott, resilience is laying trapped under 9 and a half feet of snow and regaining the control necessary to survive. In January 2020, Scott, an experienced skier who spent over a decade doing avalanche control work, was caught in two successive avalanches in a developed area at Silver Mountain, Idaho—the second completely entombed him in a mass of frozen snow hard as concrete. The ability to embrace an uncontrollable situation—to relax, breathe and commit to survival—and the aftermath effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, are skillsets Scott believes are applicable in the current pandemic, and topics he will cover in his upcoming TEDxBigSky talk in January 2022.
“I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people saying ‘what a terrible year’ and I just think, ‘you really don’t have any idea,’” Scott said. “I’m not discounting anyone’s experience, but did you spend 60 minutes under 9 and a half feet of snow?”
In addition to physical and mental recovery from that experience, both Scott and his wife has experienced health scares on top of grieving the death of his friends who did not survive the avalanche. Resilience, Scott believes, is surviving against these hardships and odds.
“I had no choice but to keep breathing whether I wanted to or not,” said Scott, recalling his burial. “I couldn’t move, I was vacuum packed like a piece of meat in complete darkness and silence. I also came to the realization that I could not stop myself from hoping. We are constantly hoping for something whether we realize it or not.”
Musician Monique Benabou warns attendees of TEDxBigSky to arrive with an open heart and “prepare to be triggered in the best way.” Benabou will close out night one speakers with a musical set she calls “transformational.”
“I prefer these kinds of settings,” said Benabou of TEDx. “They were made for this kind of art. It helps so much when you don’t have to warm up an audience. The speeches warm them up. I’m really excited for that.”
Benabou is accustomed to performing at summits as well as medicine ceremony workshops across the country. Her music is powerful and vulnerable, a culmination of her own breakthroughs and rock bottoms; lessons and healing she hopes will facilitate listeners’ discovery of their own intimate truth.
“My biggest prayer in connecting with this audience is to make them feel seen and understood at an unspoken level,” Benabou said. “I want people to feel not alone, inspired, a little scared.”
She believes our biggest growth—ore resilience—appears when we are leaving our comfort zone, when we embrace the ability to surrender and become reborn into the new people we’re meant to be. The timing of TEDxBigSky for Benabou is perfect, as she herself has just made a new leap in life, leaving Los Angeles, California, for the first time in 14 years and moving to Miami, Florida. The uncertainty is fueling, she says, something she hopes the audience feels in January.