"I Just Want To Be Incredible" Q&A With Adam Croom
Critics of "Generation Y" say they’re lazy, disloyal, selfish, spoiled and need instant gratification. Others (like PrincetonOne, one of the top 10 job recruitment organizations in the country) say Millennials are independent, confident, ambitious and optimistic.
Assignment Radio’s Ajinur Setiwaldi introduces us to 26-year-old Adam Croom who might exemplifies the latter definition. Croom is the Marketing and PR Coordinator for OU Economic Development and runs Freedom.ou.edu, a project created by the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage.
Within a year of graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 2009, Croom founded TEDxOU, an independently organized TED event. TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a massively popular event where thinkers and doers from around the world come to share ideas, and TEDx events have grown exponentially in recent years.
My generation is commonly called the 'next generation' and I hate that term because that means that you can’t do anything now. You got to wait till its your turn, and its not your turn now. So I like to look at myself as part of the generation, the only generation that exists and understand that you can have impact at whatever level you are at as a student or professionally. You can have that now and you need to seize that moment while it exists at all.
Your work suggests that you’re trying to foster civic engagement and bring unique ideas to light. Tell me a little about what motivates you to take that path.
I really have this idea that I try to live out that if you can educate someone, you can activate them. And so, projects like TedxOU is really about being able to give people information and let them decide what they want to do for it. But, we really try to be something that can really inspire someone to really work toward a higher purpose.
Is there anything in your background that sort of is the motivating factor for your advocacy in education or civic engagement?
I’m the first from my family to graduate with a degree from a four-year institution. That seems like something that is small but it really meant a lot for my family and me and I see that a lot in Oklahoma. So I’m really passionate about it because I got to go through it first in my family, kind of see what a big university institution looks like and get that feeling of being empowered by a large institution. I’ve always wanted to figure out how do I make sure that feeling gets to as many people in Oklahoma as possible.
Elaborate a little bit about what personally motivated you to go into that path.
I’ve always been a Tedster fan. After college, my first kind of “gig” was playing guitar for a band and touring the country. When you tour a lot, you spend a lot of time in bands and you try to find stuff you can consume to kind of keep your brain from turning into mush. And so I really got hooked to TEDx because of it. And I was constantly consuming this material and because of that I started actually going to these Tedx events. The one I went before wanting to start TedxOU was TedxOKC. It was really watching this local conversation happening in front of my eyes from people that lived in our neighborhoods that were really inspiring the community. And I said, we need to have this happen at my community, too. We have these unheard voices that exist on campus that really have these incredible ideas.
On the TedxOU website, you’re listed as director of making things happen. How did you enter that role and what does it mean?
I think a part of my personality is that I can take a lot of problems and digest them really easily. A lot of people say hey this looks like it can be a catastrophe if this thing goes wrong, how do you stay so calm about it. And I think a part of me is able to analyze a situation and find the correct solution without getting overwhelmed by it.
What do you view as your most significant achievement?
I think the things that I’ve been most honored to be a part of: I had a professor in school named Dr. Rufus Fears. He was this professor that everyone wanted to have and everyone wanted to be around. We filmed it an entire 18-lecture class. What we could have never imagined was that two weeks after filming, Dr. Fears passed away, very unexpectedly. There was a very humbling moment that you actually filmed the last lectures of a mentor of yours. I now have the ability to basically give this as his last gift to the world. And so now through Freedom.ou.edu, through iTunes U, over 28,000 are taking Story of Freedom and America, his last class.
Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t accomplished yet?
I’ve been very fortunate that a big dream of mine was to tour the world and see it, and be able to do it through music, and I’ve got to do that, and I’ve got to work at an incredible place, and I have an incredible wife and an incredible kid. I’ve fast tracked a lot of my life already. I think the next big thing for me is going to be is how do I also contribute to Oklahoma economy by starting a company and keeping it in Oklahoma and hiring fellow Oklahomans to work for it. Hopefully that’s something we’ll see soon.
And finally, do you have a mantra, and if so what is it?
“Being incredible” is something I’ve always strived to do. I just want to be incredible. I want to have impact and I want to do it very humbly.