Pope Francis Gives TED Talk: ‘Power Is Like Drinking Gin on an Empty Stomach’

Pope Francis speaks during the TED Conference, urging people to connect with and understand others, during a video presentation at the annual scientific, cultural and academic event in Vancouver, Canada, April 25, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Glenn CHAPMAN (Photo credit should read GLENN CHAPMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis delivered the first-ever papal TED talk Tuesday, via a video message filmed in Vatican City and broadcast to a group gathered in Vancouver for TED 2017.

In his 18-minute address, adhering strictly to TED guidelines, the Pope spoke of solidarity and connectedness, while also warning the many entrepreneurs and innovators listening that with great power comes great responsibility.

“Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly,” Francis said”. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”

“Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach,” Francis said, quoting a popular saying from his native Argentina. “You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness.”


Just six hours after its posting, the video had garnered nearly 140,000 views. Delivered in Italian, the talk offered subtitles in 22 different languages.

In his opening words, the Pope said he was “thrilled” to participate in the TED conference, which bore the title “The Future You.”

“The future is made of ‘yous,’” the Pope said. “It is made of encounters, because life flows through our relations with others.”

Francis said that his long years of life have led him to the conviction that “each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.”

“As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: ‘Why them and not me?’” he said.

“I could have very well ended up among today’s ‘discarded’ people. And that’s why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: ‘Why them and not me?’” he added.

In classic Jesuit style, the Pope offered three points in his message to the conference.

As his first point, Francis focused on interconnectedness, insisting that none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent ‘I,’ separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone.”

For his second point, Pope Francis said that the growth of scientific and technological innovation must be accompanied “with more equality and social inclusion.”

“How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us,” he said, while adding that solidarity should not be reduced to social work, but should be “the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.”

Only in this way, he said, will society overcome the “culture of waste” with its tendency of “putting products at their core, instead of people.”

Francis also appealed to the entrepreneurs courage and creativity, stressing that love itself requires “a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude.”

“Let us help each other, all together,” he said, “to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The ‘you’ is always a real presence, a person to take care of.”

Thirdly, the Pope spoke of igniting a “revolution of tenderness.”

Tenderness, he said, “means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future.”

It also means to “use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.”

Since tenderness means a willingness to put oneself on the same level as the other, he said, Jesus is the prime example of such an attitude.

“God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level,” he said. “This is the path that Jesus himself took. He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love.”

“Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility.”

The Pope has been a vocal advocate of harnessing the new media for evangelizing, and makes frequent use of video-messages to get his word out to different groups and peoples.

According to a 2015 study, Pope Francis is the most influential person on Twitter and his influence is growing steadily. The Pope is the most retweeted world leader, which counts more than raw number of followers for “influence,” according to the criteria used by the study.

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