[Life Is Beautiful 2014]

Three inspiring speakers not to miss at Life Is Beautiful

Andrew Hessel

Giles Duley, humanitarian photographer (“Legacies” session, Friday, 6 p.m., the Western Hotel) Shooting fashion and music must have been glamorous, but Duley now finds the beauty in human struggle, showing the faces of Syrian refugees, Bangladeshi acid burn survivors and a young man living with self-harming autism. The English photographer understands what it means to fight adversity, losing both legs and one arm to an IED while embedded with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. His words are as stirring as his images, for which he was nominated for an Amnesty International Media Award.

Lizzie Velasquez

Lizzie Velasquez

Lizzie Velasquez, anti-bullying activist (“You are Beautiful” session, Saturday, 6 p.m., the Western Hotel) In kindergarten, her classmates looked at her like she was a monster. In high school, she discovered a viral YouTube video dubbing her the world’s ugliest woman, some commenters urging her to do everyone a favor and just kill herself. Velasquez didn’t choose the rare syndrome that won’t allow her to put weight on her 65-pound frame, but she has chosen to be grateful instead of bitter, and to define herself by powerful actions. To bullies and the bullied, she shows that some spirits won’t break.

Andrew Hessel, synthetic biology pioneer (“Weird Science” session, Saturday, 3:45 p.m., the Western Hotel) Cells as computers. A crowd-sourced cure for cancer. Software in service of human organ fabrication. Hessel is on the frontline of these biotech dreams, from his role as cofounder of Pink Army Cooperative (“aiming to make open-source viral therapies for cancer”) to his research for Autodesk’s programmable matter branch. He thinks synthetic biology will surpass information technology as a driver of economies and societal change, not to mention its impact on safety and security.

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