Marwan Kheireddine fled Syria in 2012 to escape the civil war and found refuge in Turkey. He was living on his own, working two jobs and trying to make ends meet when he discovered an online video of a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson. It changed his life. Marwan immediately quit one of his jobs and started watching every TED Talk that he could find for 16 hours a day.

By the time he fell asleep, his head would be brimming with ideas.

One day in March 2013, Marwan woke up and had a revelation: “Instead of me watching other people’s talks all day,” he tells us from his home in Montreal, “I could make my own talk.” He spent the next few months refining his idea and putting together a script. On October 18, he went to his room and turned on his webcam.

He opened the video with the following introduction: “I come from Syria. I lived most of my life in Lebanon as a refugee, and now as an immigrant in Canada.” He moved to the edge of his chair and began talking about how he used to have a “very good life” in Syria, even though it was hard.

He’d been forced to leave school at an early age because his family couldn’t afford the fees. He wanted to study English literature but wasn’t able to because of personal circumstances and the dire state of affairs back home. Eventually, he had to leave.

He briefly pauses before delivering the kicker: “I had to leave all of that behind because of warplanes.” Suddenly he turns towards his computer screen and rips off a printout of an image of warplanes circling over Aleppo. He holds it up to the camera. You can almost hear the gasp of surprise from thousands of people watching online around the world.

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