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A Democratic senator's simple request to restore order in chaotic times.

Sen. Brian Schatz needs three Republican senators to take a stand in the name of normalcy.

A Democratic senator's simple request to restore order in chaotic times.

Nobody really knows what's in the Senate's health care bill. It's a massive problem that needs to be addressed, so that's what Sen. Brian Schatz did.

Monday night, the Hawaii Democrat took to the Senate floor to criticize how his colleagues are handling their chamber's version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill, which is being written in secret by 13 Republican men, is expected to come up for a vote as early as next week. Understandably, that has some senators (and, you know, the American people) a bit stressed out by what has turned out to be a super-shady process.

In his floor speech, Schatz called on leadership to release the bill and let it "see the light of day."


All GIFs from Brian Schatz/YouTube.

A push for more transparency — especially when it comes to how our laws get made — isn't a Democratic or Republican issue. It's about accountability.

In 2010, now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (who was a member of Congress at the time) pushed for "a little sunlight."

Vice President Mike Pence, then governor of Indiana, spoke out against "legislation that'll affect 100% of the American people" being put together in secret.

And Sen. John Cornyn made a similar push to include "the rest of America that was excluded from secret talks" on health care reform.

Of course, in 2010, Price, Pence, and Cornyn were all talking about a different health care bill: the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare.

Back then, the argument that the ACA was being written in "secret" was mostly hyperbole. Today, what's happening with the AHCA is unprecedented.

Andy Slavitt worked closely with Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA's design and implementation during President Obama's term. On Twitter, he recently laid out the major differences between the Senate's process in 2009 and 2010, when it was considering the ACA, and what's happening in 2017 with the AHCA.

While the process for the ACA in 2010 certainly could have been more transparent, there's no denying the difference between 36 days of hearings and 18 days of markup then to absolutely nothing at all now — from 26 days of scheduled floor debate to as little as 20 hours. There's a big difference between the two processes, and whatever transparency problems existed back in 2010 have gotten much worse in 2017.

Like so much else in 2017, this secretive process is not normal.

Schatz's speech was a call to action for members of both parties to no longer let "not normal" be normal.

"This is the world's greatest deliberative body," said Schatz, referring to a sometimes tongue-in-cheek nickname for the Senate and its reputation for exhaustive debate on important pieces of legislation compared to the rapid-fire workings of the House of Representatives.

"Let the Senate be the Senate," he urged his Republican colleagues, hoping to find three who are willing to take a stand in the name of restoring order. If, after debating the bill on its merits in the light of day, the Senate passes it, at least it would be a return to how things are supposed to work.

It's easy to pin the breakdown of our political process on President Trump, but the truth is our legislators have the power to restore order — if they want to.

This isn't about Trump; it's about men and women, some of whom have been in Congress for decades, exploiting the new "everything goes" attitude in Washington where nothing seems to matter.

But this bill certainly does matter — to Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike. Wherever we stand with our own personal politics, we should all be able to agree these types of massive decisions shouldn't be made in secret and shouldn't be rushed.

We need to say "no" to "not normal," and that starts with calling our senators and asking them to take a principled stand on the process behind this bill.

Watch a portion of Schatz's speech below.

Photo courtesy of Yoplait
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When Benny Mendez asked his middle school P.E. students why they wanted to participate in STOKED—his new after school program where kids can learn to skateboard, snowboard, and surf—their answers surprised him.

I want to be able to finally see the beach, students wrote. I want to finally be able to see the snow.

Never having seen snow is understandable for Mendez's students, most who live in Inglewood, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. But never having been to the beach is surprising, since most of them only live 15-20 minutes from the ocean. Mendez discovered many of them don't even know how to swim.

"A lot of the kids shared that they just want to go on adventures," says Mendez. "They love nature, but...they just see it in pictures. They want to be out there."

Mendez is in his third year of teaching physical education at View Park K-8 school, one of seven Inner City Foundation Education schools in the Los Angeles area. While many of his students are athletically gifted, Mendez says, they often face challenges outside of school that limit their opportunities. Some of them live in neighborhoods where it's unsafe to leave their houses at certain times of day due to gang activity, and many students come to his P.E. class with no understanding of why learning about physical health is important.

"There's a lot going on at home [with my students]," says Mendez. "They're coming from either a single parent home, or foster care. There's a lot of trauma behind what's going on at home...that is out of our control."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait

What Mendez can control is what he gives his students when they're in his care, which is understanding, some structure, and the chance to try new things. Mendez wakes up at 4:00 a.m. most days and often doesn't get home until 9:00 p.m. as he works tirelessly to help kids thrive. Not only does he run after school programs, but he coaches youth soccer on the weekends as well. He also works closely with other teachers and guidance counselors at the school to build strong relationships with students, and even serves as a mentor to his former students who are now in high school.

Now Mendez is earning accolades far and wide for his efforts both in and out of the classroom, including a surprise award from Yoplait and Box Tops for Education.

Yoplait and Box Tops are partnering this school year to help students reach their fullest potential, which includes celebrating teachers and programs that support that mission. Yoplait is committed to providing experiences for kids and families to connect through play, so teaming up with Box Tops provided an opportunity to support programs like STOKED.

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This article originally appeared on 11.16.15


In the magazine aisle there's no shortage of suggestions to spice up your sex life with your partner.

They usually range from "duh" to ... absurd.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!