More

A powerful ad challenges Trump to act like a legitimate president. Here's the backstory.

A message from an Afghanistan war veteran takes on the president directly.

"President Trump. I hear you watch the morning shows," begins the latest TV spot from VoteVets, the self-described "largest progressive group of veterans in America."

The ad, which debuted during Monday morning's episode of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" (a show Trump reportedly watches on a regular basis), features an Afghanistan war veteran who lost a leg in combat, addressing the president directly in a voice-over.

"President Trump. I hear you watch the morning shows. Here’s what I do every morning. Look, you lost the popular vote. You’re having trouble drawing a crowd. And your approval rating keeps sinking. But kicking thousands of my fellow veterans off their health insurance by killing the Affordable Care Act and banning Muslims won’t help. And that’s not the America I sacrificed for. You want to be a legitimate president, sir? Then act like one."

Just minutes after the ad aired, Trump tweeted, which the group suspects may have been in response to the ad.


Trump has talked a pretty big game when it comes to how he sees the military's role, but VoteVets has concerns about what exactly that means.

"I will be so good at the military your head will spin," Trump said in a September 2015 interview. In one of his first acts as president, Trump signed an executive order calling for a "great rebuilding of the Armed Forces." While those actions and statements might sound good, there's not a whole lot of substance to them.

That's why VoteVets is trying to reach the president where they're most likely to be heard: on cable news.

"All we're really doing here is elevating the voice of one of our members who wants to speak directly to Trump, and obviously, we feel he's earned that right to do it," says VoteVets Chairman and Co-founder Jon Soltz. "So, we just wanted to do something that was direct, something that addressed him personally, something that would catch his attention that had substance to it about the Muslim ban and the Affordable Care Act."

Trump holds a Purple Heart replica that was given to him during a campaign event in August 2016. "I've always wanted to have a Purple Heart," Trump said. "This was much easier." Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

While the ACA and the travel ban are receiving much attention lately, there are a number of other issues VoteVets and other veteran advocacy organizations are concerned about.

Soltz cites possible privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs as one of the larger concerns on the group's radar. While Trump has made some bold promises to "fix" the VA, it's not entirely clear what that will look like. Adding to the concern, Trump held a "listening session" for possible improvements to the VA that didn't include prominent veterans advocacy organizations.

Additionally, Soltz notes that Trump's federal hiring freeze will hurt veterans in a number of ways. There are more than 2,000 job openings at the short-staffed VA that, due to Trump's hiring freeze, will remain vacant. Additionally, 31% of all federal employees are veterans. For that reason, along with the fact that veterans are given hiring preference for federal jobs, the hiring freeze will disproportionately affect veterans in search of work.

Iraq War veteran and VoteVets Chairman Jon Soltz meets with then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2007. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images.

Not to mention the concerns some veterans and active members of the military may have over Trump's views on things like NATO and his general decision-making capabilities when it comes to issues of war.

But why take out an ad? Why not just flood the White House comment line and use more traditional avenues of lobbying for policy change?

Well ... with the White House comment line down, people and groups have been scrambling to find new ways to make their voices heard.

How do you get through to a president that doesn't listen to anyone outside his own circle of advisers, refuses to acknowledge any poll that shows disapproval of his performance or policies, calls any news not to his liking "fake news," and accuses anyone who protests of being nothing more than a paid plant?

VoteVets' strategy of targeting his favorite TV shows is an innovative approach, to say the least.

Image from VoteVets/YouTube.

It's an approach that brings with it another challenge, however: TV ads take time to make. That's why VoteVets deviated from the approach they've used in the past — veterans talking directly to the camera — and instead chose to rely on a voiceover message so the audio can be swapped out as needed to keep up with the quickly changing news cycle.

"We're interested in shooting this ad in a way that's simple, that does not look like a political ad — because it's not. It's a veteran's story," says Soltz, "but in a way that if we have to make his statements more pointed, we have the ability to do that quickly so it's still relevant to the news cycle."

As for why the veteran who stars in the ad isn't named, Soltz explains that there are concerns about the veteran's and his family's safety, as well as a belief that "less is more."

"If you really want to hit hard, you've got to say something," says Soltz. "We don't need to explain a lot for people to know this is a combat-wounded Afghanistan war veteran. We don't want to distract from the visual or the words."

To learn more about this ad, visit the VoteVets website.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less
Pets

Ginger the dog reunited with family 5 years after being stolen

Ginger's family never gave up hope, and it payed off.

Ginger the dog was missing for five years before being reunited with her family.

A sweet pup is finally home with her family where she belongs after way too many years away.

Ginger the dog was stolen from her family back in 2017. Her owner, Barney Lattimore of Janesville, Wisconsin, never gave up the hope that his sweet girl was out there somewhere. Whenever he'd see a dog listed on a rescue website or humane society website that even remotely resembled his Ginger, he would inquire about the dog. Unfortunately, it was never her. You'd think that after a while he would stop, but if he had, he likely wouldn't have gotten the sweetest reunion.

Keep Reading Show less

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

Keep Reading Show less