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A Syrian man's plea reaches President Obama: 'I don’t want the world to think I’m over.'

One man's touching story inspired the president to leave a Facebook comment welcoming him to the U.S.

A Syrian man's plea reaches President Obama: 'I don’t want the world to think I’m over.'

It's not every day the president leaves a personal comment on your Facebook post.

But that's exactly what he did in response to a recent photo posted to the Humans of New York Facebook page. The photos, highlighting the story of a man and his family's struggle through Syria, Turkey, and soon, Michigan, is part of HONY photographer Brandon Stanton's series "The Syrian Americans."

Just watching the news, it's easy to think of Syrian refugees as some abstract concept, but there's so much more to their story.

That's especially clear in the case of the story that President Obama commented on, which follows the life of a Syrian man who simply wouldn't give up in the face of adversity.
The story is told in seven parts, each with an accompanying photo, and the values he demonstrates — hard work, dedication, love, ambition — transcend nationalities. These are core human values, and it shouldn't be hard to appreciate and empathize with someone who is so emblematic of them.
"I was determined to become a scientist through my own personal will," the man's story begins. "I graduated high school with the third highest scores in all of Syria. I worked construction in the evenings to pay for my school. Even as a teenager, I was being given construction sites to manage. I graduated from university at the top of my class. I was given a scholarship to pursue my PhD. I suffered for my dream. I gave everything. If I had 100 liras, I would spend it on a book. My ultimate goal was to become a great scientist and make a lasting contribution to humanity."

The man's story is filled with dangers many of us can hardly imagine. Every aspect of his life in Syria was under attack.

His home? Destroyed. His wife and his daughter? Both killed by a missile. Upon moving to Turkey, his work went underappreciated, and he became so financially unstable that the country was simply no longer habitable for him. Back into the refugee pool he went, where he learned that, this time, he was headed to the United States.

What's most remarkable, however, is the man's resolve to continue contributing to the world after all he's been through.

"I still think I have a chance to make a difference in the world," he tells HONY after explaining that he's been diagnosed with stomach cancer. "I have several inventions that I’m hoping to patent once I get to America. One of my inventions is being used right now on the Istanbul metro."

"Welcome to your new home. You're part of what makes America great." — President Obama, on Facebook

As for what he hopes to get out of his experience in his new American home, it's pretty simple: "I just hope that it’s safe and that it’s a place where they respect science. I just want to get back to work. I want to be a person again. I don’t want the world to think I’m over. I’m still here."

And it was after reading this man's story of bravery, that the president offered his personal welcome to the U.S.

"As a husband and a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the loss you've endured," writes President Obama in a comment attached to the final photo of the series. "You and your family are an inspiration. I know that the great people of Michigan will embrace you with the compassion and support you deserve. Yes, you can still make a difference in the world, and we're proud that you'll pursue your dreams here. Welcome to your new home. You're part of what makes America great."

An estimated 9 million Syrians have been displaced since the start of their country's civil war.

Al Jazeera recently published a graphic showing the distribution of refugees out of Syria. Of an estimated 9 million Syrian refugees, what's most concerning are the 6.5 million people within the country itself that have been displaced. Not that there's ever a good time to be without a home, but now is just about the worst.

Image from Al Jazeera.


How many others like the man are out there? How much potential and warmheartedness exists in the world?
Where you are born, who you are born to, what religion you were taught as a child, and countless other factors beyond your control determine so many of life's basics. For those of us who've lucked out in various ways, we should try to empathize with others.

We should welcome these families to the country with open arms because, as the president said, they're "part of what makes America great."

And how is it fair that out of the sheer luck or misfortune of being born in one country over another that we should be able to turn away families like this? If you're an American citizen, it's likely because you were born here. As the result of that luck, you have the comfort of not living in a war zone, not fearing missiles coming through your windows, and not facing the other hardships unique to the people of Syria.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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