A viral photo of Kellyanne Conway sparks a debate about respect in the Oval Office.

"Does Seeing President Obama's Foot on the Oval Office Desk Make Your Blood Boil?" reads a September 2013 headline at The Blaze, Glenn Beck's website.

Conservative sites like Twitchy, Drudge Report, and others joined in, with some accusing Barack Obama of desecrating the Resolute desk. In many conservative circles, this photo was seen as proof that Obama didn't have respect for the Oval Office. As Joe Biden would have said, it was a BFD.

Official White House photo by Pete Souza.


On Monday, a photo of President Donald Trump's adviser, Kellyanne Conway, sitting with her feet on one of the office's couches sparked its own bit of decorum-related controversy.

And yeah, while putting your feet (and shoes) on a couch is something generally frowned upon by parents nationwide (sorry, Mom), is it really that important?

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP.

There's a lot of hypocrisy and selective outrage in the world of partisan politics. There's nothing new about that, and it's (unfortunately) not going away anytime soon.

Some of the same people who saw fault with Obama's foot on the desk had no problem when past presidents put their feet on the desk and have no problem with Conway putting her feet on the couch.

President George H.W. Bush in 1990. Photo by Carol T. Powers/picture-alliance/dpa/AP.

On the flip side, people who rushed to defend Obama's right to put his feet on the desk are indignant over the photo of Conway on the couch.

So what's this really about? Is the outrage really about Oval Office decorum?

No. Of course not. How Obama or Trump or Bush or Conway choose to sit in the Oval Office is meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Context, however, does matter. A lot of the outrage over Conway's photo didn't stem solely from the fact that she had her feet on the couch but the situation in which she did it. As part of an administration with a less-than-stellar record on race and open support from white nationalists, maybe the president's meeting with leaders of some of the nation's Historically Black Colleges and Universities wasn't the ideal occasion for Conway to strike an informal pose.

But maybe instead of getting worked up about the little things — like whether or not an elected official wears an American flag pin or what type of food they eat (Obama's "fancy burger" or Trump's well-done steak with ketchup), maybe we should focus our energy on some of the other things that happen behind those closed doors.

Let's take some of the energy we put into being shocked about the White House furniture and refocus it on the bills and executive orders being signed by the president.

Whether it's Trump reinstating the harmful anti-abortion "Mexico City" policy, ordering the building of a southern border wall, or gutting safety regulations, the most important things we need to pay attention to in the White House have nothing to do with chairs or desks but rather pens and paper.

Photo by Ron Sachs - Pool/Getty Images.

So go ahead, Mr. President. Put your feet up if you'd like. History won't judge you by whether or not you scuffed the desk but by how you affected the lives of the more than 300 million Americans you govern.

Photo by Andrew Harrer - Pool/Getty Images.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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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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