An open letter to Barack Obama regarding that first post-presidency speech.

Oh hey, Barack!

Former President Barack Obama arrives for a conversation on civic engagement and community organizing on April 24, 2017. Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP.

Can we call you Barack now?

Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP.


Anyway, you look good! Tan and well-rested.

Photo by Jim Young/AFP/Getty Images.

You earned that time off.

Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images (left); Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images (top right); and Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

We saw your speech in Chicago the other day.

Photo by Scott Olsen/Getty Images.

You still got it with the jokes!

GIF via Time/YouTube.

Man, that was a good speech. So good it made us cry. Not sure it was a happy cry.

A man reacts to protesters at the Women's March in January. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images.

Gotta be honest, when you left the White House, our emotions were not in a good place.

An emotional Gerardo Ruiz reacts to results of the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8, 2016. Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.

In the back of our minds, we secretly hoped that you'd come galloping back atop a golden unicorn, laminated copy of the Constitution in hand, and tell us to follow your lead with those famous words you ... uh, never really said.

And we know you were worried about us when you left...

GIF via Time/YouTube.

...that we might not be up to the challenge.

A Hillary Clinton supporter reacts to the presidential election swing on Nov. 8, 2016. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

But life is funny.

When you went away, something kind of weird happened.

We didn't fold like a cheap card table.

We didn't shut the door, pull up the covers, and go to sleep for 500 years.

Protesters outside the National Press Club and the Deplorable Ball in Washington, D.C., in January. Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

We got up, and we got organized.

People rally against Donald Trump. Photo by Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images.

And we handled this protesting stuff on our own. Because we had no other choice.

Protesters hold anti-Trump signs in Chicago on Jan. 20, 2017. Photo by Derek Henkle/AFP/Getty Images.

In a way, peaceing out to Fiji was one of the best things you could have done for us.

While you were enjoying a well-earned restorative kitesurf with Branson...

...we were marching.

Protesters settle in at the Women's March on Washington. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

While you were regaining your sense of style...

...we were piling into airports to protest an unjust Muslim ban.

Demonstrators at O'Hare Airport protest the executive order that refuses admittance to refugees and places a ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

We were chanting in the cold.

People gather to protest the Muslim immigration ban at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images.

We were putting our law degrees to work on a chilly terminal floor at 4 a.m.

Volunteer attorneys and legal advisors offer to help travelers at O'Hare Airport in February 2017. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

And we were winning.

Syrian refugee Baraa Haj Khalaf cradles the U.S. flag as she leaves O'Hare International Airport with her husband and father in February 2017. Photo by Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images.

While you were hanging out in the South Pacific with Oprah and Springsteen...

...we were organizing in our communities, calling our elected officials, and holding their feet to the fire.

Crowd members respond to a woman supporting Donald Trump at a town hall meeting in March 2017. Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images.

We got Paul Ryan to admit that "Obamacare is the law of the land."

U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks after Trump's health care bill was pulled from the House of Representatives on March 24, 2017. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Tens of thousands of women decided to run for office.

From left, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Maxine Waters. Photos (from left) by Zach Gibson/Getty Images; Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images; and Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images.

A new generation of activists was born, and an older generation came roaring back to life.

(From left, in back) Ginny Suss, Carmen Perez, Gloria Steinem, Linda Sarsour, and Tamika Mallory and (in front) Mia Ives-Rublee appear onstage at the Women's March on Washington. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images.

We remembered what you said when you left office. You warned us what was at stake.

Obama delivers his farewell speech Jan 10, 2017. GIF via ABC News/YouTube.

You encouraged us to get out and fight for our values. In person.

You reminded us what democracy requires of us. Specifically ... us. And not just when there's a big election on the horizon.

We thought you'd have to hold our hand through it. But here's what we learned:

It turns out, we're pretty good at this stuff on our own.

People take part in a protest called No Ban! No Wall! Get Loud! at Grand Central Station in March 2017. Photo by Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images.

When the chips are down, we can pull ourselves together and fight back.

The crowd reacts to U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz at a town hall meeting in Utah in February. Photo by Rick Bowmer/AP.

We don't always need you to show us the way after all.

The March for Science on April 22, 2017, spanned many cities, including Los Angeles. Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images.

But we're glad you're back and down to help.

Photo by Scott Olsen/Getty Images.

In the words of our all-time favorite meme of you...

Photo by Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images.

Thanks for the pep talk.

Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP.

Glad to have you on the team. Let's do this.

Love, America.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
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It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.
Courtesy of Nextdoor

Jayden, Jayson, Jordan, Jeffery and Jared received an outpouring of support from neighbors after they came home from the NICU at almost a year old.

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When the children's hospital called Aileen's pediatric occupational therapy clinic in July of 2020, the clinic was closed due to pandemic lockdowns. The hospital informed her that a set of quintuplet baby brothers had been born in November of 2019 and would be in need of her services once they were released. Would she be able to help?

Aileen often gets direct referrals from the hospital for families with special conditions, and premature quintuplets who spent their first year of life receiving oxygen and feeding through tubes certainly fit that bill. She decided to open her clinic specifically for the babies and their mother, Jackie. As the babies were released, they came to Aileen for ongoing occupational therapy, and by November 2020, all five boys were being cared for at the clinic.

The quintuplets stayed in the NICU for nearly a year after they were born.Courtesy of Nextdoor

Jackie is a single mom who moved to the U.S. from Ghana a couple of years ago. She lives with her mom and aunt in the Atlanta area and also has another son, Daniel, who was 3 years old when the boys came home from the hospital. With a preschooler and five babies needing medical care, Jackie definitely needed more help than her family and church could provide, but she was too shy to ask for it. Eventually, she confided in Aileen that she could use help with diapers. Even with one baby, diapers are expensive; keeping up with five at once would be overwhelming.

Aileen contacted local aid organizations who normally have diapers to offer, but they were all in short supply due to the pandemic. So she decided to reach out to her neighbors instead.

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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!