My grandpa tries to remind me how lucky I am by telling me stories about having to walk 10 miles to work during the Great Depression. Are we close to seeing those days again?
Some people say that while change is inevitable, progress is a choice. In other words, it’s a purposeful act—like when American media mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner established the United Nations Foundation 25 years ago.
Turner recognized that the United Nations is indispensable to tackling humanity’s greatest challenges and driving global progress, and he also knew that solving complex, worldwide problems require a blend of diverse solutions and partners. He’s a pretty smart guy.
As a strategic partner of the United Nations, the UN Foundation seeks to solve the world’s biggest challenges by bringing together different perspectives, fresh thinking, and innovative ideas. Think of it as a massive table, where the best and the brightest from all over the world are invited to bring new and creative ideas to solve complex problems affecting humanity. That’s the UN Foundation, and it’s awesome.
Honorees, speakers and guests on stage at We the PeoplesPhoto: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Every year, the organization recognizes extraordinary individuals and institutions whose work stands out as an embodiment of their guiding principles: to create a safer, healthier, and fairer world for all. This year’s annual Global Leadership Awards were presented at We the Peoples in New York City’s Gotham Hall, where five recipients were honored for their tireless work to push progress forward.
Here are the change-makers who accepted the awards, which celebrate the very best of humanity.
Mia Amor Mottley, 2022 Champion for Global Change award. Not only is she the first female to hold the position of Prime Minister of Barbados, she exhibits top-notch leadership in her fight for global change. She is known for fearlessly urging the leaders of larger, richer, and more powerful countries to recognize their contributions to climate change and their responsibility to help combat its disastrous effects—especially in smaller island nations. (She also encourages leaders to have “mature conversations” with their constituents, something we can all agree is woefully lacking across the board!)
Hon. Mia Mottley, SC, MP, Prime Minister of BarbadosPhoto: Stuart Ramson for United Nations Foundation
Prime Minister Mottley takes stewardship of the environment very seriously. The island of Barbados is on the frontline of climate change impacts, which manifest in everything from more devastating hurricanes, to coastal erosion, and are getting worsefrom year to year. Not only that, she’s tackling social justice reform, lack of education access, and political corruption, one step at a time. “There are so many who are voiceless and so many who are incapable of action, but if those of us who have the capacity can make that difference in their lives, then the world would be a better place,” said Prime Minister Mottley. Seriously.
Forest Whitaker, SDG Vanguard Award: While Whitaker is best known for his acting roles, he is also Founder & CEO of Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, a project aiming to promote the values of peace within communities all over the world that are impacted by conflict and violence. His work has touched the lives of approximately 1.3 million children—including former child soldiers—helping them cope with trauma and learn to thrive in their communities. The goal is to move people from chaos to hope and engagement by educating, training, and restoring peace.
Hans Vestberg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Verizon and UN Foundation Board member, presents the SDG Vanguard Award to Khadija Mayman, Youth PeacemakerPhoto: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Whitaker staunchly values the potential of youth, insisting they deserve a seat at the table. He believes that in order to attain peace and prosperity, communities and nations must heed the voices of their young people; keeping them engaged is what preserves our future. “We must realize that whatever challenge we are faced with, young people can and should be part of the solution – both for today and tomorrow,” he said.
Whitaker walks the walk— and it showed when the spotlight was put on Khadija Mayman, Youth Peacemaker for the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, who accepted the award on his behalf. What better way to change the world, than to start by healing our children and letting them lead?
Mia Kami, SDG Vanguard Award: Kami is a Tongan singer/songwriter. She is passionate about gender equality, indigenous rights, and climate action, reminding us that storytelling has the power to fuel political and environmental change. She channels her passions into songwriting and uses her music to inspire hope and healing.
In 2022, a devastating volcanic eruption created a massive humanitarian crisis in her home country of Tonga. The volcano generated a plume of ash that rose more than 12 miles above sea level; the next day, there was a larger, more violent eruption that created an ash plume 375 miles in diameter. This second explosive eruption produced a tsunami that affected the entire Pacific Ocean, and atmospheric pressure waves that circled Earth several times. After the eruption, satellite images show that 90% of the island is no longer visible. Kami drew attention to the crisis through song. In one of her most popular works, Rooted, she sings:
There is hope
There is strength
There is power
There is change
In you and I
Singer-songwriter Mia Kami performs at We The Peoples 2022Photo: Stuart Ramson for United Nations Foundation
Kami’s ability to bridge art and action to protect the world's oceans draws attention to issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, marking her as an extraordinary, creative change-maker.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), presented with the 2022 UN Heroes Award: Dr. Natalia Kanem, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA, accepted the Award on behalf of the organization.
Dr. Natalia Kanem, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA, accepts the 2022 UN Heroes Award, presented by Mark Malloch-Brown, President of Open Society Foundations and UN Foundation Board member at We the PeoplesPhoto: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Founded in 1969 by concerned American citizens, this institution is the lead United Nations sexual and reproductive health and rights agency. They are there for mothers, pregnant women, and girls around the world, no matter what, and their work encompasses everything from educating women on family planning to working to end child marriage and gender-based violence—especially in times of war.
UNFPA delivers lifesaving care in places in crises so that girls and women can manage their periods, have healthy pregnancies, and deliver their babies safely. They recognize that when individuals are deprived of the right to make crucial choices about their own bodies and futures, it has a cascading impact on their families’ welfare and future generations.
Unsurprisingly, courage is one of their four core values; they pride themselves on saying and doing what’s right, not what’s easy, all the time. That is a purposeful act of progress for certain.
Peace on Purpose/lululemon. This year, the inaugural Goal 17 Innovation in Partnership Award was presented to recognize creative, cross-sector partnerships that are driving progress forward. Most of us associate the brand name lululemon with leggings, but it turns out that they do much more than sell athletic wear. Peace on Purpose is a collaborative effort between lululemon and the UN Foundation to provide tools, such as mindfulness training, for humanitarian workers to care for their mental and physical well-being so they can effectively care for others. Support people need support people, after all!
From left to right: Baroness Valerie Amos, Master, University College Oxford and Vice Chair, UN Foundation Board of Directors; Esther Speck, Senior Vice President of Sustainable Business & Impact at lululemon; Nikki Neuburger, Chief Brand Officer, lululemon.Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
The award was accepted by two of lululemon's leaders: Esther Speck, Senior Vice President of Sustainable Business & Impact, and Nikki Neuburger, Chief Brand Officer. Speck is widely respected among her colleagues as one of the most result-oriented professionals in sustainability. She managed to bridge lululemon and the UN Foundation seamlessly by recognizing that lululemon focuses on offering their customers a path to wellbeing, which entails supporting humanitarian and sustainable causes.
Esther Speck, Senior Vice President Sustainable Business & Impact at lululemon and Nikki Neuburger, Chief Brand Officer, lululemon.Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Neuburger is responsible for lululemon's ability to share compelling stories from their team of 2,000 global ambassadors. "We really lean into highlighting those ambassadors," said Neuburger in an interview with Ad Age, "lifting them up not only in terms of what they are doing with us, but also what they've got going on in their own communities."
The results are undeniable: over 8,000 UN workers from 137 countries have been reached through in-person and digital mental health and well-being programs! Research shows that the Peace on Purpose initiative has so far led to a 40% reduction of important psychological risk factors such as anxiety and depression, and an increase in overall well-being and resilience.
It’s a dynamic table of visionaries, that’s for sure—and the world is better because of them. As Elizabeth Cousens, President and CEO of the UN Foundation stated at the ceremony, “A few years ago, Ted [Turner] said: ‘The world is facing some tough obstacles, but I’ve never found much use in giving up. It’s much more effective to get to work.’ Well, at the UN Foundation, we believe in getting to work. We believe that allies and partners make us stronger. We believe that progress is worth fighting for, and we know you do too.”If pushing progress forward is a choice, then these change-makers make the right one, every single day. Learn more about these change-makers and the work they are doing here.
"Take it with you bro" turned into a tear-jerking story of human connection.
This article first appeared on 3.3.22.
Sometimes the silliest of mistakes can result in the sweetest of coincidences.
Shahid Davis had ordered dinner from the Chipotle app and was checking on the map to see how far away the driver was when he realized that the driver was half a continent away. Davis had been staying at a hotel in Iowa the last time he ordered, and he forgot to go back and change the delivery address to his home in Hagerstown, Maryland. He contacted Chipotle, but the customer service person told him they couldn't do anything since it was already out for delivery.
So when the delivery person texted Davis to let him know they were there, he explained what happened.
"I'm here with your order," the person texted.
"Take it with you bro and enjoy the lunch," Davis responded. "I forgot to change my address and I currently in Maryland."
"Umm…okay thhanks," the person responded.
But then a short while later they sent another message that made Davis' sharing of the story go viral.
"I wanted to thank you again," they wrote. "It's my brother's birthday today and he is laid to rest not far from where you had me take this delivery. I'm having lunch with him today because of you. You have no idea how much that means to me. I truly appreciate it."
Well shoot. Someone pass the tissues, please.
Davis told Upworthy that he was really happy to receive the message. "[I] felt like I made an impact in his life even though I don't know the person's name or anything about them. But it doesn't matter at the end because I did something to help brighten his day up!"
"I think we humans all have a kind soul inside, we just have to push out the negativity and push out kindness," Davis added. "Only we can make the world a better place."
Davis' Facebook story has been shared more than 100,000 times since he posted it on Sunday, and people in the comments celebrated the unexpected human connection.
"That's wassup!!" wrote one commenter. "The universe always repays, good or bad. When your reward comes, you will know exactly why. Spread love, we all need it right now. Thank you."
"Dude that’s simply amazing," wrote another. "Just proves that you never know what someone is dealing with and how a kind gesture may impact their life."
"That's awesome, you definitely made his day," wrote another. "I'm saying this as a mom who lost her baby and eats lunches with my baby occasionally this would make my day too."
Truly, we are all connected in ways we can't always see, so it's lovely when something like this happens to show us how true it is.
Innovation is awesome, right? I mean, it gave us the internet!
However, there is always a price to pay for modernization, and in this case, it’s in the form of digital eye strain, a group of vision problems that can pop up after as little as two hours of looking at a screen. Some of the symptoms are tired and/or dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain1. Ouch!
Eye strain from staring at devices is a widespread issue. Most people work, play, and maintain relationships through screens, which averages out to 6 hours and 35 minutes per day (and that’s in addition to work or school)! That translates to 46 hours and 5 minutes per week, or 2,402 hours and 55 minutes per year.2
With numbers like these, attention to eye health is more important now than ever; our dependence on technology certainly isn’t going anywhere. And just like innovation brought us technology, innovation also holds the key to combating the effects it has on our bodies. Here are some key suggestions from eye care professionals to help reduce common symptoms of digital eye strain. Spoiler alert: none of them involve wearing glasses!
Follow the 20-20-20 rule.
You can find some relief by taking a 20-20-20 break: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It’s easy to remember because we all want 20/20 vision, and it’s a good excuse to look out the window.
Adjust your workspace screen to be slightly below eye level and about an arm’s length away.
This simple tweak to your work area can really improve your posture, as well as the amount of strain on your eyes. A win-win!
Adjust the brightness of your device.
Brightness levels also play into how hard our eyes have to work. Our screen brightness should match our surroundings, especially during the evening hours.
Say hello to Biofinity Energys® contact lenses!
These contact lenses are specifically made to address eye dryness and tiredness caused by digital devices. Digital Zone Optics® lens design and Aquaform® Technology are two innovations that when combined help with the tiredness and dryness that can be caused by digital eye fatigue.
Additionally, Biofinity Energys® monthly replacement contact lenses are designed to help our eyes better adapt for a more comfortable wearing experience3. This part is tricky because contacts can be hard to adjust to, and trust me—no one wants what feels like gritty sandpaper in there. Comfort is key!
If you’re sick of wearing glasses all the time and feel ready to do something new, visit biofinityenergys.com to learn more and to get your free trial certificate.
"The best day of my entire life, basically."
This article originally appeared on 07.10.21
When Michael Todd started his freshman year at MLK prep school in Memphis, Tennessee two years ago, he only had one outfit to wear to school. High school kids can be incredibly cruel and Michael was mocked for three weeks for wearing the same clothes every day.
"I really don't have clothes at home," he told KTVI. "My mom can't buy clothes for me because I'm growing too fast."
Kristopher Graham, a football player at MLK Prep, thought the bullying had gone too far and wanted to do something to help. "When I saw people laugh at him and bully him, I felt like I needed to do something," Kristopher said. He texted his friend Antwan Garrett asking for help.
The next day, Michael was taken out of third period and when he stepped out of the classroom he was approached by Kristopher and Antwan. He froze with nervousness when he saw the two football players stopped him by the lockers.
"I want to apologize to you for laughing at you and I want to give you something to make it up," Kristopher told Michael. The football players handed Michael a gift, bags full of shirts, shorts, and shoes.
Michael couldn't believe the football players' kindness.
"I've been bullied my entire life." But getting the gift was "awesome," he said according to USA Today. "The best day of my entire life, basically."
Video of the gift exchange went viral and has been seen millions of times. A few weeks later, the three teenagers were invited to appear on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" where they were greeted by Will Smith who gave them $10,000 each.
Antwan plans to use the money for trade school to become a diesel engine mechanic and Kristopher wants to invest his portion.
Antwan helped Michael because he understood what he was going through.
"We weren't expecting the video to go viral. We just wanted to make a change," Antwan said according to Commercial Appeal. "I know how it feel not to have nothin'. I don't have much, but it made me feel better by seeing somebody else have. I haven't had like the best of life. Everybody struggles."
"My life has changed from sleeping in a house without no lights. With what is going on the outside affected me in school," Antwan added. "I didn't want to be in school. I wanted to help Michael and make him happy and it made me happy."
The good deed was also commemorated by the Memphis City Council who honored the teens with a resolution and a round of applause.
Kristopher and Antwan are wonderful examples of what can happen when teens are taught that they have a responsibility to one another. While countless kids mocked Michael for something well beyond his control, they saw his plight as an opportunity to drastically change his life by taking action.
Just imagine if everyone saw others' misfortune as an opportunity to help instead of judge.
This article originally appeared on 08.02.21
When Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim and Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi both landed their high jumps at 2.37 meters, they were in the battle for Olympic gold. But when both jumpers missed the next mark—the Olympic record of 2.39 meters—three times each, they were officially tied for first place.
In such a tie, the athletes would usually do a "jump-off" to determine who wins gold and who wins silver. But as the official began to explain the options to Barshim and Tamberi, Barshim asked, "Can we have two golds?"
"It's possible," the official responded. "It depends, if you both decide..." And before he'd even told them how sharing the gold would work, the two jumpers looked at each other, nodded, and then launched into a wholesome and joyful celebration guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
NO ONE celebrates like the Italians do. #TokyoOlympicspic.twitter.com/DcUcBFEZjE— Peacock (@Peacock) 1627823977
(If you are unable to view the video above, check it out on NBC's YouTube channel here.)
The two jumpers have been competing against one another for more than a decade and are friends on and off the field, so getting to share the gold is a win-win—literally—for both of them. It's also a historic choice. According to the BBC, the last time competing track and field Olympians shared the gold medal podium was in 1912.
The friendship and camaraderie between the two athletes are palpable and their immediate decision to share the gold truly embodies the Olympic spirit.
"I look at him, he looks at me, and we know it," Barshim said, according to the CBC. "We just look at each other and we know, that is it, it is done. There is no need."
"He is one of my best friends," he added, "not only on the track, but outside the track. We work together. This is a dream come true. It is the true spirit, the sportsman spirit, and we are here delivering this message."
Barshim was the silver medalist in the event in the Rio 2016 Olympics, and Tamberi suffered a career-threatening injury prior to those games, which took him out of medal contention.
"After my injuries, I just wanted to come back," Tamberi told CNN. "But now I have this gold, it's incredible. I dreamed of this so many times. I was told in 2016 just before Rio, there was a risk I wouldn't be able to compete anymore. It's been a long journey."
What a beautiful display of sportsmanship, excellence, and genuine human connection. This is what the Olympics are all about. Love to see it.
Thor knew exactly how to handle it.
This article originally appeared on 08.27.18
In addition to being the star of Marvel franchise "Thor," actor Chris Hemsworth is also a father-of-three? And it turns out, he's pretty much the coolest dad ever.
In a clip from a 2015 interview on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Hemsworth shared an interesting conversation he had with his 4-year-old daughter India.
"My daughter's kind of envious of my boys," Hemsworth told Ellen. "She came to me the other day, and she's like 'You know, Papa, I want one of those things that Sasha and Tristan have.' And I'm like, 'What do you mean?' She said, 'You know the things in between their legs that you have.'"
Hemsworth said he tried to explain the differences between male and female bodies, but his daughter wasn't having it.
"She goes, 'I really want one!' Hemsworth said. "I'm like, 'A penis?' And she's like, 'I want a penis!'
And then, Hemsworth had the best possible response. He recalls:
She's four and I'm like, 'You know what, you can be whatever you want to be.' And she goes, 'Thanks, Dad.' Runs off into the playground and that was it.
And then, I cannot confirm, but I'm pretty sure the Ellen audience did this:
Major kudos to Hemsworth for taking a potentially awkward parenting situation and turning it into a lesson about love and acceptance.
You can watch the full clip here: