Global preparedness expert shares the presidential speech we really need to hear

Judging by today's plunging stock market and the White House scrambling to correct three crucial pieces of information, last night's presidential address (which you can read in its entirety here) did little to reassure the country that the government is adeptly handling the coronavirus pandemic.

A mere few hours after the president concluded his remarks, global preparedness and humanitarian response expert Jeremy Konyndyk took to Twitter and shared the address that Americans really needed to hear.


I don't think it's overstating to say it's pretty much perfection. Check it out:

"My fellow Americans, the next few months are going to be hard. For many of us, harder than anything we've faced in our lifetimes. Life in our country is about to change. We must unify against this threat like we unified after 9/11.

And indeed, this virus threatens to kill more Americans than terrorism ever has.

But we can defeat it, and we will defeat it. My administration has a plan to lead this fight. I will outline that plan in a moment.

But more important than the plan is this:

We must all own this fight.

Defeating this outbreak will take science and medicine, but it will also take unity and partnership—from all of us. For now, medicine cannot defeat this disease. But *people* can. We have no vaccine, we have no treatment, although we are working furiously to develop both.

Until then, what we have is us. Our choices, our decisions, our behavior—that is how we will do this.

Here is the plan. Our most important priority over the coming months is to protect our highest-risk citizens, and the hospitals that will work to save them if they become ill.

We have seen what happened in Wuhan, and is happening in Iran and Italy. We should not imagine it cannot happen here. Make no mistake: this is a dangerous disease. While most who contract it become only mildly ill, it is extremely deadly for the elderly and people with chronic health problems.

You may be one of those people, or you may love one of those people—all of us have a stake in this. That is why tonight I am announcing national policy guidance on social distancing, and tomorrow I will be speaking with every governor in the country to secure their commitment to implement this guidance.

This must be a whole-of-society effort. We do not want to lock down our population as China did. But to avoid that, we must apply universal and aggressive public measures to slow the spread.

Even if you are young and low risk, you can still contract and spread it. And that threatens those who are at higher risk. So I am calling on all communities to suspend all mass gatherings of over 50 people.

I applaud the brave and difficult decisions made today by the NCAA and NBA—they are leading by example. I call on other business and civic leaders to follow them. These important measures are how we can protect our health system. We must ensure that those who do fall sick can obtain the quality care that they need, and survive. Aggressive social distancing measures help achieve this by reducing the number of people sick at any one time.

Reducing the number of people who are sick at once is the best way to keep our health system from being overwhelmed. And that in turn helps not just COVID-19 patients but also everyone else who must seek treatment in a hospital. You will learn more about these measures in the coming days, and I beg you to abide by them.

Social distancing, along with handwashing, are the most important things that average Americans can do to defeat this disease. Next, we must protect Americans who are highest risk from this virus. I have directed HHS to refocus the federal Public Health Service to reinforce their state and local counterparts on outreach and support to high risk people and facilities.

But they can't do this alone. We must all work to ensure that every seniors' home, retirement community, and other high-risk facility has the support it needs to prevent infections. And I urge Americans to take ownership of this. If you have loved ones in a high-risk facility - join us in this effort.

Next we must ensure that our nation's hospitals have the resources and support that they need to manage the coming flood of cases. While I fervently hope that we will not see the severe case volumes witnessed in China and Italy—we must be ready for that scenario. That is why I am directing HHS to immediately make urgent resources and support available to hospitals to safely isolate and treat COVID-19 patients.

I am also directing the military to make military doctors available to expand critical care capacity around the country. And I am directing the Army Corps of Engineers to help hospitals expand their intensive care facilities, and also to rapidly establish drive-through testing, which have proved successful in South Korea.

And let's talk about testing. First, I apologize.

I and my administration bungled this badly, but we are moving with total urgency to fix the problem. Public health labs and major research institutions across the country will now have free rein to initiate widespread testing, and the federal government will reimburse this fully.

This rapid expansion of testing will be available, free of charge, to every American. And if you feel ill, or suspect you have been exposed, I urge you to be tested so that you can self-quarantine if needed. Self-quarantine is a powerful tool against this virus.

Finally, we must protect our economy, and also protect those who may be most hurt by mass social distancing measures. Gig workers; hourly wage-earners; small businesses; event planners—all will face economic hardship over the next several months.

I am announcing tonight the creation of a social distancing empowerment fund, which will provide modest bailouts to self-employed workers and small business owners who lose significant income due to our new distancing guidelines.

These measures - mass social distancing, protecting our highest risk citizens, and protecting our hospital system—are the critical trifecta that will restrain fatalities in our country while helping to bring disease transmission under control. But none of this works without you. You—every citizen—must own this fight.

I know many of you do not trust me, and do not often wish me to succeed. But in this I will do my best to deserve your trust, and once this is over we can go back to fighting over judges and policy. This will be a long hard fight. But we must prevail and we will prevail. I commit to you that I and everyone in the federal government will do our part; and we call on you to do yours.

Good night."

I don't know about you, but just reading that speech made me feel better. If the president had given this address, I'd be left feeling like the president not only understands the full scope and gravity of the situation, but also how to get the country all on the same page with what specific actions to take and why.

Konyndyk is a global outbreak preparedness and humanitarian response expert with the Center for Global Development, as well as a member of the World Health Organization's high-level Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee. Seems it would have been wise for the president to have asked him to write his pandemic speech. And maybe even oversee the administration's response to the pandemic as well, instead of putting people with no experience and a huge learning curve in charge.

What a startling contrast that would have been.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Dan Fischer takes people's lost loved ones out surfing for "one last wave."

Dan Fischer understands grief. He also has some idea of how to cope with it—and how to help others through it as well.

Fischer has experienced tremendous loss in the past few years, losing both his father and his best friend. As a surfer, he's a believer in what he calls "the transformative power of the ocean." Originally from Montreal, Canada, Fischer has found healing riding the waves off Newport, Rhode Island, where he's lived for the past seven years.

Now he wants to share that healing power of the waves with others.

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The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

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