Before he was famous, Dr. Seuss used his cartoon skills to skewer "America First" fascists.

His real name was Theodore Geisel, but his millions of fans will always remember him as Doctor Seuss. Over the course of his career he wrote and illustrated upwards of sixty books, many of which rank among the most beloved children's stories of all time. His work has sold over 600 million copies and has been translated into more than twenty languages. Countless children the world over have learned their ABCs, 1-2-3s, and dubious (but beloved) recipes with the help of his whimsical creations.

But Doctor Seuss has a lot more to teach us than just the alphabet. His often-overlooked early work as a political cartoonist, which he did well before the world was introduced to the Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, is especially resonant in today's increasingly volatile political climate.


He first dipped his pen into politics as an Army captain, writing propaganda cartoons (like the hilarious Private SNAFU) and making documentary films. But as nationalist fascism threatened to conquer Europe, America was wrestling with hatred, bigotry, and isolationism at home. To Doctor Seuss, these ideologies were undermining the war effort against the Axis powers. He fought back with the only weapon in his arsenal, wielding his pen as a cartoonist for the left-leaning New York City daily newspaper PM, where he drew more than 400 cartoons lampooning the dictators in Europe as well as intolerant politics at home.



His record wasn't spotless, to be sure. Early in his career he drew racist advertisements, and during the war he repeatedly caricatured Japanese people with tired racist tropes, fanning the flames that would lead to internment. He came to regret his actions later in life according to Ron Lamothe, the filmmaker behind The Political Dr. Seuss, and he wrote his famous book Horton Hears a Who as a parable for the post-war occupation of Japan, dedicating it to a Japanese friend.


There's still a lot of good to be found in his work from the time. Reviewing the cartoons today, the first surprise is how relevant they are, over 70 years after they were created. You can't help but feel a bit of historical deja vu when you see Seuss's satire of the "America First" movement of the time, which advocated for the same intolerant policies made famous more recently by a certain cartoonish bloviator who, when you think about it, wouldn't be out of place as a Seussian villain. The cartoons pull no punches, directly associating the ideology with Nazism.



Even though Doctor Seuss turned from political cartoons to writing children's books after the war came to an end, he never stopped his fight for a kinder, more tolerant society. In his 1961 book The Sneetches and Other Stories, his pen is as sharp as ever, satirizing the stupidity of discrimination based on skin color with a parable about "Sneetches" who think they are superior to others because they have a star on their belly. By the end of the story, the Sneetches learn their lesson:

I'm quite happy to say

That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day,

The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches

And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.

The question is, can we do the same? The Doctor who has taught us so much still has a lesson or two for us to learn. Hopefully we will prove to be as smart as the Sneetches.


Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

True

The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."