These days, the name Albert Einstein is basically a synonym for “genius.”

Einstein’s theory of relativity is one of the cornerstones of modern physics and his predictions continue to be confirmed today, even over a hundred years later. That’s not to mention his famous E=mc2 equation and the nuclear weapons it eventually helped spawn (which Einstein came to deeply regret).

He could even be pretty wise at times. A note scrawled with a piece of advice — "A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness." — recently sold for $1.56 million.


Two notes from Albert Einstein that were given to a bellboy in lieu of a tip. Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images.

But there’s a different reason Einstein was amazing that many people might not realize: He was also a fervent civil rights activist.

Though his life ultimately came to be full of fame and fortune, Einstein wasn’t a stranger to prejudice.

A portrait of Einstein at a show in London. The artist who made this, Max Liebermann, would be attacked as “degenerate” by the Nazis. Photo by Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.

Einstein was Jewish, living in Germany as Hitler rose to power. Einstein despaired over the Nazi’s anti-Semitism and became an outspoken critic of the Nazi party, which only drew more attacks against him. Major newspapers published attack pieces against him. His house was raided while he was away. He even appeared on a pamphlet list of the enemies of Nazi Germany. The caption below his picture read, “Not Yet Hanged.”

The harassment would ultimately prove to be too much. In 1933, Einstein abandoned his home and job at the Prussian Academy and sailed to the United States, stating: “I shall live in a land where political freedom, tolerance, and equality of all citizens reign.”

Einstein in 1938 at home at Princeton University. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.

Though the United States proved to be a haven for Einstein for the rest of his life, he must have been disappointed to see his newly adopted country fail to live up to the promise of equality.

At the time, the United States was still deeply segregated and Jim Crow laws severely restricted the rights of black Americans. Even Princeton, the college that’d become Einstein’s workplace, wouldn’t admit black students. Einstein could see the parallels, and, just as he refused to be quiet in Germany, so too in the United States.

Over the next decades, Einstein would become a staunch defender and ally of both the civil rights movement and the men and women who fueled it.

When opera star Marian Anderson was denied a hotel room because of her skin color, Einstein opened his house to her. He worked with actor and singer Paul Robeson on the American Crusade Against Lynching and invited him to perform at Princeton when the singer was blacklisted. He publicly encouraged the NAACP and W.E B. Du Bois for years and appeared as a character witness when the federal government tried to indict the man.

In 1946, he published an essay for white readers about racial bias in Pageant magazine, writing:

"Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition. …
I do not believe there is a way in which this deeply entrenched evil can be quickly healed. But until this goal is reached there is no greater satisfaction for a just and well-meaning person than the knowledge that he has devoted his best energies to the service of the good cause."

That same year, he gave a speech at Lincoln University calling racism was "a disease of white people." He also added, "I do not intend to be quiet about it."

Einstein was clearly one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. But perhaps what made him a truly special human being wasn’t just that he was smart, or that he was funny, or that he left behind a lot of great anecdotes (and notes for bellboys).

Perhaps it was that he used that magnificent brain of his to not just undersand the world, but to try to make it more just, fair, and peaceful place.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

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