Even under pressure, Angela Merkel shows what it means to put people before politics.

Time magazine recently named German Chancellor Angela Merkel its 2015 Person of the Year. Meanwhile, her country hit a milestone that illustrates why she earned the honor.

This week, Germany announced that it has accepted more than 1 million refugees inside its borders in 2015.

One. MILLION.


Photo by John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Image.

For perspective, Germany has welcomed more refugees in 2015 than the United States has in the last 10 years.

Germany, a country of 80 million people, allowed in 1 million refugees this year alone. The United States, a country of 300 million, allows in roughly 70,000 refugees every year. You could say that's either rather embarrassing for the U.S., or a major statement of compassion for Germany. Perhaps it's both.

"Germany is doing what is morally and legally obliged [to do for refugees]. Not more, and not less," Merkel has said. And through her actions, she's stood by that sentiment, for sure.

Photo by Tobias Schwartz/AFP/Getty Images.

Merkel's ability to see refugees as real people in need of assistance, and not as a scary monolithic group of foreign invaders, has put Germany at the front of the refugee crisis. Some say her open-arms approach came as a change of heart after she encountered a young Palestinian refugee during a televised event back in July.

Whatever the case, it hasn't come without controversy.

Merkel's ability to see refugees as real people in need of assistance, and not as a scary monolithic group of foreign invaders, has put Germany at the front of the refugee crisis.

From fellow politicians and officials to the media to the German people, her efforts have seen an increasing amount of backlash stemming from concerns about cities that may not have the resources to handle the increased number of incoming refugees.

Merkel understands the concerns but doesn't see turning her back on refugees as the answer either. Besides, she's used to being the first to do something.

"It's no exaggeration to see this task as a historic test for Europe," she said during a Brussels summit on the crisis, adding that to "slam the door ... is an illusion in the internet age of the 21st century."

Photo by John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Image.

Adding an additional million people to a country of only 80 million in such a short amount of time isn't easy.

Perhaps the best analogy is this: It's kind of like when a small gathering of friends turns into an enormous house party. It's all a bit unexpected, but you still want everyone to get along and not break anything.

Merkel's open-door policy has stood strong despite increasing criticism, and Germany is doing its best to keep its refugee situation under control and ensure all the partygoers are happy and have enough to eat and drink and a place to crash at the end of the night. (OK, this party analogy may have gotten away from me.)

One way Germany is trying to do this is through a new plan to issue ID cards to all asylum-seekers to help store and centralize the info of who is coming in and what their asylum status is. It'll be interesting to see how the ID program turns out when it rolls out in February, but the plan is proof that Germany isn't afraid to figure out solutions to the influx of refugees as it goes — rather than pausing all incoming refugees until it can determine a solution (as some presidential candidates have suggested the United States should do).

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

As people continue to flee violence in Syria and other countries every day, the need for shelter, safety, and acceptance elsewhere is desperately needed — and Merkel, who has been chancellor since 2005, has stepped up to provide it. Even through the resistance, she's calling on other countries to do the same.

Canada is the latest to step up to the challenge. Prime Minster Justin Trudeau was seen greeting refugees at the airport when they arrived to their new country this week.

Merkel being declared Time's Person of the Year is big in another way too: It's the first time in 29 years that a woman has held the title.

While Merkel has been a huge voice in the refugee crisis, she's done a lot more than just that over the past 10 years. From her leadership role in the Greek debt crisis, to negotiating cease-fire deals with Russia, to recently joining the fight against ISIS, she's undoubtedly transformed German politics.

Chancellor Merkel is putting people over politics and standing up for what's right, no matter what. That's a surprisingly rare quality in many public leaders, and her strength and compassion are commendable.

Whether you support her leadership or not, it's no wonder she's considered by many as the most powerful woman in the world.

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.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci

When I first saw the preview of National Geographic's documentary about Anthony Fauci, I was confused. My assumption was that the documentary was made to profile his role in the COVID-19 pandemic response as that's how he became a household name. How did the filmmakers know they would need to get footage of Fauci at the very beginning of the pandemic, when no one knew yet what it would become?

The answer is: They didn't. This film was never intended to be about this pandemic at all. The profile of Anthony Fauci was planned by award-winning filmmakers John Hoffman and Janet Tobias in 2018 and they began filming in the fall of 2019, several months before anyone had even heard of SARS-CoV-2. The filmmakers originally planned to highlight Fauci as a lesser-known public servant, focusing primarily on his work throughout the AIDS pandemic.

What they ended up with is parallel stories of Fauci's AIDS work and Fauci's COVID response, and their "lesser-known" subject becoming a superstar during the making of the film. In fact, the press release for the film included the following, which is an unusual disclaimer but one the filmmakers felt necessary in the current climate: "Dr. Fauci had no creative control over the film. He was not paid for his participation, nor does he have any financial interest in the film's release."

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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!