George Lucas is right to build affordable housing in his wealthy California neighborhood.

He's building something that America needs way more of.

George Lucas just royally pissed off a bunch of his wealthy neighbors...

...and became my new hero.

I mean, he was my old hero too. Have you seen the Battle of Hoth?


You see, Lucas' movie studio, Skywalker Ranch, is located in Marin County, California, which is among the wealthiest communities in the country.

Rich people love bikes, sunsets and far-away views of San Francisco.

When Lucas first moved his studio to the wealthy suburban county in 1978, many of his neighbors initially feared he would build this:

Though why anyone wouldn't want this in their backyard is beyond me.

But he actually built this:

There's a studio there. You can see it if you squint. Kinda.

A few years back, Lucas decided the studio was due for an expansion. Since he had gone to such great lengths to preserve the quiet, scenic qualities of the community before, he figured it would be no problem.

But his wealthy neighbors freaked out anyway.

They were afraid the expansion would spoil their precious views despite Lucas' long track record of not messing with anyone's view. And they were afraid a business expansion would disturb the character of the neighborhood.

The community fought the project for years, until 2012, when Lucas finally gave in and decided to sell the land to a developer who would keep the neighborhood residential like his neighbors requested.

But he would make sure that the people who moved into the new development would be the sorts of folks priced out of the otherwise wealthy community, writing in a letter:

"We hope we will be able to find a developer who will be interested in low income housing since it is scarce in Marin."

And well, you can pretty much guess what happened next:

Norimitsu Onishi, New York Times:

“It's inciting class warfare," said Carolyn Lenert, head of the North San Rafael Coalition of Residents.
...
Carl Fricke, a board member of the Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association, which represents houses nearest to the Lucas property, said: “We got letters saying, 'You guys are going to get what you deserve. You're going to bring drug dealers, all this crime and lowlife in here.' "

And at first, it played out the usual way. There was the community board uproar, and political hurdles, and endless red tape. One of his community partners backed out when the cost got too high. And the project was tabled.

But here's the thing. George Lucas is a billionaire.


Tissues, according to George Lucas.

Which means George Lucas can basically do whatever George Lucas wants.

So he's building it anyway. With his own money.

Elahe Izadi, Washington Post:

Now, two years after that project stalled, Lucas has decided to build the affordable housing and pay for it all himself.

“We've got enough millionaires here. What we need is some houses for regular working people," Lucas said through his lawyer Gary Giacomini.

Which, excuse me for gushing, is a move so baller that it almost makes up for Episodes I-III.*

*Just kidding, George Lucas. You can do no wrong and I love you.

As plainly awesome as this is, this sort of thing is obviously not a long-term solution for housing discrimination.

We can't wait for altruistic billionaires to swoop in on their white horses and integrate our communities with their magic money wands.

So listen, rich people.

Of course, sir. We'll build the windmills somewhere else so you don't have to look at them from your porch. Right away.

I'm hip to your game.

You see, I grew up among you, in a well-off, bucolic, suburban community not far from New York City.

Our school mascot: Increasey, The Property Tax Bill.

And I speak your language.

I know there was once a time when "I don't want a black family, or a Korean family, or the janitor and his kids moving in on my street," was a thing you could say to a bunch of other rich people without shame or embarrassment. Heck, in some circles, you might even get a medal.

Thanks, Dave, for saying what we were all thinking.

But you can't say that anymore. People will look at you funny. With good reason.

So now you whisper things.

Things like "It's class warfare." Or "The schools will get overcrowded." Or "There'll be too much traffic downtown." Or "It's a fire hazard." Or "It is located in an undesirable location."

And sure, some people do legitimately worry about traffic, or development, or putting stress on the schools with the best of intentions.

But too often, these whispers are code for, "We don't want those people living next door."

Which is why I say this — as lovingly as I can:

Get your act together.

Poor and middle-class people want the same things you want: decent schools and safety for their kids, and a calm, peaceful life. They're not scary. They don't bite. And having them in the neighborhood probably won't trash your property values.

"I believe in equality of opportunity, just not equality of outcome."

...is a thing I've heard you all say over and over again — usually to convince yourselves that your successes are all thanks to your own plucky, nose-to-the-grindstone grit, as opposed to the natural result of having enormous advantages from the moment you were born.

Not talking about you, Ron. I know your dad was an East Despairtown coal miner and your mom was a sack of potatoes. I'm talking about the rest of you. You know who you are.

And weirdly, I actually agree.

No one can guarantee that everyone will strike it rich in life (though I believe we can do much, much more to ensure that people who don't make it big don't simply fall through the cracks). Someone, inevitably, is going to cross the finish line first. But everyone — whether their parents are rich, poor, or otherwise — should start from the same starting line.

That means having access to good schools. And resources in your community to help you pursue your interests and develop your skills. And living side by side with successful people who can mentor you. I had that growing up. The kids who live in George Lucas' hometown in Marin have that. Kids only a few miles away in places like Oakland, or Bridgeport, Connecticut, or East New York too often do not.

Making it easier for them to move in next door is one of the best ways to ensure that they do.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
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"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

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