Librarian who rejected gift from Melania Trump: Give books to kids who need it.

First lady Melania Trump called on Dr. Seuss to help her celebrate National Read a Book Day on Sept. 6.

Then things got ... complicated.

Melania Trump reads a book to kids during the Easter Egg Roll at the White House in April 2017. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.


As the White House had previously announced, a school in each state that had "achieved high standards of excellence" would be receiving a box of 10 books by Dr. Seuss. Achieving "excellence" is a vague benchmark, of course — and one the White House doesn't define in detail in its press release — but it seemed as though performing well on standardized testing was a key benchmark.

In Massachusetts, that school selected to receive the donated books was Cambridgeport Elementary. The school librarian there, however, wasn't exactly happy about it.

In a blistering open letter to the first lady published on family reading blog The Horn Book, librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro laid out why she won't be keeping the books.

Although she said was "honored" by the gift and thanked Trump for the gesture, Soeiro pointed out why students in Cambridge — home to Harvard University, and a community with significant resources to offer its schools — certainly shouldn't be the ones accepting donated books from Washington when there are many other schools that need the help.

"My students have access to a school library with over nine thousand volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science," she wrote. "Meanwhile, school libraries around the country are being shuttered."

Detroit teachers protest in May 2016 after significant budget shortfalls cause large setbacks for the district. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

Soeiro noted the Trump administration has exacerbated education inequality by appointing Betsy DeVos — whose policies tend to favor students in wealthier or privileged areas, like Cambridge, over those in impoverished rural and urban districts — to run its education department.

"Why not go out of your way to gift books to underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos?" she wrote.

Education secretary Betsy DeVos. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

As you can imagine, Soeiro has faced both support and backlash for the letter.

The first lady responded to Soeiro in a statement from her communications team, suggesting the librarian needlessly made the gift political: "To turn the gesture of sending young students some books into something divisive is unfortunate, but the First Lady remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere."

Many online agreed:

In her letter criticizing Trump, Soeiro also called Dr. Seuss a "bit of a cliché" and noted his work's well-documented racist undertones — points conservative media seized and panned harshly.

But Soerico certainly has a group of supporters in her corner too — notably, it seems, many Cambridge parents.

CBS Boston reported that many moms and dads picking their kids up from school after the controversy unfolded agreed with Soerico's motives: "That’s the librarian’s prerogative and I support her decision," one dad chimed in. "I think the letter is really articulate, constructive in its suggestions," another told the news outlet.

Whether or not you agree with the librarian's decision to reject Trump's gift, one undeniable point in her letter is worth remembering: Public school kids deserve better.

"Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit are suffering through expansion, privatization, and school 'choice' with no interest in outcomes of children, their families, their teachers, and their schools," Soerico wrote. "Are those kids any less deserving of books simply because of circumstances beyond their control?"

Of course not. And our education policies should reflect that.

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Women around the world are constantly bombarded by traditional and outdated societal expectations when it comes to how they live their lives: meet a man, get married, buy a home, have kids.

Many of these pressures often come from within their own families and friend circles, which can be a source of tension and disconnect in their lives.

Global skincare brand SK-II created a new campaign exploring these expectations from the perspective of four women in four different countries whose timelines vary dramatically from what their mothers, grandmothers, or close friends envision for them.

SK-II had Katie Couric meet with these women and their loved ones to discuss the evolving and controversial topic of marriage pressure and societal expectations.

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"What happens when dreams clash with expectations? We're all supposed to hit certain milestones: a degree, marriage, a family," Couric said before diving into conversation with the "young women who are defining their own lives while navigating the expectations of the ones who love them most."

Maluca, a musician in New York, explains that she comes from an immigrant family, which comes with the expectation that she should live the "American Dream."

"You come here, go to school, you get married, buy a house, have kids," she said.

Her mother, who herself achieved the "American Dream" with hard work and dedication when she came to the United States, wants to see her daughter living a stable life.

"I'd love for her to be married and I'd love her to have a big wedding," she said.

Chun Xia, an award-winning Chinese actress who's outspoken about empowering other young women in China, said people question her marital status regularly.

"I'm always asked, 'Don't you want to get married? Don't you want to start a family and have kids like you should at your age?' But the truth is I really don't want to at this point. I am not ready yet," she said.

In South Korea, Nara, a queer-identifying artist, believes her generation should have a choice in everything they do, but her mother has a different plan in mind.

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"I just thought she would have a job and meet a man to get married in her early 30s," Nara's mom said.

But Nara hopes she can one day marry her girlfriend, even though it's currently illegal in her country.

Her mother, however, still envisions a different life for her daughter. "Deep in my heart, I hope she will change her mind one day," she said.

Maina, a 27-year-old Japanese woman, explains that in her home country, those who aren't married by the time they're 25 to 30, are often referred to as "unsold goods."

Her mom is worried about her daughter not being able to find a boyfriend because she isn't "conventional."

"I really want her to find the right man and get married, to be seen as marriage material," she said.

After interviewing the women and their families, Couric helped them explore a visual representation of their timelines, which showcased the paths each woman sees her life going in contrast with what her relatives envision.

SK-II

"For each young woman, two timelines were created. One represents the expectations. The other, their aspirations," Couric explained. "There's often a disconnect between dreams and expectations. But could seeing the difference lead to greater understanding?"

The women all explored their timelines, which included milestones like having "cute babies," going back to school, not being limited by age, and pursuing dreams.

By seeing their differences side-by-side, the women and their families were able to partake in more open dialogue regarding the expectations they each held.

One of the women's mom's realized her daughter was lucky to be born during a time when she has the freedom to make non-traditional choices.

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"It looks like she was born in the right time to be free and confident in what she wants to do," she said.

"There's a new generation of women writing their own rules, saying, 'we want to do things our way,' and that can be hard," Couric explained.

The video ends with the tagline: "Forge your own path and choose the life you want; Draw your own timeline."

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