Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Some people say that while change is inevitable, progress is a choice. In other words, it’s a purposeful act—like when American media mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner established the United Nations Foundation 25 years ago.
Turner recognized that the United Nations is indispensable to tackling humanity’s greatest challenges and driving global progress, and he also knew that solving complex, worldwide problems require a blend of diverse solutions and partners. He’s a pretty smart guy.
As a strategic partner of the United Nations, the UN Foundation seeks to solve the world’s biggest challenges by bringing together different perspectives, fresh thinking, and innovative ideas. Think of it as a massive table, where the best and the brightest from all over the world are invited to bring new and creative ideas to solve complex problems affecting humanity. That’s the UN Foundation, and it’s awesome.
Honorees, speakers and guests on stage at We the PeoplesPhoto: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Every year, the organization recognizes extraordinary individuals and institutions whose work stands out as an embodiment of their guiding principles: to create a safer, healthier, and fairer world for all. This year’s annual Global Leadership Awards were presented at We the Peoples in New York City’s Gotham Hall, where five recipients were honored for their tireless work to push progress forward.
Here are the change-makers who accepted the awards, which celebrate the very best of humanity.
Mia Amor Mottley, 2022 Champion for Global Change award. Not only is she the first female to hold the position of Prime Minister of Barbados, she exhibits top-notch leadership in her fight for global change. She is known for fearlessly urging the leaders of larger, richer, and more powerful countries to recognize their contributions to climate change and their responsibility to help combat its disastrous effects—especially in smaller island nations. (She also encourages leaders to have “mature conversations” with their constituents, something we can all agree is woefully lacking across the board!)
Hon. Mia Mottley, SC, MP, Prime Minister of BarbadosPhoto: Stuart Ramson for United Nations Foundation
Prime Minister Mottley takes stewardship of the environment very seriously. The island of Barbados is on the frontline of climate change impacts, which manifest in everything from more devastating hurricanes, to coastal erosion, and are getting worsefrom year to year. Not only that, she’s tackling social justice reform, lack of education access, and political corruption, one step at a time. “There are so many who are voiceless and so many who are incapable of action, but if those of us who have the capacity can make that difference in their lives, then the world would be a better place,” said Prime Minister Mottley. Seriously.
Forest Whitaker, SDG Vanguard Award: While Whitaker is best known for his acting roles, he is also Founder & CEO of Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, a project aiming to promote the values of peace within communities all over the world that are impacted by conflict and violence. His work has touched the lives of approximately 1.3 million children—including former child soldiers—helping them cope with trauma and learn to thrive in their communities. The goal is to move people from chaos to hope and engagement by educating, training, and restoring peace.
Hans Vestberg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Verizon and UN Foundation Board member, presents the SDG Vanguard Award to Khadija Mayman, Youth PeacemakerPhoto: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Whitaker staunchly values the potential of youth, insisting they deserve a seat at the table. He believes that in order to attain peace and prosperity, communities and nations must heed the voices of their young people; keeping them engaged is what preserves our future. “We must realize that whatever challenge we are faced with, young people can and should be part of the solution – both for today and tomorrow,” he said.
Whitaker walks the walk— and it showed when the spotlight was put on Khadija Mayman, Youth Peacemaker for the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, who accepted the award on his behalf. What better way to change the world, than to start by healing our children and letting them lead?
Mia Kami, SDG Vanguard Award: Kami is a Tongan singer/songwriter. She is passionate about gender equality, indigenous rights, and climate action, reminding us that storytelling has the power to fuel political and environmental change. She channels her passions into songwriting and uses her music to inspire hope and healing.
In 2022, a devastating volcanic eruption created a massive humanitarian crisis in her home country of Tonga. The volcano generated a plume of ash that rose more than 12 miles above sea level; the next day, there was a larger, more violent eruption that created an ash plume 375 miles in diameter. This second explosive eruption produced a tsunami that affected the entire Pacific Ocean, and atmospheric pressure waves that circled Earth several times. After the eruption, satellite images show that 90% of the island is no longer visible. Kami drew attention to the crisis through song. In one of her most popular works, Rooted, she sings:
There is hope
There is strength
There is power
There is change
In you and I
Singer-songwriter Mia Kami performs at We The Peoples 2022Photo: Stuart Ramson for United Nations Foundation
Kami’s ability to bridge art and action to protect the world's oceans draws attention to issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, marking her as an extraordinary, creative change-maker.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), presented with the 2022 UN Heroes Award: Dr. Natalia Kanem, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA, accepted the Award on behalf of the organization.
Dr. Natalia Kanem, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA, accepts the 2022 UN Heroes Award, presented by Mark Malloch-Brown, President of Open Society Foundations and UN Foundation Board member at We the PeoplesPhoto: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Founded in 1969 by concerned American citizens, this institution is the lead United Nations sexual and reproductive health and rights agency. They are there for mothers, pregnant women, and girls around the world, no matter what, and their work encompasses everything from educating women on family planning to working to end child marriage and gender-based violence—especially in times of war.
UNFPA delivers lifesaving care in places in crises so that girls and women can manage their periods, have healthy pregnancies, and deliver their babies safely. They recognize that when individuals are deprived of the right to make crucial choices about their own bodies and futures, it has a cascading impact on their families’ welfare and future generations.
Unsurprisingly, courage is one of their four core values; they pride themselves on saying and doing what’s right, not what’s easy, all the time. That is a purposeful act of progress for certain.
Peace on Purpose/lululemon. This year, the inaugural Goal 17 Innovation in Partnership Award was presented to recognize creative, cross-sector partnerships that are driving progress forward. Most of us associate the brand name lululemon with leggings, but it turns out that they do much more than sell athletic wear. Peace on Purpose is a collaborative effort between lululemon and the UN Foundation to provide tools, such as mindfulness training, for humanitarian workers to care for their mental and physical well-being so they can effectively care for others. Support people need support people, after all!
From left to right: Baroness Valerie Amos, Master, University College Oxford and Vice Chair, UN Foundation Board of Directors; Esther Speck, Senior Vice President of Sustainable Business & Impact at lululemon; Nikki Neuburger, Chief Brand Officer, lululemon.Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
The award was accepted by two of lululemon's leaders: Esther Speck, Senior Vice President of Sustainable Business & Impact, and Nikki Neuburger, Chief Brand Officer. Speck is widely respected among her colleagues as one of the most result-oriented professionals in sustainability. She managed to bridge lululemon and the UN Foundation seamlessly by recognizing that lululemon focuses on offering their customers a path to wellbeing, which entails supporting humanitarian and sustainable causes.
Esther Speck, Senior Vice President Sustainable Business & Impact at lululemon and Nikki Neuburger, Chief Brand Officer, lululemon.Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Neuburger is responsible for lululemon's ability to share compelling stories from their team of 2,000 global ambassadors. "We really lean into highlighting those ambassadors," said Neuburger in an interview with Ad Age, "lifting them up not only in terms of what they are doing with us, but also what they've got going on in their own communities."
The results are undeniable: over 8,000 UN workers from 137 countries have been reached through in-person and digital mental health and well-being programs! Research shows that the Peace on Purpose initiative has so far led to a 40% reduction of important psychological risk factors such as anxiety and depression, and an increase in overall well-being and resilience.
It’s a dynamic table of visionaries, that’s for sure—and the world is better because of them. As Elizabeth Cousens, President and CEO of the UN Foundation stated at the ceremony, “A few years ago, Ted [Turner] said: ‘The world is facing some tough obstacles, but I’ve never found much use in giving up. It’s much more effective to get to work.’ Well, at the UN Foundation, we believe in getting to work. We believe that allies and partners make us stronger. We believe that progress is worth fighting for, and we know you do too.”If pushing progress forward is a choice, then these change-makers make the right one, every single day. Learn more about these change-makers and the work they are doing here.
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'I’m not naughty, I’m autistic.'
Photo pulled from YouTube video
Imagine everything you'd experience while strolling through a mall — the smells, the sights, the things to touch...
Now imagine all of those feelings and sensations times, like, a hundred.
For many people with autism, overstimulation is their reality.
Being over- or undersensitive when processing sensory information (like sights and smells) is common for people on the autism spectrum.
So an everyday thing that many people might not even notice at the mall, like the spraying of a perfume bottle...
Autism and coping with overstimulation.
Photo pulled from YouTube video.
... can be overwhelming for someone with autism.
To Jo Wincup, whose 15-year-old son, Ben, has autism, this reality hits close to home.
“Four years ago, my son had a meltdown in a shopping center after becoming overloaded by the crowds, bright lights, and smells. He started kicking me, shouting, and swearing. We tried to get him outside to help him calm down, but the people [lining up] for buses just stared, some even said really hurtful things. This upset Ben even more. He ran off into the bushes and refused to come out. I just wanted to cry, for the ground to swallow us up."
The National Autistic Society is hoping to give viewers a peek into this reality with a new and gripping PSA.
Seen through the eyes of a boy with autism, the video by the U.K.-based group takes viewers through a shopping center, allowing them to experience what living on the spectrum can feel like.
After he's overwhelmed by his surroundings and struggling with his mother (as onlookers gape at what appears to be a child acting out), the boy explains to viewers: "I’m not naughty, I’m autistic."
How can we understand what autism feels like?
Video pulled from YouTube video.
It's important that we all understand what autism can feel like so that we can build a more empathetic world.
Although a large majority of people have heard of autism, a very small number of people actually understand how living on the spectrum can affect behavior. Many kids aren't necessarily naughty; they're dealing with a condition most of us can't experience firsthand.
A new report from the National Autistic Society found that 87% of families say people stare at their child who has autism, and 84% of people on the spectrum say others perceive them as "strange." Unfortunately, this contributes to the reason why nearly 8 in 10 folks with autism report feeling socially isolated.
"It isn’t that the public sets out to be judgmental towards autistic people," Mark Lever, chief executive of the organization, said in a statement, noting the research provided "shocking" results.
"They tell us that they want to be understanding but often just don’t ‘see’ the autism. They see a ‘strange’ man pacing back and forth in a shopping center, or a ‘naughty’ girl having a tantrum on a bus, and don’t know how to respond."
It doesn't have to be this way, though.
The more we all understand autism, the more people on the spectrum can feel OK about being themselves.
“Autism is complex and autistic people and their families don’t expect or want people to be experts," Lever explained. But a "basic understanding could transform lives."
Watch The National Autistic Society's PSA below:
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Innovation is awesome, right? I mean, it gave us the internet!
However, there is always a price to pay for modernization, and in this case, it’s in the form of digital eye strain, a group of vision problems that can pop up after as little as two hours of looking at a screen. Some of the symptoms are tired and/or dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain1. Ouch!
Eye strain from staring at devices is a widespread issue. Most people work, play, and maintain relationships through screens, which averages out to 6 hours and 35 minutes per day (and that’s in addition to work or school)! That translates to 46 hours and 5 minutes per week, or 2,402 hours and 55 minutes per year.2
With numbers like these, attention to eye health is more important now than ever; our dependence on technology certainly isn’t going anywhere. And just like innovation brought us technology, innovation also holds the key to combating the effects it has on our bodies. Here are some key suggestions from eye care professionals to help reduce common symptoms of digital eye strain. Spoiler alert: none of them involve wearing glasses!
Follow the 20-20-20 rule.
You can find some relief by taking a 20-20-20 break: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It’s easy to remember because we all want 20/20 vision, and it’s a good excuse to look out the window.
Adjust your workspace screen to be slightly below eye level and about an arm’s length away.
This simple tweak to your work area can really improve your posture, as well as the amount of strain on your eyes. A win-win!
Adjust the brightness of your device.
Brightness levels also play into how hard our eyes have to work. Our screen brightness should match our surroundings, especially during the evening hours.
Say hello to Biofinity Energys® contact lenses!
These contact lenses are specifically made to address eye dryness and tiredness caused by digital devices. Digital Zone Optics® lens design and Aquaform® Technology are two innovations that when combined help with the tiredness and dryness that can be caused by digital eye fatigue.
Additionally, Biofinity Energys® monthly replacement contact lenses are designed to help our eyes better adapt for a more comfortable wearing experience3. This part is tricky because contacts can be hard to adjust to, and trust me—no one wants what feels like gritty sandpaper in there. Comfort is key!
If you’re sick of wearing glasses all the time and feel ready to do something new, visit biofinityenergys.com to learn more and to get your free trial certificate.
- Asurion-sponsored survey by Market Research Firm Solidea Solutions conducted August 18-20, 2019 of 1,998 U.S. smartphone users, compared to an Asurion-sponsored survey conducted by market research company OnePoll between Sept. 11 – 19, 2017 of 2000 U.S. adults with a smartphone.
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A day for giving thanks and celebrating gratitude doesn't require an origin story.
As families across the U.S. start prepping for family gatherings and feasts of turkey and mashed potatoes, people are engaging in the usual debates over the origins of Thanksgiving. Kids in American schools are learning various versions of the Pilgrims in Plymouth story, most of which are overly simplistic and many of which are flat-out wrong. People in Native communities are experiencing the familiar whitewashing of their side of that story, and people of goodwill are feeling torn about how—or whether—to celebrate Thanksgiving in light of the problematic history that has been ascribed to it.
Considering the whole, long evolution of the holiday, here's an idea: Let's officially decouple Thanksgiving from U.S. history entirely and make it a holiday that celebrates gratitude for gratitude's sake and nothing more.
To be clear, I'm not suggesting we "erase history" here. I'm simply suggesting we stop associating this holiday with any specific historic eras or events and distill it down to its pure essence. Despite the elementary school dramatizations seared into our collective psyches, there is barely a shred of a thread actually linking the Pilgrim origin story for our modern Thanksgiving holiday. Not only do we have the problematic mythology surrounding that "First Thanksgiving" event, but the entire idea that the Pilgrims are why we celebrate Thanksgiving as a holiday today is totally untrue.
According to Britannica, there was evidence of a meal shared between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, but that didn't lead to some big, widespread holidays of thanksgiving, and the "thanksgiving" celebrations that were held early in American history were not associated with the Pilgrims.
"For the Pilgrims, giving thanks for the autumn harvest wasn’t a new concept," shares Britannica. "As a tradition with roots in European harvest festivals and Christian religious observances, 'days of thanksgiving' were fairly common among the colonists of New England. Throughout America’s colonial era, communities held their own unofficial Thanksgiving celebrations, and few people associated them with the Plymouth settlers."
In fact, the more direct link from U.S. history to our current Thanksgiving holiday came more than 250 years after the Mayflower landing. In 1863, just a few months after delivering his Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln declared a Thanksgiving holiday proclamation, which reads:
"I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, …to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving... And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him …, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union."
That proclamation is seen as the beginning of the national holiday, according to the National Parks Service, and largely thanks to the 36-year effort of a woman named Sarah Hale. As editor of Boston's Ladies' Magazine, Hale had publicly called for a national Thanksgiving holiday and she wrote to President Lincoln directly pushing for the holiday just a few weeks before he made the proclamation.
Notably absent from Lincoln's proclamation? Any mention of the Pilgrims and Native Americans. According to research shared in The New Yorker, it was the late 19th and early 20th century panic over immigration that led to the mythology of the Pilgrim-oriented origins of Thanksgiving—nearly 300 years after the fact.
However, I maintain that the history of Thanksgiving, at least in terms of how and why we celebrated it, isn't important. The Thanksgiving holiday doesn't need an origin story, problematic or otherwise. Giving thanks, especially during a harvest season, has been a standard tradition in cultures around the world for millennia—it's a worthy holiday all on its own. Gratitude is a value we all share and there's no reason why we have to tie it to any particular historical era or event.
Gratitude is also good for us. Many studies have shown that people who regularly practice gratitude tend to be happier and less depressed. According to Harvard Medical School, gratitude "helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships."
So let's place our focus of this holiday on the beauty of gratitude and on how giving thanks can make us better humans. Let's collectively agree to end ridiculous Thanksgiving school plays and make the holiday curriculum about why gratitude is good for us. Let's focus on teaching accurate history all the time instead of watering down or misrepresenting complex historic events to explain to young children why we celebrate certain holidays.
Let's give thanks for our loved ones and the yummy food we're about to consume and officially make the holiday as lovely and simple and universal as that.
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Justin Baldoni exemplified patient parenting when his daughter started. having a meltdown at the store.
This article originally appeared on 06.23.17
Young kids don't always pick the best times to have emotional meltdowns.
Just ask any parent.
Grocery stores, malls, and restaurants (or any place with lots of people around) in particular seem to bring out the worst in our little ones, prompting explosive tantrums that can make even the most stoic parent turn red-faced with embarrassment.
But why be embarrassed? It's just kids being kids, after all.
Actor Justin Baldoni recently shared a poignant photo with his own daughter and the big lesson he learned from his dad about such moments.
Baldoni, best known for his role on the show "Jane the Virgin," shared a photo his wife, Emily, took while the family was shopping at the local Whole Foods.
In it, Baldoni, along with his father, stares down at his daughter, Maiya. She's crying and/or wailing on the floor. Who knows about what. Her body is twisted into classic tantrum pose.
The two men look calm. Almost amused, but not in a mocking way.
They certainly are not embarrassed despite a horde of people around them in the store.
When Baldoni posted the photo to his Facebook, he recalled the way his father used to act during the actor's own tantrums, and how it helped shape him into the man he is today.
I tried to stay off social media yesterday to connect with my family without distraction so I'm posting this today....
Posted by Justin Baldoni on Monday, June 19, 2017
"My dad always let me feel what I needed to feel, even if it was in public and embarrassing," he wrote.
The post continued:
"I don't remember him ever saying 'You're embarrassing me!' or 'Dont cry!' It wasn't until recently that I realized how paramount that was for my own emotional development. Our children are learning and processing so much information and they don't know what to do with all of these new feelings that come up. I try to remember to make sure my daughter knows it's OK that she feels deeply. It's not embarrassing to me when she throw tantrums in the grocery store, or screams on a plane. I'm her dad…not yours.
Let's not be embarrassed for our children. It doesn't reflect on you. In fact.. we should probably be a little more kind and patient with ourselves too. If we got out everything we were feeling and allowed ourselves to throw tantrums and cry when we felt the need to then maybe we'd could also let ourselves feel more joy and happiness. And that is something this world could definitely use a little more of."
The photo, which Baldoni calls one of his favorites ever, shows the advice in action.
There's a lot of pressure out there on both men and women to be the perfect parents at all times.
But being the perfect parent doesn't mean your kid never gets angry or frustrated or confused. As Baldoni writes, toddlers are really just beginning to learn and explore the world's boundaries. There's naturally going to be a lot of swirling emotions as they encounter things and situations they can't understand.
What's important is we don't teach them to hide those feelings or push them down for fear of ridicule — that kind of emotion-management can come back to haunt us as adults. Working through our feelings, or just having a good cry right there in the middle of the grocery store, is an important skill to learn.
The emotional health of our children is certainly worth a few weird stares from people we'll never seen again.
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'Needle in a haystack doesn't come close to what we were looking for.'
A story out of Hopewell, Texas, is about finding a ray of light in a very dark time. NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reports that on Friday, November 4, a tornado destroyed the home of Dakota Hudson and his girlfriend, Lauren Patterson. The couple rode it out in the bathroom and when they emerged from hiding, their home was destroyed.
After checking in on their neighbors, Hudson realized that the engagement ring he bought for Patterson was lost among the debris. “Needle in a haystack doesn’t come close to what we were looking for,” Hudson said.
A Paris Junior League softball team stopped by the property to see if Hudson and Patterson needed help with the cleanup. Hudson asked the team to please help him find the ring.
“When you tell 20 girls someone is going to get engaged if they find a ring, they are going to find it,” Hudson said. Outfielder Kate Rainey miraculously found the ring, stuck in the mud, seven feet from where it was hidden in the house by Hudson.
“I was just kind of digging through the mud in this certain particular spot, and I kept digging there,” Rainey said according to KXII. “I don’t know why I felt led to dig right there, and I found a little piece of a metal circle, and it was not metal. It was gold. I didn’t believe it.”
Hudson celebrated the incredible moment by spontaneously dropping to one knee and proposing. Patterson said yes.
“We’re safe. We’re here. Everybody’s alright. It’s a miracle the ring was found. What better time to do it?” Hudson said.
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