Michelle Obama just returned to politics with an incredibly powerful message.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Politicians are always telling us to vote without understanding why so many of us don’t. Michelle Obama gets it.

In a video about the importance of voting in the 2018 midterm elections, Michelle Obama first wants to make it clear she understands all too well why a majority of Americans don’t vote -- numbers that spike even higher during “off year” non-presidential elections.

“Why should I vote? Nothing ever changes,” she begins in a new PSA for the When We All Vote initiative. “The system is rigged. Why bother?”


“Whether you’re trying to get dinner on the table after a double shift, dropping baby off with grandma or studying for exams, voting can feel like the furthest thing from your mind.”

“You might even feel like it’s just not worth it. But that’s exactly what some people want you to think.”

Voting is a burden but it’s also a right and the only path toward making our country, and our lives, better for everyone.

Michelle Obama is a Democrat. That’s not exactly breaking news. But her message on the importance of voting should be heard by everyone because no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, the best way to get your ideas and values into the conversation and into action is by being an active citizen. Our leaders are meant to lead but they can only lead when we appoint them to do so through the power of the vote.

With more Americans working, and often working longer hours for less wages, making a trip to the polls doesn’t necessarily feel like a priority. The irony is that in all elections, but particularly in local and midterm elections, we have the power to directly affect change at the state and local level.

And even if it’s hard to measure the positive change of putting some people into office and kicking others out, the impact of not participating in our democracy is even more subtle yet profound in how it affects our lives.

“The truth is, when we stay home, things stay the same. Or, they get worse,” Obama says.

“But when we all vote, we get new ideas and new energy,” she adds. “Leaders who share our values and listen to our voices. That’s how we change America.”

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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