Obama's post-election lunch with the former presidents is what America should look like

I've never been a fan of politics. I've always made conscientious decisions when I vote and engaged in discussions about challenges facing society, but the world of politics itself has always been a turn off. The partisan bickering, the power of expensive lobbyists to sway leaders who are supposed to work for the people, the mudslinging and inherently divisive nature of our two-party system—it's all just felt gross to me.

The office of the presidency, oddly enough, has not felt that way. Though a president brings their partisanship with them, of course, the office itself is non-partisan. The fact that it is a job held by a single individual has always humanized it for me, prompting me to feel some sympathy even for presidents I wasn't a fan of. "President of the United States" is an inarguably difficult position to be in, with impossibly hard choices to make. When unexpected crises land in your lap—the world's worst terrorist attack, a classroom full of first graders gunned down, the arrival of a global pandemic—it's your responsibility to handle it with care and wisdom. Every decision you make will be examined through the lens of history. Every statement you make becomes historical record. That's no small thing.

The weight of the office is unmatched in our country, and the status of the U.S. as a superpower makes it unlike any other position in the world. Everything U.S. presidents do and say matters, not just to Americans, but to people and governments all over the world.

Up until four years ago, I felt like every president understood that.

For some beautiful proof, consider this story of President-elect Obama's asking President Bush if he could meet the former presidents during his transition. A Facebook post from Sebastian Copeland shared an excerpt from Jean Edward Smith's biography of George W. Bush that reads:


"As part of the presidential transition, Barack Obama asked Bush if it would be possible for him to meet all the ex-presidents. Bush was happy to oblige, and organized a White House luncheon in the Oval Office on January 7. Bush and Obama were joined by Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush. The luncheon lasted over two hours, each former president ordered his lunch à la carte from the White House mess, and the tone was convivial and friendly. 'All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office,' said Obama before the meeting. 'For me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary, and I just want to thank the President for hosting us.'

Bush was equally effusive. 'We want you to succeed,' he replied. 'Whether we're Democrat or Republican we care deeply about this country. And to the extent we can we look forward to sharing our experiences with you. All of us who have served in this office understand that the office transcends the individual.'"

What a stunning contrast to where we are today.

Right now we have a President-elect not only being denied the most basic transition protocols, but being accused of crazy global conspiracies to to cheat in order to get elected. Nevermind that the pre-election polling from practically every respected polling firm had him ahead the whole time, making his win not remarkable in any way. Nevermind that the DHS cybersecurity head issued a statement saying, "There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised." Nevermind that that official was subsequently fired by the president for fact-checking him and that the president's legal team is next-level cuckoo bananapants. Nevermind that that legal team is currently 1–30 in post-election court cases, proving that the claims of widespread fraud are not based in reality.

It's as embarrassing as it is baffling. And on top of that, the dignity and decency we see in the Obama transition story is gone. The current occupant of the White House has shat upon the office of the presidency. It's going to have to be hosed down, disinfected, and saged in a hazmat suit before President-elect Biden takes the reins.

I exaggerate—but only slightly—because I'm frustrated that I can't do much else. It's a helpless feeling to watch the country you love having its foundations sledgehammered by a malignant narcissist who wouldn't recognize decency and dignity if they slapped him across the face, knowing that you can't personally do anything about it. While I'm hopeful for the future, I mourn for what we've lost these past four years and weep over the fact that tens of millions of Americans appear to not care that the office of the presidency has been befouled beyond recognition by this man's ongoing behavior.

There is plenty to criticize in every president's time in the Oval Office, and some certainly had moments which were neither decent not dignified. But when their terms were over, when it was time to pass the baton to the next person in line, they did it. They didn't try to undermine a free and fair election with criminal accusations of their opponent. They didn't lie constantly to the American people in a desperate attempt to cling to power. They recognized that the office was bigger than they were, that the safety and security of the country was more important than they were, that even though their party was passing power to the opposing team, the person elected deserved a chance to govern because the will of the people said so.

Politics is ugly, but not like this. This is far beyond partisan squabbles and typical mudslinging. For the first time in modern history, our peaceful transfer of power is being threatened by the delusions of an egomaniac who can't admit defeat. I just hope and pray that this nightmare ends soon so we can bring dignity and decency back to the White House, for all our sakes.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
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When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Family

2 photos of a woman's bedroom reveal just how powerful depression can be.

"We need to be able to talk to each other about our feelings, even the bad ones."

This article originally appeared on September 7, 2016

Jonna Roslund is a 26-year-old from Sweden who lives with depression.

Photo via Jonna Roslund, used with permission.

Living with a mental illness affects many areas of a person's life, including one annoyance most of us can relate to: the dread of household chores.

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This article originally appeared on November 6, 2015

Every single day, babies across the world are born prematurely, which means that they're born before 37 weeks of gestation.

In Canada, about 29,000 infants are born prematurely each year, roughly 1 in every 13. But in the United States, around 400,000 to 500,000 are born early. That's about 1 in every 8 to 10 babies born in the U.S.!

Red Méthot, a Canadian photographer and student, decided to capture the resilience of many of these kids for a school photography project.

He's the father of two prematurely born kids himself, so the topic is important to him.

"My son was born at 29 weeks and my daughter at 33 weeks," he told me in a phone interview. "These are the kind of pictures I would like to have seen when my first child was born — they've been through that, and they are great now."

Méthot said he knows not all preemie stories have a happy ending — one of his photos features a child whose twin passed away after they were born prematurely — but for so many kids who come early, they go on to experience a great life.

Meet several of the beautiful kids he photographed!

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