Rainn Wilson gave a commencement speech to rich kids — and he got very real with them.

Rainn Wilson started his New Trier High School commencement speech poking lighthearted fun at the graduates’ wealth.

Pulling from the Chicago North Shore’s most affluent neighborhoods, New Trier is known as a public school for rich kids. Even their traditional graduation garb highlights the school’s demographic.

Rather than the traditional cap and gown, the 1,000 or so graduating seniors don white tuxedos and dresses adorned with a red rose. It’s quite a sight. Photo via Upsilon Andromedae/Flickr.


Wilson graduated from New Trier decades ago. Best known for his iconic role as Dwight K. Schrute in the "The Office," Wilson also co-founded SoulPancake, a digital media company that explores life’s big questions.

The actor's love of humor and humanity shine through in his commencement speech to New Trier’s 2018 graduates.

Wilson started off joking about the school’s mascot, the Trevian.

"For those of you who don’t know, a 'Trevian' is a person from Trier, Germany, who was given a BMW on their 16th birthday," Wilson said. (Cue laughter.) He also pointed out the irony of having the ceremony in the Sears Centre "considering probably not a single person in this room has ever set foot inside of a Sears." Again, laughter. These folks know themselves.

Then he got serious about what the students’ privilege means for them as they move into the world.  

"We’re a privileged bunch in many ways," Wilson said. "Most of us have come from money, have some money, most of us are white-skinned, and come from families where there’s been a tremendous amount of success. Most of us are going to get an amazing secondary education. And for most of us, the doors to the business world, or the art world, or political world, or science world will be wide open for us."

"This is not something I ever want you to feel bad about," he continued. "What privilege means is that we have an opportunity ... not to be entitled, not to be superior, but to acknowledge our privilege and do whatever we can to help those who don’t have it."

People sometimes mistake pointing out privilege with pushing guilt. As Wilson explained, advantages and abundance are simply opportunities "to make the world a better place."

"We have an opportunity to create jobs, nonprofits, to help fund arts organizations, help make science make tremendous strides forward, and to use our education for the greater good rather than merely seeking personal comfort and personal status," he said.

The standard mantra of "be a good person" is inadequate to conquer the challenges facing humanity, Wilson explained.

"The world is hurting from disunity and injustice, and we need to do more," Wilson said. "It is our privilege to be change agents in this world, to be of maximum love in this world, of maximum service, to make every school on this planet as great as the incredible New Trier High School."

And Wilson walks his talk.

He and his wife, Holiday Reinhorn, founded an educational initiative for girls in Haiti called Lidè. He also serves on the board of the global grassroots educational nonprofit, Mona Foundation.

Wilson capped off his thoughts on privilege with a quote from 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, from which Wilson draws his inspiration to serve humanity:

"Be ye loving fathers to the orphan, and a refuge to the helpless, and a treasury for the poor, and a cure for the ailing. Be ye the helpers of every victim of oppression, the patrons of the disadvantaged. Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race. Do some good to every person whose path you cross, and be of some benefit to him ... for love is light, no matter in what abode it dwelleth; and hate is darkness, no matter where it may make its nest."

Imagine what the world would look like if all of us took Wilson's advice to heart and used whatever privilege we have for good.

Watch Wilson's full speech here:

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."