A letter from Barack and Michelle Obama following the Parkland shooting has proven to be a powerful exposition about how the student survivors inspire them.

And the Obamas' response to the Feb. 14 attack in turn has stirred the political activism of Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School students in a way that's caught the attention of the nation.

The private letter to students dated March 10 was released to the public on March 21. The timing of its release comes just days before the March for Our Lives rallies are set to take place on March 24 around the nation.


"Not only have you supported and comforted each other, but you’ve helped awaken the conscience of the nation, and challenged decision-makers to make the safety of our children the country’s top priority," they wrote.

They didn't shy away from reminding students how hard advocating for gun reform can be.

Most reactions to the Parkland students' activism has been positive. But many have made attacks on their character and motivations, which is an understandably difficult thing for anyone — much less a teen — to endure. And perhaps more importantly, the students are becoming increasingly aware of just how difficult it is to move federal lawmakers into action, even when the overwhelming majority of voters are behind their cause.

The Obamas know that feeling all too well; the former president was unable to pass any meaningful gun violence reform while in office. "There may be setbacks; you may sometimes feel like progress is too slow in coming," they advised. "But we have no doubt you are going to make an enormous difference in the days and years to come, and we will be there for you."

Even though they've been out of the White House for more than a year, the Obamas are quietly continuing to play the role of "first family" in many situations.

Even most supporters of President Donald Trump would acknowledge that empathy is not his strongest suit. That has left the Obamas in an interesting place, where they occasionally find themselves unofficially playing the roles of comforters-in-chief.

They've clearly been very careful to not get in the way of Trump's role as POTUS. But sometimes the nation just needs a collective hug or pat on the back, and that's something both Michelle and Barack are exceptionally good at.

Photo by Pete Souza/Official White House Photo via Share America.

The Obamas' letter is a necessary reminder that we should encourage students to use their voices.

Student activism has a long history in the United States, from opposing the Vietnam War to more recent causes like Black Lives Matter. You don't even have to agree with the Parkland high schoolers' cause to know it's vital that we give our nation's youth the time and space to find their respective voices.

As the Obamas wrote, "Throughout our history, young people like you have led the way in making America better."

After all, the children (or in this case, teens) are literally our future. And a society of informed and engaged citizens is one that's better for everyone.

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
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It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

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This week, viral photos from the first day of school in various Georgia counties showed students crowded together with few masks in sight. Schools in the same area had to shut down entire classrooms due to positive tests after the first day back, quarantining students and teachers for two weeks.

In these counties, students are "encouraged" to wear a mask at school, but they are not required. Mask-wearing is referred to as a "personal choice."

This week, a private Christian college in a town near where I live announced that is planning to resume in-person classes this fall. The school has decided that students will not be required to wear masks, despite the fact that the town itself has a mask mandate for all public spaces. "No riots. No masks. In person. This fall," the college wrote in a Facebook post advertising the school last month.

The supposed justification for not requiring students to wear masks is that it's a "personal choice," and that students have the freedom to choose whether to wear one or not.

That's a neat story. Except it is totally hypocritical coming from schools and school districts that have no problem placing limits on personal choice and freedom by mandating stringent dress codes for students.

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As you sit down to eat your breakfast in the morning or grab an afternoon snack, take a minute to consider your food, how it was made, and how it got to your plate.

The fruit on your plate were grown and picked on farms, then processed, packaged and sent to the grocery store where you bought them.

Sounds simple, right?

The truth is, that process is anything but simple and at every step in the journey to your plate, harm can be caused to the people who grow it, the communities that need it, and the planet we all call home.

For example, thousands of kids live in food deserts and areas where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. Around the world, one in three children suffer from some form of malnutrition, and yet, up to 40% of food in the United States is never eaten.

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I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

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via The Hubble Telescope

Over the past few years, there has been a growing movement to fight back against some of the everyday racism that exists in America.

The Washington Redskins of the NFL have temporarily changed their name to the Washington Football Team until a more suitable, and less racist, name is determined.

The Dixie Chicks, a country band from Texas has decided to change their name to The Chicks to avoid any connotation with slavery, as has Lady Antebellum who now just go by Lady A.

(Although they stole the name form a Black woman who has been using it for over 20 years.)

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