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The only 3 lines you need to know from Al Franken's resignation speech.

After eight years in office, Al Franken calls it quits.

Earlier today, embattled Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) delivered a speech on the Senate floor responding to the sexual harassment accusations being leveled against him.

Wednesday saw the seventh and eighth allegations against the second-term senator come to light, immediately followed by a flood of more than 30 of his Democratic colleagues calling on Franken to resign.

He touched on all of that in his near-11-minute speech, opening with a reflection on his own feelings about being accused and closing by saying that when it came to his political career, he'd "do it all over again in a heartbeat." (Presumably without sexually harassing anyone?)


As far as apologies from the slate of powerful men recently facing consequences for a pattern of sexual harassment or abuse, Franken's initial statement on Nov. 16 was actually pretty solid. He struck the right balance of expressing remorse while still centering on the victim, and his track record of supporting women with his votes spoke for itself.

It's unsurprising that the left was conflicted over whether he should step down. People are complicated and are rarely heroes or monsters, but somewhere in between.

That's what makes it such a shame that his resignation speech featured many story beats we've heard before from other men on the left in similar situations. He hedged around what exactly it was he did or what he was apologizing for — some of which he denied happening at all — and, in something I'll get to in a moment, he shifted the conversation away from himself and onto other men.

In the end, there's really only three lines from his resignation speech that matter:

Franken in October 2017. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

1. "[I]n the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate."

Listening to the pleas of his fellow senators, Franken confirmed that he will be yielding his position — though he didn't specify a date or time. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will select Franken's replacement to hold the office until after the 2018 election, when voters will decide who will serve out the remainder of Franken's term (which expires in 2020).

Rumor has it that Dayton is expected to tap Lt. Gov. Tina Smith for the interim role.

Franken's office door. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Some might argue over if Franken should have to step down at all, especially given that a number of other lawmakers (and the president) are facing accusations just as bad — and, in some cases, worse — with no signs of accountability.

Which brings us to the second point from Franken's speech that matters...

2. "I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office ... "

He goes on to reference Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore as "a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls [and] campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party."

Earlier in his resignation, Franken dodged responsibility for some of the actions he's been accused of (including saying some are "simply not true"), but he concedes that stepping down is "the right thing to do."

Roy Moore and Donald Trump have both been accused of some pretty horrific acts, but have still retained the support of their party. Photos by Mark Wilson/Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

There should be no illusions about what Franken's resignation — or that of Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan), who retired earlier this week — means for the political careers of Trump, Moore, Blake Farenthold, and others. If there's any hope of actually addressing the cause of this problem, Franken's resignation couldn't be contingent on the actions of others. He had to do it because it was the right thing to do.

Removing serial sexual harassers and abusers from office can't be about "teams" or point-scoring — it has to be about ensuring that voters have representation in a government that truly has their interests at heart.

3. "Minnesotans deserve a senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day."

Did you catch what made that line so special? It's his use of a specific pronoun: her.

OK, so it's most likely that the "her" he's referencing is just a nod to some inside knowledge that Lt. Gov. Smith will likely take over his role in the interim. Or ... maybe it's more than that.

Perhaps Franken understands that if he's sincere in his belief that women are owed competent and effective leadership, that it's only fair that women — who currently occupy just 21 seats in the Senate — take the role he currently occupies.

After all, it's hard for women to feel represented by our government until they're represented in our government.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) speaking in Congress. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Regardless what he meant in that moment, the deviation from the social default of saying "he" is a bittersweet reminder that Franken, for all his faults, "got it," making his fall from grace and the actions that caused it that much more disappointing.

Longtime Franken supporters are right to feel conflicted watching the person they once looked up to have such an epic fall, but in the end, he did the right thing.

You can watch Franken's full speech below or read a transcript via Minnesota Public Radio.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

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How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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