Most Shared

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

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

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

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.

True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less