Think everyone who marched on Saturday was a liberal coastal elite? Think again.

Rebekah DeFreest was holding court with four of her fellow Women's Marchers in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, when five college-age men with Trump signs taped to their chests came by looking for a laugh — or a fight.

The standoff rapidly devolved into a screaming match. But DeFreest was determined to get into their heads.

"I pulled all of the men aside and we talked for probably half an hour. Some other protestors came up and encouraged the conversation, thanked them for coming out," DeFreest says.


DeFreest talks with Trump supporters. Photo courtesy of Rebekah DeFreest.

Bethlehem isn't Washington, D.C., and DeFreest isn't a Democrat. She voted for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. But her concern about what a Trump administration might do for the environment and Planned Parenthood, which saved her life by detecting her cervical cancer twice, led her to her local Women's March — in a city of 75,000 in a county that barely went for Hillary Clinton in the heart of coal country.

Attendance at Saturday's Women's Marches across the country — totaling around 3.2 million, according to a FiveThirtyEight estimate — surprised even many of the event's organizers.

Early reports of high turnout in D.C., New York, and Los Angeles prompted snap accusations that the march was a vanity project for "wealthy coastal elites." Unsurprisingly, the rally generated its biggest crowds in large urban areas in states won by Clinton.

But the proliferation of smaller rallies in red states — from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Sarasota, Florida — where marchers didn't have the luxury of preaching solely to the like-minded, are a signal that the movement has surprising strength and organizational seeds beyond its urban core.

Retired educator Linda Houston helped organize a march in her hometown of Wooster, Ohio — population 26,384.

Houston, a longtime Democratic activist and former local officeholder, was surprised at the turnout in a town she describes as leaning red.

"The last time I remember that many people was during the Vietnam War, so that was a long, long time ago," she says.

Houston (right) with the Wooster march planning committee. Photo courtesy of Linda Houston.

Some attendees were motivated by issues with particular local impact.

"Utah is gorgeous. It’s absolutely beautiful here. We have amazing outdoors, but we have some of the worst air quality in the entire country," says Katie Dabling, who marched in Ogden, Utah, despite a snowstorm that shut down roads and transit in the area. She worries that the Trump administration will gut environmental regulations and make health care less accessible for many in her state.

Utah is one of 19 states that refused to implement the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, stranding many of her friends and leaving members of her family trapped in the law's "gray area" — with an income too high to qualify for traditional Medicaid but too low to afford insurance on the ACA exchange. She fears the government won't patch the hole.

Some marchers in these small heartland towns and cities saw them as life rafts for their neighbors who might feel like they're the "only one."

Dabling, who grew up Mormon and has many friends and loved ones who have come out as LGBTQ only to lose their faith community, marched to remind them and America that her state and hometown aren't homogenous.

The Ogden rally, which had to compete with a snowstorm. Photo courtesy of Katie Dabling.

"Don’t count the little states out, or the red states, because definitely there’s people like me here who are angry, who didn’t want what’s going on to happen, and there’s just a lot of work to do," Dabling says.

"Do I have hope? Only if we continue with this," Houston says.

Houston is already organizing with a group of local residents to lobby their congressman against repealing the ACA. Traveling to his office will require securing care for her husband, who has Parkinson's disease, but she believes the stakes are too high to skip the trip.

Rallygoers in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of Rebekah DeFreest.

"I have a granddaughter that I worry about constantly. And I keep telling her, ‘You’re important for who you are,'" she says.

DeFreest hopes to continue talking to the Trump supporters she met at the rally. After a wide-ranging debate over birth control, abortion, and public welfare programs, she invited them to join a Facebook group she started called "Finding Common Ground." The rules: Be informed and back up your points with facts from neutral sources.

All five joined.

"The next step is dialogue, and not hate or bashing," she says. "And if we could have good constructive conversations, like we did with them, we’d be able to break down so many boundaries."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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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.

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