Watch Zendaya’s powerful Teen Choice speech in the wake of Charlottesville.

About 2,500 miles stood between the bright lights of Hollywood and the flickering candles at vigils in Charlottesville, Virginia, when Zendaya took the stage at the Teen Choice Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday.

The horrors of the weekend still wore heavy on the hearts of many in attendance, and Zendaya, who has never shied away from speaking her mind, didn't let her moment go to waste.


Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

The 20-year-old star won "Choice Summer Movie Actress" for her role in "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and used her acceptance speech to encourage young people to stand up for what's right.

“'Spider-Man' is about a young person," Zendaya began. "And so right now I want to talk to all the young people in the audience."

She continued (emphasis added):

"With all the injustice and the hatred and everything that is happening — not only in the world, but in our country — right now I need for you young people, I need you guys to be educated, I need you to listen, I need you to pay attention, and I need you to go ahead and understand that you have a voice and it is OK to use it when you see something bad happening."

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Zendaya wasn't alone in her call to action. While no one specifically mentioned Charlottesville, a number of Teen Choice attendees alluded to the atrocities that happened there over the weekend and promoted hopeful messages of unity, including "Black-ish's" Yara Shahidi and Fifth-Harmony's Lauren Jauregui.

Their messages were ones Americans needed to hear.

The Teen Choice Awards aired as the country was still reeling from unconscionable acts of bigotry and violence.  

On Aug. 11, horrifying images of hundreds of white nationalists marching on the University of Virginia, burning torches in hand, went viral across Facebook and Twitter.

The following day, a "Unite the Right" conference in Charlottesville turned deadly, as alleged white supremacist James Fields ran over a crowd of protesters in his vehicle, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

President Trump's initial response to the violence and Heyer's death was ... not reassuring.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides," the president said on Aug. 12, doubling down on the idea that "many sides" are to blame. "It's been going on for a long time in our country. ... This has been going on for a long, long time."

Notably, there was no mention of white supremacy or racism in the president's initial remarks, which seemed to equivocate the hatred on display by literal Nazis with the actions of those protesting the alt-right conference.

A slew of leaders on both sides of the aisle were quick to criticize Trump, noting the president didn't go far enough in condemning the overt acts of bigotry, including Senator Marco Rubio, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer.

On Monday morning, Aug. 14, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier quit the president's manufacturing council, siting Trump's weak response to the incidents in Charlottesville. (In true form, Trump quickly bashed Frazier on Twitter.)

Trump followed up with an additional statement hours after Frazier's decision, condemning white supremacy using more forceful language. But in a certain sense, the damage had already been done.

The president's reaction to the horrors in Virginia raises another question: Why not call Heyer's death an act of terrorism?

Several other leaders acknowledged that the murder certainly meets the definition of domestic terrorism; even Trump's own attorney general, Jeff Sessions — who carries his own appalling history of racist views — considers it such.

Why can't the president — who's always been quick to call out terrorism when it comes at the hands of Islamists (read: when it's more politically convenient) — call a spade a spade when it comes to Charlottesville?

Zendaya would really like to know.

The actor and singer ended her speech on Sunday reminding young people that they'll soon have the power to make an even bigger difference in our world.

"You’re the future leaders of the world; we are the future leaders of the world," Zendaya said. "You’re the future presidents, the future senators. And you guys are the ones who are going to make this world better. So I’m just letting you know right now that you are the future, OK? So take that very, very seriously, all right?”

Watch Zendaya's speech at the Teen Choice Awards below:

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.

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John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

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"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.

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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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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.

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