What more could you ask for? Good food, friends, and a brand-new skill.
Some people say that while change is inevitable, progress is a choice. In other words, it’s a purposeful act—like when American media mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner established the United Nations Foundation 25 years ago.
Turner recognized that the United Nations is indispensable to tackling humanity’s greatest challenges and driving global progress, and he also knew that solving complex, worldwide problems require a blend of diverse solutions and partners. He’s a pretty smart guy.
As a strategic partner of the United Nations, the UN Foundation seeks to solve the world’s biggest challenges by bringing together different perspectives, fresh thinking, and innovative ideas. Think of it as a massive table, where the best and the brightest from all over the world are invited to bring new and creative ideas to solve complex problems affecting humanity. That’s the UN Foundation, and it’s awesome.
Honorees, speakers and guests on stage at We the PeoplesPhoto: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Every year, the organization recognizes extraordinary individuals and institutions whose work stands out as an embodiment of their guiding principles: to create a safer, healthier, and fairer world for all. This year’s annual Global Leadership Awards were presented at We the Peoples in New York City’s Gotham Hall, where five recipients were honored for their tireless work to push progress forward.
Here are the change-makers who accepted the awards, which celebrate the very best of humanity.
Mia Amor Mottley, 2022 Champion for Global Change award. Not only is she the first female to hold the position of Prime Minister of Barbados, she exhibits top-notch leadership in her fight for global change. She is known for fearlessly urging the leaders of larger, richer, and more powerful countries to recognize their contributions to climate change and their responsibility to help combat its disastrous effects—especially in smaller island nations. (She also encourages leaders to have “mature conversations” with their constituents, something we can all agree is woefully lacking across the board!)
Hon. Mia Mottley, SC, MP, Prime Minister of BarbadosPhoto: Stuart Ramson for United Nations Foundation
Prime Minister Mottley takes stewardship of the environment very seriously. The island of Barbados is on the frontline of climate change impacts, which manifest in everything from more devastating hurricanes, to coastal erosion, and are getting worsefrom year to year. Not only that, she’s tackling social justice reform, lack of education access, and political corruption, one step at a time. “There are so many who are voiceless and so many who are incapable of action, but if those of us who have the capacity can make that difference in their lives, then the world would be a better place,” said Prime Minister Mottley. Seriously.
Forest Whitaker, SDG Vanguard Award: While Whitaker is best known for his acting roles, he is also Founder & CEO of Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, a project aiming to promote the values of peace within communities all over the world that are impacted by conflict and violence. His work has touched the lives of approximately 1.3 million children—including former child soldiers—helping them cope with trauma and learn to thrive in their communities. The goal is to move people from chaos to hope and engagement by educating, training, and restoring peace.
Hans Vestberg, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Verizon and UN Foundation Board member, presents the SDG Vanguard Award to Khadija Mayman, Youth PeacemakerPhoto: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Whitaker staunchly values the potential of youth, insisting they deserve a seat at the table. He believes that in order to attain peace and prosperity, communities and nations must heed the voices of their young people; keeping them engaged is what preserves our future. “We must realize that whatever challenge we are faced with, young people can and should be part of the solution – both for today and tomorrow,” he said.
Whitaker walks the walk— and it showed when the spotlight was put on Khadija Mayman, Youth Peacemaker for the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, who accepted the award on his behalf. What better way to change the world, than to start by healing our children and letting them lead?
Mia Kami, SDG Vanguard Award: Kami is a Tongan singer/songwriter. She is passionate about gender equality, indigenous rights, and climate action, reminding us that storytelling has the power to fuel political and environmental change. She channels her passions into songwriting and uses her music to inspire hope and healing.
In 2022, a devastating volcanic eruption created a massive humanitarian crisis in her home country of Tonga. The volcano generated a plume of ash that rose more than 12 miles above sea level; the next day, there was a larger, more violent eruption that created an ash plume 375 miles in diameter. This second explosive eruption produced a tsunami that affected the entire Pacific Ocean, and atmospheric pressure waves that circled Earth several times. After the eruption, satellite images show that 90% of the island is no longer visible. Kami drew attention to the crisis through song. In one of her most popular works, Rooted, she sings:
There is hope
There is strength
There is power
There is change
In you and I
Singer-songwriter Mia Kami performs at We The Peoples 2022Photo: Stuart Ramson for United Nations Foundation
Kami’s ability to bridge art and action to protect the world's oceans draws attention to issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, marking her as an extraordinary, creative change-maker.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), presented with the 2022 UN Heroes Award: Dr. Natalia Kanem, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA, accepted the Award on behalf of the organization.
Dr. Natalia Kanem, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNFPA, accepts the 2022 UN Heroes Award, presented by Mark Malloch-Brown, President of Open Society Foundations and UN Foundation Board member at We the PeoplesPhoto: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Founded in 1969 by concerned American citizens, this institution is the lead United Nations sexual and reproductive health and rights agency. They are there for mothers, pregnant women, and girls around the world, no matter what, and their work encompasses everything from educating women on family planning to working to end child marriage and gender-based violence—especially in times of war.
UNFPA delivers lifesaving care in places in crises so that girls and women can manage their periods, have healthy pregnancies, and deliver their babies safely. They recognize that when individuals are deprived of the right to make crucial choices about their own bodies and futures, it has a cascading impact on their families’ welfare and future generations.
Unsurprisingly, courage is one of their four core values; they pride themselves on saying and doing what’s right, not what’s easy, all the time. That is a purposeful act of progress for certain.
Peace on Purpose/lululemon. This year, the inaugural Goal 17 Innovation in Partnership Award was presented to recognize creative, cross-sector partnerships that are driving progress forward. Most of us associate the brand name lululemon with leggings, but it turns out that they do much more than sell athletic wear. Peace on Purpose is a collaborative effort between lululemon and the UN Foundation to provide tools, such as mindfulness training, for humanitarian workers to care for their mental and physical well-being so they can effectively care for others. Support people need support people, after all!
From left to right: Baroness Valerie Amos, Master, University College Oxford and Vice Chair, UN Foundation Board of Directors; Esther Speck, Senior Vice President of Sustainable Business & Impact at lululemon; Nikki Neuburger, Chief Brand Officer, lululemon.Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
The award was accepted by two of lululemon's leaders: Esther Speck, Senior Vice President of Sustainable Business & Impact, and Nikki Neuburger, Chief Brand Officer. Speck is widely respected among her colleagues as one of the most result-oriented professionals in sustainability. She managed to bridge lululemon and the UN Foundation seamlessly by recognizing that lululemon focuses on offering their customers a path to wellbeing, which entails supporting humanitarian and sustainable causes.
Esther Speck, Senior Vice President Sustainable Business & Impact at lululemon and Nikki Neuburger, Chief Brand Officer, lululemon.Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation
Neuburger is responsible for lululemon's ability to share compelling stories from their team of 2,000 global ambassadors. "We really lean into highlighting those ambassadors," said Neuburger in an interview with Ad Age, "lifting them up not only in terms of what they are doing with us, but also what they've got going on in their own communities."
The results are undeniable: over 8,000 UN workers from 137 countries have been reached through in-person and digital mental health and well-being programs! Research shows that the Peace on Purpose initiative has so far led to a 40% reduction of important psychological risk factors such as anxiety and depression, and an increase in overall well-being and resilience.
It’s a dynamic table of visionaries, that’s for sure—and the world is better because of them. As Elizabeth Cousens, President and CEO of the UN Foundation stated at the ceremony, “A few years ago, Ted [Turner] said: ‘The world is facing some tough obstacles, but I’ve never found much use in giving up. It’s much more effective to get to work.’ Well, at the UN Foundation, we believe in getting to work. We believe that allies and partners make us stronger. We believe that progress is worth fighting for, and we know you do too.”If pushing progress forward is a choice, then these change-makers make the right one, every single day. Learn more about these change-makers and the work they are doing here.
The speech is full of hope, heart and Fox's classic sense of humor.
Following his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease back in the early '90s, beloved “Back to the Future” star Michael J. Fox became an unwavering advocate for others living with the condition. His Michael J. Fox Foundation, founded in 2000, has become the leading provider of funds for Parkinson's research in the world. A large chunk of that research goes into investigating potential cures for the disease.
His contributions to Parkinson's research were highlighted at the 13th Annual Governors Awards on Saturday, Nov. 19, in Los Angeles as a recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which honors individuals "whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”
As the now-retired actor took to the stage to accept his honorary Oscar, he delivered a speech full of emotion, grace and a sense of humor that shoots straight to the heart.
After an outpouring of applause, Fox made the quip, “You’re making me shake, stop it.” In case anyone was wondering—his effortless charm is still completely intact.
He then went into the “serious business of the speech,” expressing his gratitude for the award. Specifically, he thanked Gary David Goldberg, his “boss, friend and mentor” from the sitcom “Family Ties,” who introduced him to the concept “for whom much is given, much is required.” He also shared stories from his life and career—from dropping out of high school to pursue a job in Hollywood, to getting his GED at around 30 at the bequest of his son, and everywhere in between.
Of his Parkinson’s diagnosis, he recalled that "the hardest part was grappling with the certainty of the diagnosis and the uncertainty of the situation. The diagnosis was definite and the progress was indefinite and uncertain.”
Despite this uncertainty, over the years the support he received from his wife Tracy (who "made it clear that she was with me for the duration") would prove “transformative.”
"It struck me that everything I had been given—success, my life with Tracy, my family—had prepared me for this profound opportunity and responsibility … I referred to Parkinson's as the gift that keeps on taking ... but it truly became a gift."
He remarked that once he became engaged in learning about the disease, it became clear that his previous success could be a catalyst for helping raise awareness and eventually gain answers for a cure. Thus his Michael J. Fox Foundation was created.
Fox concluded his speech praising the work of those diligently working at his foundation, saying, “My optimism is fueled by my gratitude. With gratitude, optimism is sustainable."This unwavering optimism in particular struck viewers, who filled the comments section of YouTube with heartfelt appreciation. In particular, those who either have the disease or have a loved one affected by it shared how inspired they were. One person wrote, “In March this year I lost my father who struggled with Parkinson's for more than a decade. All he wanted was to have some dignity around those that knew him. Michael J. Fox not only has that, but respect from both his peers in the entertainment business and anyone and everyone that understands what they are going through, but will still love them all the same. Thank you for your courage and example to millions of others that suffer the same disease globally.”
Others were moved simply by Fox’s emotional resilience. “What a mensch!,” wrote one person. "He is truly a great man. Despite his health issues he has maintained his good humor. I’m sure his positivity has sustained him well beyond the doctors’ initial prognosis of his illness. Long live Michael J. Fox!”
Fox’s speech is a testament to the power of finding hope and purpose even in times of adversity. He remains beloved in the hearts of fans not just for adding magic and laughter to our childhoods, but for constantly spreading kindness throughout the world. He deserves every bit of goodness that he gets.
Innovation is awesome, right? I mean, it gave us the internet!
However, there is always a price to pay for modernization, and in this case, it’s in the form of digital eye strain, a group of vision problems that can pop up after as little as two hours of looking at a screen. Some of the symptoms are tired and/or dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain1. Ouch!
Eye strain from staring at devices is a widespread issue. Most people work, play, and maintain relationships through screens, which averages out to 6 hours and 35 minutes per day (and that’s in addition to work or school)! That translates to 46 hours and 5 minutes per week, or 2,402 hours and 55 minutes per year.2
With numbers like these, attention to eye health is more important now than ever; our dependence on technology certainly isn’t going anywhere. And just like innovation brought us technology, innovation also holds the key to combating the effects it has on our bodies. Here are some key suggestions from eye care professionals to help reduce common symptoms of digital eye strain. Spoiler alert: none of them involve wearing glasses!
Follow the 20-20-20 rule.
You can find some relief by taking a 20-20-20 break: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It’s easy to remember because we all want 20/20 vision, and it’s a good excuse to look out the window.
Adjust your workspace screen to be slightly below eye level and about an arm’s length away.
This simple tweak to your work area can really improve your posture, as well as the amount of strain on your eyes. A win-win!
Adjust the brightness of your device.
Brightness levels also play into how hard our eyes have to work. Our screen brightness should match our surroundings, especially during the evening hours.
Say hello to Biofinity Energys® contact lenses!
These contact lenses are specifically made to address eye dryness and tiredness caused by digital devices. Digital Zone Optics® lens design and Aquaform® Technology are two innovations that when combined help with the tiredness and dryness that can be caused by digital eye fatigue.
Additionally, Biofinity Energys® monthly replacement contact lenses are designed to help our eyes better adapt for a more comfortable wearing experience3. This part is tricky because contacts can be hard to adjust to, and trust me—no one wants what feels like gritty sandpaper in there. Comfort is key!
If you’re sick of wearing glasses all the time and feel ready to do something new, visit biofinityenergys.com to learn more and to get your free trial certificate.
Some songs literally change lives.
Anyone who was a teen in the '90s will remember the grunge era. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were topping the charts with their gravely metaphorical lyrics, but they weren't alone. Soul Asylum burst onto the scene with their solemn anthem "Runaway Train" complete with a video that showcased missing kids.
The video gave missing and exploited children a much bigger platform to be recognized on, because before the video was showcased on MTV, milk cartons were the common method to distribute these photos. In theory, milk cartons seem like a pretty effective way to highlight missing children, but in reality, eventually people would become blind to the photos.
The music video for "Runaway Train" was played all around the world and to the target audience that would most likely recognize the faces. It should come as no surprise, then, that the video helped to bring home 21 missing children. What is surprising, is that the band had to push to keep the pictures of the missing kids in the music video because people didn't think it was working.
David Pirner, the band's lead singer, explained to The Guardian that the song was a metaphor for his depression and the line "call you up in the middle of the night" was actually about a friend that would answer his late-night calls no matter what time. He told the outlet that he had a fascination with trains from a young age, so he used the imagery of a runaway train as a metaphor for when his depression was out of control. As cliches would have it, the rest is history.
Well, that is, of course, until you realize that the song did more than give moody teens an anthem for their feelings. It actually brought them home.
When I watched the music video as a young teen, the gravity of the photos that flashed across my screen didn't truly sink in. What Soul Asylum did in 1993 was the epitome of using your platform for a good cause and unbeknown to young teens like myself, it saved actual lives.
The producer, Tony Kaye, got the idea to put missing children in the video after seeing a billboard of a milk carton that displayed the face of a missing child. He told The Guardian that The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children sent them photos of the missing kids they wanted highlighted in the video and at the end of the video the text would instruct viewers to call a number if they had seen the children featured.
But the record company was fully prepared to pull the plug because it didn't seem to be working. Kaye insisted on leaving the photos and before too long, the tactic started working. Child after child was returning home and when one was found, they'd replace the photo with a different child. They told The Guardian that 21 of the 36 kids featured were returned home.
Missing children on milk cartons.
That definitely seems like something to brag about and with the group's 30-year anniversary album release and their upcoming tour, it's something to highlight and attempt to repeat. In 2019, a different artist recorded their version of "Runaway Train" in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in hopes of bringing more missing children home using updated technology. The song is powerful on its own but coupling it with helping to locate missing and exploited children, elevates it to another level.
If you're itching for a grunge fix like me, go reacquaint yourself with Soul Asylum's songs and go catch them on tour with Everclear. The tour starts November 5 in Carrollton, Texas.
This article originally appeared on 07.06.17
A baseball cap on his head, his hands tucked snugly in his front blue jean pockets, Ken Ballard stood in front of a room of onlookers, admittedly a little out of his element.
But the issue at hand was so critical, Ballard said, he couldn't keep quiet.
Ashur, like many trans people, had wrestled with his identity in a world where ignorance and irrational fear-mongering continue harming people like him.
"Was I going to be his bully?" an emotional Ballard said in response to his son's coming out. "Was I going to try and put him back into a box that fit the rules of my world at the time or wait it out and see if it would just pass and go back to the way it’d use to be?"
Advocacy group Equality Texas, who's worked with Ballard in fighting for LGBTQ rights in the state, recently shared a video of him speaking during the session. Although it was captured on video several months ago, Ballard's emotional plea in front of his fellow Texans is just now making waves online.
The comments, although mostly positive, are a bit bittersweet to Ballard.
"I ... see comments that too many parents missed out on what could have been an amazing journey for them and their child by not accepting them," Ballard explains. "Be as excited about your kid's life as you were at the sonogram, when 'we are having a baby' was enough."
A recently proposed Texas "bathroom bill" — which would have forced trans Texans to use the restroom that corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth (not the gender they identify) — was just rejected by House Speaker Joe Straus, which was great news for human rights groups like Equality Texas.
But there's still much at stake in the Lone Star State and in jurisdictions from coast to coast.
A handful of states, including Montana, Virginia, and Minnesota — as well as local school boards spanning the U.S. — deliberating similar bathroom bills. Research shows these laws leave trans people even more vulnerable to dangerous circumstances in their own communities — yet, their passing doesn't protect anyone.
Chances are, equality — and trans lives — might be at stake in your own region of the country.
And, as Ballard's moving speech illustrates so well, it's important our laws reflect that critical reality.
"I've watched a kid go from someone who, 26 months ago, was in despair," Ballard says of his son's mental health. "Now, [he's] flourishing."
One of the most important things a parent can do is let go of the guilt.
My heart dropped when I read the message from my friend. Normally the exchange is pleasant and I look forward to our conversations but before I even opened the message, the preview told me that something was wrong. All I could see was, "Did you hear about Edith's son?"
I hesitated before opening the message because I knew it wouldn't be good, and sadly, I was right. Our friend posted that she was planning funeral services for her 15-year-old son, explaining that he died by suicide. I didn't have the words so I waited days to reach out to share condolences.
It hit too close to home. I have a 14-year-old son. I've talked to my children about mental health and how it's always OK to seek help, even when it feels hopeless. I've given tools to clients and friends who are struggling with their own child's mental health diagnosis and the script remains the same, "I feel like it's my fault."
Shortly after Orion's funeral, one of my own children came to me expressing despair and with all of my training I immediately went to self-blame, still. Even though I know better. Even though my job as a therapist is to help others navigate these feelings. "It's my fault" rang in my ears. But just like I tell other parents, your child's mental health disorder is not a failure on your part as a parent. Some people are just depressed without real explanation. Some people's brains are wired a little bit differently and that doesn't mean that someone broke them or that they're broken at all.
Getting a mental health diagnosis for a child can sometimes knock the wind out of people because as parents the single most important job we have is to get our children to adulthood with as little trauma as possible. We taxi them to different sports, sign ourselves up for field trips and make sure they make it to their well-child visits. We do all of the things to get them across the finish line of adulthood. A mental health diagnosis can feel like you've somehow dropped a very important ball and oftentimes, you didn't.
Our kids live in a completely different world than we did growing up. They're inundated with messaging on a constant basis, and even if you do your best to limit their screen time, it's impossible to escape. Social media continues to be a big driver in declining mental health among teens.
While suicide rates briefly showed an overall decline a couple of years ago, rates of suicide are highest among teens and young adults ages 15 to 24. Mental health conditions in kids such as depression, which can sometimes lead to suicide, are a heavy burden on parents, even without the added burden of guilt. Parents can talk to their children often, check in on active coping skills they're using and give them some if they don't have any.
One of the most important things a parent can do is let go of the guilt. Nothing about your child's mental health struggles says anything about you as a parent, especially If you've been doing the best you can. If you're struggling with feelings around your child's mental health disorder, you too should reach out to a therapist.
Not all mental health disorders result in a catastrophic loss through suicide, but it doesn't hurt to make sure your children have suicide hotlines saved in their phones and posted on the fridge. While death by suicide is tragic, it's also important to remember that it's not anyone's fault.
If you can look at all you've done and can say you've provided a safe and nourishing environment for your child, I invite you to lay down the self-blame. Parenting is hard enough without beating ourselves up over things outside of our control.
If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide or require mental health support, call or text 988 to talk to a trained counselor at the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, or visit 988lifeline.org to connect with a counselor and chat in real time. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress as well as prevention and crisis resources for healthcare professionals.
The Trevor Project provides 24/7 crisis counseling via phone, text or chat specifically for young LGBTQ people.