I'm always fascinated by awesome individuals who battle face-to-face with some of their culture's strongest institutions.
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.
"The best day of my entire life, basically."
This article originally appeared on 07.10.21
When Michael Todd started his freshman year at MLK prep school in Memphis, Tennessee two years ago, he only had one outfit to wear to school. High school kids can be incredibly cruel and Michael was mocked for three weeks for wearing the same clothes every day.
"I really don't have clothes at home," he told KTVI. "My mom can't buy clothes for me because I'm growing too fast."
Kristopher Graham, a football player at MLK Prep, thought the bullying had gone too far and wanted to do something to help. "When I saw people laugh at him and bully him, I felt like I needed to do something," Kristopher said. He texted his friend Antwan Garrett asking for help.
The next day, Michael was taken out of third period and when he stepped out of the classroom he was approached by Kristopher and Antwan. He froze with nervousness when he saw the two football players stopped him by the lockers.
"I want to apologize to you for laughing at you and I want to give you something to make it up," Kristopher told Michael. The football players handed Michael a gift, bags full of shirts, shorts, and shoes.
Michael couldn't believe the football players' kindness.
"I've been bullied my entire life." But getting the gift was "awesome," he said according to USA Today. "The best day of my entire life, basically."
Video of the gift exchange went viral and has been seen millions of times. A few weeks later, the three teenagers were invited to appear on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" where they were greeted by Will Smith who gave them $10,000 each.
Antwan plans to use the money for trade school to become a diesel engine mechanic and Kristopher wants to invest his portion.
Antwan helped Michael because he understood what he was going through.
"We weren't expecting the video to go viral. We just wanted to make a change," Antwan said according to Commercial Appeal. "I know how it feel not to have nothin'. I don't have much, but it made me feel better by seeing somebody else have. I haven't had like the best of life. Everybody struggles."
"My life has changed from sleeping in a house without no lights. With what is going on the outside affected me in school," Antwan added. "I didn't want to be in school. I wanted to help Michael and make him happy and it made me happy."
The good deed was also commemorated by the Memphis City Council who honored the teens with a resolution and a round of applause.
Kristopher and Antwan are wonderful examples of what can happen when teens are taught that they have a responsibility to one another. While countless kids mocked Michael for something well beyond his control, they saw his plight as an opportunity to drastically change his life by taking action.
Just imagine if everyone saw others' misfortune as an opportunity to help instead of judge.
Not a dry eye in the house.
Pop royalty Pink paid a heartwarming tribute to fellow music icon Olivia Newton-John at the 2022 American Music Awards, which aired this past Sunday, Nov. 20.Newton-John, who led a lustrous career—including winning 10 AMAs herself—as well as a life dedicated to philanthropy, died of breast cancer at the age of 73 in August of this year. Though Newton-John had a wide variety of beloved hits throughout the years, Pink chose to sing arguably one of her biggest hits of all time, “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”
The coaching paid off. Her distinct rock-'n'-roll rasp fit surprisingly well into a song written for Newton-John’s more dreamy, ethereal tone. As she sang, images celebrating the late singer’s life filled the stage. Unsurprisingly, audiences were moved by the powerhouse performance.
Earlier this year—following Newton-John’s passing—Pink shared a black-and-white photo the two took together, praising her as “kindness personified.” Though they had only met a small handful of times, Pink regarded her as “one of the loveliest, kindest, light from within human beings I have ever met.”
Newton-John was (and still is) exactly that to so many people. She might be gone, but leaves behind an abundant source of inspiration, especially when it comes to acting with compassion.
Thank you Pink for honoring her memory in such a beautiful way!
Thor knew exactly how to handle it.
This article originally appeared on 08.27.18
In addition to being the star of Marvel franchise "Thor," actor Chris Hemsworth is also a father-of-three? And it turns out, he's pretty much the coolest dad ever.
In a clip from a 2015 interview on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Hemsworth shared an interesting conversation he had with his 4-year-old daughter India.
"My daughter's kind of envious of my boys," Hemsworth told Ellen. "She came to me the other day, and she's like 'You know, Papa, I want one of those things that Sasha and Tristan have.' And I'm like, 'What do you mean?' She said, 'You know the things in between their legs that you have.'"
Hemsworth said he tried to explain the differences between male and female bodies, but his daughter wasn't having it.
"She goes, 'I really want one!' Hemsworth said. "I'm like, 'A penis?' And she's like, 'I want a penis!'
And then, Hemsworth had the best possible response. He recalls:
She's four and I'm like, 'You know what, you can be whatever you want to be.' And she goes, 'Thanks, Dad.' Runs off into the playground and that was it.
And then, I cannot confirm, but I'm pretty sure the Ellen audience did this:
Major kudos to Hemsworth for taking a potentially awkward parenting situation and turning it into a lesson about love and acceptance.
You can watch the full clip here: