Why it matters that John Kerry spoke up about the 'lavender scare' of the 1950s.

In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, which began a witch hunt for gay and lesbian employees in the federal government; it became known as the "lavender scare."

The order called for an investigation into federal employees and delineated specific qualities to look for that could possibly threaten national security — including drug addiction, criminal behavior, and "sexual perversion."

Photo by M. McNeill/Fox Photos/Getty Images.


As a result, thousands of gay and lesbian employees were forced out of their jobs and, often, into the public spotlight at a time when being outed could seriously endanger their lives.

Remarkably, the order stayed in effect until 1975 — when it was ended by the U.S. Civil Service Commission.

Further steps have been taken to end discrimination against LGBTQ people at the federal level, including the highly controversial and deeply problematic "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, which ended an outright ban on LGBTQ people serving in the military — provided they kept their sexual orientation and gender identity a secret. That policy was repealed by President Obama in 2010.

When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, she helped move the needle even further, issuing protections and equal rights measures for the transgender community. In just over 60 years, we've gone from actively persecuting LGBTQ government employees to passing marriage equality on a federal level.

But the memory of those discriminatory practices remains  — not just on paper, but in the hearts and minds of people who were directly affected by them.

In November 2016, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking him to apologize for the lavender scare on behalf of the U.S. government.

John Kerry (left) and Ben Cardin (right). Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

"As you approach your final months of service as our nation's chief diplomat," Cardin wrote in the letter, "I ask that you take steps to remedy a deep stain on our national history and that of the State Department itself: The legacy of the so-called 'lavender scare' in which hundreds of State Department employees were dismissed from service because of their perceived sexual orientation."

Kerry has long championed LGBTQ rights and even created the State Department's first ever "Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons" position.

He responded by doing exactly what Cardin's letter called on him to do.

On Jan. 9, 2017, John Kerry apologized on behalf of the State Department for decades of discrimination against LGBTQ employees.

"These actions were wrong then, just as they would be wrong today," said Kerry in a statement. "On behalf of the Department, I apologize to those who were impacted by the practices of the past."

The timing of the apology is not without significance. As Cardin pointed out in his letter, Kerry has mere months (now days) left in his post as Secretary of State, at which point ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson is expected to take over the role in PEOTUS Donald Trump's administration.

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

It remains to be seen what Trump and Tillerson will bring to federal policies, but LGBTQ advocates are understandably worried about a resurgence of lavender scare-era policies.

Tillerson took over as CEO of ExxonMobile the year that it received a 0% from the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, based largely on its treatment of LGBTQ employees.

Since then, ExxonMobile has slowly made improvements — but most of them occurred after changes in federal policy mandated them. For instance, the company reintroduced health coverage for same-sex spouses of employees, but only after the U.S. Treasury Department ruled that same-sex couples should be considered legally married.

Kerry's apology doesn't make it impossible for the new State Department to regress back into discriminatory policies, but it would make it that much harder.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

A formal public apology from the United States government is significant because it's a highly visible declaration of values. Any policy introduced to the contrary would have to, at the very least, go up against a firm on-record statement that the United States government stands against LGBTQ discrimination.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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