Obama's post-election lunch with the former presidents is what America should look like

I've never been a fan of politics. I've always made conscientious decisions when I vote and engaged in discussions about challenges facing society, but the world of politics itself has always been a turn off. The partisan bickering, the power of expensive lobbyists to sway leaders who are supposed to work for the people, the mudslinging and inherently divisive nature of our two-party system—it's all just felt gross to me.

The office of the presidency, oddly enough, has not felt that way. Though a president brings their partisanship with them, of course, the office itself is non-partisan. The fact that it is a job held by a single individual has always humanized it for me, prompting me to feel some sympathy even for presidents I wasn't a fan of. "President of the United States" is an inarguably difficult position to be in, with impossibly hard choices to make. When unexpected crises land in your lap—the world's worst terrorist attack, a classroom full of first graders gunned down, the arrival of a global pandemic—it's your responsibility to handle it with care and wisdom. Every decision you make will be examined through the lens of history. Every statement you make becomes historical record. That's no small thing.

The weight of the office is unmatched in our country, and the status of the U.S. as a superpower makes it unlike any other position in the world. Everything U.S. presidents do and say matters, not just to Americans, but to people and governments all over the world.

Up until four years ago, I felt like every president understood that.

For some beautiful proof, consider this story of President-elect Obama's asking President Bush if he could meet the former presidents during his transition. A Facebook post from Sebastian Copeland shared an excerpt from Jean Edward Smith's biography of George W. Bush that reads:


"As part of the presidential transition, Barack Obama asked Bush if it would be possible for him to meet all the ex-presidents. Bush was happy to oblige, and organized a White House luncheon in the Oval Office on January 7. Bush and Obama were joined by Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush. The luncheon lasted over two hours, each former president ordered his lunch à la carte from the White House mess, and the tone was convivial and friendly. 'All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office,' said Obama before the meeting. 'For me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary, and I just want to thank the President for hosting us.'

Bush was equally effusive. 'We want you to succeed,' he replied. 'Whether we're Democrat or Republican we care deeply about this country. And to the extent we can we look forward to sharing our experiences with you. All of us who have served in this office understand that the office transcends the individual.'"

What a stunning contrast to where we are today.

Right now we have a President-elect not only being denied the most basic transition protocols, but being accused of crazy global conspiracies to to cheat in order to get elected. Nevermind that the pre-election polling from practically every respected polling firm had him ahead the whole time, making his win not remarkable in any way. Nevermind that the DHS cybersecurity head issued a statement saying, "There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised." Nevermind that that official was subsequently fired by the president for fact-checking him and that the president's legal team is next-level cuckoo bananapants. Nevermind that that legal team is currently 1–30 in post-election court cases, proving that the claims of widespread fraud are not based in reality.

It's as embarrassing as it is baffling. And on top of that, the dignity and decency we see in the Obama transition story is gone. The current occupant of the White House has shat upon the office of the presidency. It's going to have to be hosed down, disinfected, and saged in a hazmat suit before President-elect Biden takes the reins.

I exaggerate—but only slightly—because I'm frustrated that I can't do much else. It's a helpless feeling to watch the country you love having its foundations sledgehammered by a malignant narcissist who wouldn't recognize decency and dignity if they slapped him across the face, knowing that you can't personally do anything about it. While I'm hopeful for the future, I mourn for what we've lost these past four years and weep over the fact that tens of millions of Americans appear to not care that the office of the presidency has been befouled beyond recognition by this man's ongoing behavior.

There is plenty to criticize in every president's time in the Oval Office, and some certainly had moments which were neither decent not dignified. But when their terms were over, when it was time to pass the baton to the next person in line, they did it. They didn't try to undermine a free and fair election with criminal accusations of their opponent. They didn't lie constantly to the American people in a desperate attempt to cling to power. They recognized that the office was bigger than they were, that the safety and security of the country was more important than they were, that even though their party was passing power to the opposing team, the person elected deserved a chance to govern because the will of the people said so.

Politics is ugly, but not like this. This is far beyond partisan squabbles and typical mudslinging. For the first time in modern history, our peaceful transfer of power is being threatened by the delusions of an egomaniac who can't admit defeat. I just hope and pray that this nightmare ends soon so we can bring dignity and decency back to the White House, for all our sakes.

Pexels / Julia M Cameron
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In the last 20 years, the internet has become almost as essential as water or air. Every day, many of us wake up and check it for the news, sports, work, and social media. We log on from our phones, our computers, even our watches. It's a luxury so often taken for granted. With the COVID-19 pandemic, as many now work from home and children are going to school online, home access is a more critical service than ever before.

On the flip side, some 3.6 billion people live without affordable access to the internet. This digital divide — which has only widened over the past 20 years — has worsened wealth inequality within countries, divided developed and developing economies and intensified the global gender gap. It has allowed new billionaires to rise, and contributed to keeping billions of others in poverty.

In the US, lack of internet access at home prevents nearly one in five teens from finishing their homework. One third of households with school-age children and income below $30,000 don't have internet in their homes, with Black and Hispanic households particularly affected.

The United Nations is working to highlight the costs of the digital divide and to rapidly close it. In September 2019, for example, the UN's International Telecommunication Union and UNICEF launched Giga, an initiative aimed at connecting every school and every child to the internet by 2030.

Closing digital inequity gaps also remains a top priority for the UN Secretary-General. His office recently released a new Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. The UN Foundation has been supporting both this work, and the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, which made a series of recommendations to ensure all people are connected, respected, and protected in the digital age. Civil society, technologists and communications companies, such as Verizon, played a critical role in informing those consultations. In addition, the UN Foundation houses the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), which advances digital inclusion through streamlining technology, unlocking markets and accelerating digitally enabled services as it works to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

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We're more than nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic and things are only getting worse. On Wednesday, December 2, America had its deadliest day yet with nearly 3,000 people succumbing to the virus.

America is experiencing its greatest public health crisis in generations and the only way we're getting out of it is by widespread administration of a vaccine.

However, if people don't take the vaccine, there will be no end to this horror story.

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This year, we've all experienced a little more stress and anxiety. This is especially true for youth facing homelessness, like Megan and Lionel. Enter Covenant House, an international organization that helps transform and save the lives of more than a million homeless, runaway, and trafficked young people.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is Delivering Smiles this holiday season by donating essential items and fulfilling AmazonSmile Charity Lists for organizations, like Covenant House, that have been impacted this year more than ever. Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a charity of your choice or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

Sometimes it seems like social media is too full of trolls and misinformation to justify its continued existence, but then something comes along that makes it all worth it.

Apparently, a song many of us have never heard of shot to the top of the charts in Italy in 1972 for the most intriguing reason. The song, written and performed by Adriano Celentano and is called "Prisencolinensinainciusol" which means...well, nothing. It's gibberish. In fact, the entire song is nonsense lyrics made to sound like English, and oddly, it does.

Occasionally, you can hear what sounds like a real word or phrase here and there—"eyes" and "color balls died" and "alright" a few times, for example—but it mostly just sounds like English without actually being English. It's like an auditory illusion and it does some super trippy things to your brain to listen to it.

Plus the video someone shared to go with it is fantastic. It's gone crazy viral because how could it not.

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With vaccine rollouts for the novel coronavirus on the horizon, humanity is getting its first ray of hope for a return to normalcy in 2021. That normalcy, however, will depend on enough people's willingness to get the vaccine to achieve some level of herd immunity. While some people are ready to jump in line immediately for the vaccine, others are reticent to get the shots.

Hesitancy runs the gamut from outright anti-vaxxers to people who trust the time-tested vaccines we already have but are unsure about these new ones. Scientists have tried to educate the public about the development of the new mRNA vaccines and why they feel confident in their safety, but getting that information through the noise of hot takes and misinformation is tricky.

To help increase the public's confidence in taking the vaccine, three former presidents have volunteered to get their shots on camera. President George W. Bush initially reached out to Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx to ask how he could help promote a vaccine once it's approved. Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton have both stated that they will take the vaccine if it is approved and will do so publicly if it will help more people feel comfortable taking it. CNN says it has also reached out to President Jimmy Carter to see if he is on board with the idea as well.

A big part of responsible leadership is setting an example. Though these presidents are no longer in the position of power they once held, they are in a position of influence and have offered to use that influence for the greater good.

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