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Wikimedia Commons // Public domain 

9 Facts You Should Know About Maggie Hassan

Wikimedia Commons // Public domain 
Wikimedia Commons // Public domain 

Maggie Hassan is the newest member of New Hampshire’s all-female (and all-Democratic) congressional delegation. The junior senator previously served as governor of the Granite State before entering national politics. Read on for nine facts you should know about Maggie Hassan.

1. HER FATHER WORKED FOR JFK AND LBJ.

Maggie Hassan was born Margaret Wood in 1958. She grew up in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., with excursions to her mother’s family’s summer home in Rhode Island. Her mother, Margaret Byers Wood, was a teacher, while her father, Robert Coldwell Wood, was a political science professor at MIT when Hassan was born, and their family lived in the wealthy Boston suburb of Lincoln.

While running for the presidency in 1960, John F. Kennedy reached out to Robert Wood for guidance on urban issues, and Wood wrote him a campaign speech about the needs of the American city. In 1966, Wood took the position of Under Secretary of the then-new Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Lyndon Johnson, and moved his family to D.C. Hassan and her two siblings, Frank and Franny, attended elementary school in D.C. and then moved back to Lincoln with their parents in 1969 after Robert Wood finished his tenure at HUD and returned to academic work in Boston. He soon became the president of the University of Massachusetts.

A friend of Hassan’s from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School told New Hampshire Public Radio that the family was a bit intimidating: “I mean there were signed pictures of JFK in the study, and they would sit at the dinner table and have conversations about current events.” The Wood siblings remember those conversations well. “There were a lot of interesting people in my house while I was growing up,” Hassan’s brother, Frank, remarked in an interview. “Mostly, I remember listening to all these people, but we were also encouraged to talk and, whether we knew it or not, develop our speaking skills.” Hassan agreed, telling the New Hampshire Union Leader, “My father used to actually go around the table person by person and ask them what they thought, so everybody from family members to our guests were expected to either think out loud or have an opinion, and we did.”

This encouragement to practice their speaking skills served the Wood children well: Hassan entered politics, while Frank became a Broadway actor.

2. A FAMOUS BOARDING SCHOOL BROUGHT HER AND HER HUSBAND TO NEW HAMPSHIRE.

Hassan went on to Brown University, where she met her future husband, Thomas Hassan. He was the son of a butcher [PDF] and a secretary who had attended Brown as an undergraduate and was working at the school at the time he met Maggie. Tom wanted to become a teacher, and he went on to complete his master’s and doctorate in education at Harvard.

The two married in 1983, and while Tom was pursuing his PhD they lived in a freshman dorm at Harvard, where he served as assistant dean of freshmen. Meanwhile, Maggie went to law school nearby at Northeastern University. She graduated in 1985 and started her career as a lawyer in Boston. In 1989, Tom landed a job teaching at the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. He was excited by the opportunity, falling in love with the school when he went to visit, so the couple moved to New Hampshire, where Maggie would launch her political career. Tom later became the principal of Phillips Exeter, and the couple lived on campus for years with their children, Meg and Ben, who both attended the school.

3. HER EXPERIENCE ADVOCATING FOR A SON WITH DISABILITIES LED HER TO POLITICS.

Soon after their first child, Ben, was born, the Hassans learned he had cerebral palsy. Though his mind functions at a high level, Ben cannot speak, walk, or use his hands, and Hassan quickly realized that she and Tom would need to become strong advocates for their son to ensure he received the same opportunities as other children. “Twenty or thirty years earlier we would’ve been pressured to put him in an institution,” Hassan noted in a campaign ad. Ben’s parents wanted him to have access to a mainstream education, so they sent him to public school, beginning with preschool at age 3. When the bus came to pick Ben up on the first day of preschool and Hassan wheeled him onto the wheelchair lift and watched him leave with the other children, she reflected on the work others had done in the past, telling Roll Call, “That really got me focused on the work that other families and advocates and elected leaders had done so that, on that day, my son wasn’t in an institution. He was going to school and he was having a chance to learn and make friends.”

But there was still a lot of work to be done. Hassan had to fight to get Ben’s elementary school to adjust to his needs, and in doing so, she became more and more involved in disability-rights activism, all while working as a lawyer and raising Ben and his younger sister, Meg. “I ended up advocating a lot locally, and then at the State House,” she told NH1. Her activism caught the eye of Jeanne Shaheen, then the governor of New Hampshire, who appointed Hassan to a state commission on education in 1999. In 2002, state Democrats encouraged Hassan to run for the New Hampshire Senate, but she worried about juggling a campaign with her law practice and family responsibilities. Tom recalled to NH1, “[S]he came up with all the reasons why it would be really hard and I said to her, ‘You’d be great at it.’” So she ran. And lost.

But in 2004 Hassan ran again, against the same Republican incumbent who had beat her two years prior, and this time she won. Hassan would serve three consecutive terms in the state Senate, becoming assistant Democratic whip, president pro tempore, and finally majority leader over the course of six years.

“I don't think I would have run for office if I hadn’t been Ben's mother,” Hassan told NH1. She also told Refinery 29, “Our family was able to thrive because of all the people who fought to bring people like Ben in from the margins. That inspired me to advocate for others, and it was one of the reasons I ran for the state Senate and then for governor, and now for the United States Senate.”

4. SHE PASSED LAWS TO KEEP KIDS IN SCHOOL LONGER.

During her time as a state senator, Hassan also helped pass legislation mandating universal public kindergarten across the state. From 1988 until the bill took effect in 2009, New Hampshire was the only state without universal kindergarten. But the state constitution requires New Hampshire to provide an “adequate education” for its children, so in 2007, the legislature passed a bill defining an “adequate education” as including kindergarten, thus requiring all school districts to offer at least half-day kindergarten.

During the same legislative session, Hassan sponsored legislation raising the legal age at which children can drop out of school. New Hampshire had originally set the age limit at 16 in 1903, and over a century later, Hassan and others pushed that limit to 18, hoping a change in the law would lower drop-out rates. The law seems to have been successful: The state drop-out rate has declined by over 50% since it was passed, leaving New Hampshire with one of the lowest drop-out rates in the nation [PDF].

5. SHE HELPED LEGALIZE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE.

In 2008, Hassan was appointed Senate majority leader by the president of the New Hampshire Senate, Democrat Sylvia Larsen. Larsen told the Boston Globe that she chose Hassan over other, more senior politicians because “She was a powerhouse” who could drive the other Democrats into line while Larsen worked across the aisle.

Hassan’s forceful leadership was perhaps most obvious in 2009, when she became determined to pass legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in New Hampshire—and had to convince other Democrats, who were worried voters weren’t comfortable with the idea. In 2009, Democrats controlled both houses of the New Hampshire legislature as well as the governor’s office, and Hassan wanted to take advantage of that opportunity. Over the course of six months, she presented to the legislature three different versions of a bill recognizing same-sex marriage, tweaking the language as she went along to earn more supporters. Another Democrat who originally opposed the bill later told New Hampshire Public Radio, “Maggie was very constructive in getting us to a place where the language of the bill was refined, and making sure that other Senators were comfortable with the language.” Hassan negotiated successfully, but did so quietly. She did not publicize her stance on the bill at the time, telling The New York Times in April 2009 that Senate Democrats “like to talk to each other and hear each others’ thoughts out as well, and we try to do that privately.”

The third version of the bill recognizing same-sex marriage narrowly passed both houses of the New Hampshire legislature, and on June 3, 2009, Governor John Lynch signed it into law. Though Hassan didn’t take credit at the time, others later revealed that she was the driving force behind the bill. Larsen told The Atlantic that while some senators thought the bill was ahead of public opinion, Hassan convinced them that “the time was right and we should do it because it’s the right thing.”

6. SHE HELPED PASS CONNOR’S LAW.

In 2010, Hassan used her position as chair of the state Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Labor and Consumer Protection to pass legislation requiring insurance companies to expand coverage of autism therapies. The bill, known as Connor’s Law, mandates coverage of medically necessary treatment programs, such as applied behavioral analysis, speech therapy, and physical and occupational therapy.

7. SHE WAS JUST ONE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE’S HISTORY-MAKING WOMEN IN 2012.

Tim Pierce via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

After six years in the state Senate, Hassan was ousted in autumn 2010 by the same man she’d originally won her seat from—Republican Russell Prescott. Republican support surged across the country that year, and New Hampshire was no different, with the GOP gaining control of the state Senate. But in 2011, when Democratic governor John Lynch announced he would not be seeking reelection, Hassan saw an opportunity and threw her hat into the ring. She won the 2012 gubernatorial election by over 80,000 votes, carrying all of New Hampshire’s 10 counties.

And the 2012 election was historic for New Hampshire: Two female Democratic candidates ousted the state’s incumbent GOP Congressmen, joining Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte to make up the first-ever all-female congressional delegation from any state. With four women in Congress and Hassan elected the second female governor, New Hampshire entered an unprecedented era of female leadership.

8. SHE BANNED DISCRIMINATION AGAINST TRANS PEOPLE.

Hassan used her power as governor to issue an executive order in June 2016 banning discrimination in state government against transgender people. Expanding New Hampshire’s existing non-discrimination regulations, the order prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and expression in government hiring, in the administration of state programs, and by private contractors employed by the state.

9. HER NAME CAUSES CONFUSION.

Dennis David Auger via Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

Hassan’s spokesman explained that her surname is pronounced “HASS-in, sounds like fasten.” But because it’s spelled the same as a common Arabic name pronounced Huh-SAHN, Maggie Hassan frequently has her last name mispronounced—including during her swearing in for her second term as governor and when she was mentioned in a prompt on Jeopardy. During her Senate campaign, she even faced a raft of negative campaign mailers from a group called One Nation, ads which the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations claimed exploited her “Arab and Muslim-sounding name” by connecting her to the threat of “Radical Islamic terrorists.” The group who sent out the fliers said that they were not insinuating Hassan was Muslim but simply highlighting her support for the Obama administration’s deal with Iran, and that they sent out the fliers about other Democratic candidates as well.

But that wasn’t the first time the Hassans encountered suspicion about their name. Far-right internet commenters charged that Tom Hassan had allowed “radical Islamists” to speak at Phillips Exeter and speculated that he was secretly Muslim himself. (He’s not.)

To clear up any confusion: Hassan is an Irish surname. It’s the Anglicized version of the Gaelic Ó hOsáin, which means “descendant of Osán.” The name Osán is itself a diminutive of the Gaelic word os, meaning “deer.”

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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

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5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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