132 years later, Barcelona’s fantastical Sagrada Família is approaching the last stage of its construction.
In August 1963, Merloyd Lawrence wrote a dispatch in The Atlantic from Barcelona, mentioning many of the city’s cultural landmarks: the merchants on Las Ramblas, the food, and the buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí, the “architect laureate of Catalonia.” After a disclaimer noting that many a “discriminating traveler has found his work hideous,” Lawrence describes the Iglesia de la Sagrada Família, Gaudí’s most famous building, as an “unfinished, uninhibited cathedral in which stone explodes into botanical fantasies or overflows like molten wax.”
52 years after Lawrence’s piece appeared in The Atlantic and 132 years after construction began in 1883, the magnificent Sagrada Família has reached its final stage of construction. According to the current chief architect, Jordi Fauli, six more towers will be added to the basilica by 2026, bringing the grand total to 18, each of which is dedicated to a different religious figure. The building’s completion is timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the architect’s death, although adding the final decorative elements could take another four to six years after the towers are erected. When it’s finished, the basilica will be the tallest religious building in Europe, standing at 564 feet.
Putting on headphones to regulate emotions may not always be beneficial.
Listening to music is a form of emotional self-care that many of us turn to every day, without much conscious thought. The streaming service Spotify, well aware of this, offers a collection of “Mood” playlists, from “Anthems of Angst” to “Running Thru a Field of Smiles,” to my personal favorite, “The Happy Hipster.”
While music’s therapeutic qualities have long been known—Aristotle described music as a force to purify the emotions—music therapy as it exists today began in the early-mid 20th century, when musicians in the U.K. travelled to hospitals and played music for soldiers suffering emotional and physical trauma after World Wars I and II.
Music therapy is now a sanctioned form of health care with clinical, quantitative research to back it up. In some cases, it’s as effective as traditional forms of therapy, especially for adolescents with mood disorders or adults with depression. One tool music therapists use with patients—along with actively playing or composing music—is guiding patients through the music listening experience, helping them to process what they are thinking and feeling. What we do when we put on headphones is, in many ways, just a self-guided version of this process.
Right now, 62 million girls worldwide are not in school. They’re receiving no formal education at all—no reading, no writing, no math—none of the basic skills they need to provide for themselves and their families, and contribute fully to their countries.
Often, understandably, this issue is framed as a matter of resources—a failure to invest enough money in educating girls. We can solve this problem, the argument goes, if we provide more scholarships for girls so they can afford school fees, uniforms, and supplies; and if we provide safe transportation so their parents don’t have to worry that they’ll be sexually assaulted on their way to or from school; and if we build adequate school bathrooms for girls so they don’t have to stay home when they have their periods, and then fall behind and wind up dropping out.
And it’s true that investments like these are critical for addressing our global girls’ education crisis. That’s why, last spring, the president and I launched Let Girls Learn, a new initiative to fund community girls’ education projects like girls’ leadership camps and school bathrooms; educate girls in conflict zones; and address poverty, HIV, and other issues that keep girls out of school.
But while these investments are absolutely necessary to solve our girls’ education problem, they are simply not sufficient. Scholarships, bathrooms, and safe transportation will only go so far if societies still view menstruation as shameful and shun menstruating girls. Or if they fail to punish rapists and reject survivors of rape as “damaged goods.” Or if they provide few opportunities for women to join the workforce and support their families, so that it’s simply not financially viable for parents struggling with poverty to send their daughters to school.
In other words, we cannot address our girls’ education crisis until we address the broader cultural beliefs and practices that can help cause and perpetuate this crisis. And that is precisely the message I intend to deliver this week when I travel to the Middle East. I’ll be visiting girls at a school in Jordan—one of many schools in that country educating both Jordanian children and children whose families have fled the conflict in Syria—to highlight the power of investments in girls’ education. But I’ll also be speaking at a global education conference in Qatar where I’ll be urging countries around the world to both make new investments in girls’ education and challenge laws and practices that silence, demean, and brutalize women—from female genital mutilation and cutting, to forced child marriage, to laws that allow marital rape and disadvantage women in the workplace.
We know that legal and cultural change is possible because we’ve seen it in countries around the world, including our own. A century ago, women in America couldn’t even vote. Decades ago, it was perfectly legal for employers to refuse to hire women, and domestic violence was seen not as a crime, but as a private family matter. But in each generation, brave people—both men and women—stood up to change these practices. They did it through individual acts like taking their bosses to court, fighting to prosecute their rapists, and leaving their abusive husbands—and through national movements and legislation that brought changes like the 19th Amendment, Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act.
Cultural shifts like these can spur countries to make greater investments in girls’ education. And when they do, that can cause a powerful ripple effect that can lead to even greater cultural and political progress on behalf of women. Girls who are educated marry later, have lower rates of infant and maternal mortality, and are more likely to immunize their children and less likely to contract HIV. Educated girls also earn higher salaries—15 to 25 percent more for each additional year of secondary school—and studies have shown that sending more girls to school can boost an entire country’s GDP.
And when educated girls become healthy, financially secure, empowered women, they’re far better equipped to advocate for their needs and aspirations, and challenge unjust laws and harmful practices and beliefs. So really, this can be a virtuous cycle.
But ultimately, for me, this issue isn’t just about politics or economics—for me, this is a moral issue. As I’ve traveled the world, I have met so many of these girls. I’ve seen firsthand that every single one of them has the spark of something extraordinary inside of them, and they are so hungry to realize their promise. They walk for hours each day to school, learning at rickety desks in bare concrete classrooms. They study for hours each night, holding tight to their hopes for the future, even in the face of heartbreaking odds.
These girls are no different from my daughters or any of our daughters. And we should never have to accept our girls having their bodies mutilated or being married off to grown men as teenagers, confined to lives of dependence and abuse. We should never have to raise them in societies that silence their voices and snuff out their dreams. None of us here in the U.S. would accept this for our own daughters and granddaughters, so why would we accept it for any girl on our planet?
As a first lady, a mother, and a human being, I cannot walk away from these girls, and I plan to keep raising my voice on their behalf for the rest of my life. I plan to keep urging world leaders to invest in their potential and create societies that truly value them as human beings. I plan to keep reaching out to local leaders, families, and girls themselves to raise awareness about the power of sending girls to school. And I plan to keep talking about this issue here at home, because I believe that all of us—men and women, in every country on this planet—have a moral obligation to give all of these girls a future worthy of their promise and their dreams.
A Russian passenger plane carrying 224 people crashed Saturday morning in a remote area of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Egyptian officials said.
There were no survivors, the Russian embassy in Cairo said on its Twitter account. The passengers were 138 women, 62 men, and 17 children, according to the Associated Press. There were seven crew members. All the passengers were Russian except for three, who were Ukrainian.
The commercial plane, operated by Russian airline Metrojet, was bound for St. Petersburg, Russia. It took off shortly before 6 a.m. local time from the airport in Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular Red Sea tourist spot for Russians, located at the northern tip of the peninsula, according to the AP. About 20 minutes after taking off, the aircraft disappeared from flight-tracking systems. Egyptian aviation officials said the pilot had reported technical difficulties and was planning to land at the nearest airport before losing contact with air traffic controllers. The airplane had been flying at an altitude of about 30,000 feet when communication was lost.
Egyptian authorities found the wreckage in the mountainous Hassana area, south of the city of el-Arish. Egypt had dispatched 50 ambulances to the scene. The cause of the crash is not yet known.
“Together with Egyptian aviation authorities, we will investigate this accident at the site,” Maxim Sokolov, Russia’s transportation minister, said Saturday, according to Russian news agency TASS. “We can already say that it was not an incident. A catastrophe happened with our airliner.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Sunday to be a national day of mourning and ordered an investigation into the crash.
Reuters has details of the crash site in Sinai:
“I now see a tragic scene,” an Egyptian security officer at the scene told Reuters by telephone. “A lot of dead on the ground and many who died whilst strapped to their seats.
“The plane split into two, a small part on the tail end that burned and a larger part that crashed into a rock. We have extracted at least 100 bodies and the rest are still inside,” the officer, who requested anonymity, said.
Reuters has video here of the tearful scene at St. Petersburg, where people were waiting to greet passengers aboard the downed plane.
Egyptian security forces have been fighting an Islamic State insurgency in the northern region of the Sinai peninsula, but there was no indication militant activity had downed the plane, according to The Guardian.
AP reports that Russian investigators are searching the Moscow offices of Metrojet and are questioning its employees.