He said to him, “Will you?”

Is it possible that maybe one day (possibly soon) people will put their differences aside and accept one another? Or were we individually created to validate every human being’s decisions based on the morals of our founding fathers?

A reoccurring feud of whether or not homosexual couples should have the right to wed has yet to be fairly settled. Personally, I believe this never-ending conflict will continue to unravel itself until homosexuals are given equal rights to marriage. Marriage is a commitment, a ritual, a relationship that has existed for thousands of years; one that has tremendous resonance in our culture in a way that civil unions simply cannot obtain.

My high-school English teacher once started a debate among his students about controversial topics in today’s society. The class was separated into several groups of four. My group was given the topic of gay marriage. In the beginning of this debate, I didn’t have a clue as to what I believed, nor did the topic really matter to me; I just wanted that A+.

As a young adult, I was always taught to believe that gay marriage was unacceptable because of my religion and “my” beliefs. I couldn’t decide which side to take, so my partner did. She wanted to represent pro gay marriage, and I didn’t argue.

After long weeks of excessive research I was ready to go up against my opponents and win over everyone’s opinion on gay marriage. My speech ended with a quote from RJ Comer followed by a closing statement:

“I am by nature created as a being, so allow me to be. I am by nature created to love, so let me love. I am by nature created to be loved, so let me be loved. I am by nature created as you were to be equal, so can I be? I was as you created with an opinion, so let me express. I was as you created with a voice, so let me voice. Yes, I am, as you were created to be loved, and to love equal with a voice and an opinion, so let me be me. My choice to love may be different from yours, but like you, I chose to love. Who chooses to love me, may be different from you choice, but let me be loved. How I believe and what I believe, may not be yours, but allow me the choice and chance to believe, as you have been allowed. I was created as you were, with a will and a desire to be free, so allow me to be free. I was as you created with a desire to be respected for who you are, so allow me to be respected for the choice I have made. You want the chance to be you and are you, so why deprive me of the same rights and privileges as you have been given? Allow me the chance to be who I was created by nature to be, as you have been and are, allow me to be me.” Ladies and gentlemen, let us now examine what it really means to be equal, what it really means to have rights, what it really means to be free, what it really means to be an American.

Talk about effective, right? And for those of you who were wondering, we won the debate.

In recent times, more than 30 states in the United States have thrown in the white flag. More and more people are jumping on the wagon and joining the fight to equalization. It’s mind blowing to think and see how far we have come as a country with such a controversial topic.

One of the new members on the wagon is Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany & Co. recently made headlines with a preview of their new campaign, “Will You?” The campaign features seven real couples who have popped the momentous unforgettable question. Now most of us are familiar with the well-known brand, but what has people buzzing is the ad that revealed an engaged couple of the same sex.

Personally, I was fully prepared to read bashing comments all over the web about this approach Tiffany & Co. decided to take for the first time in the 178 years they’ve been in business. On the contrary, people were delighted to see such an ad finally appear, especially artist Miley Cyrus who publically praised the company.

A perfect way to start the year for Tiffany & Co., like the annual saying goes, “new year, new me.” The company has finally acknowledged the idea of marriage, two people – no matter the gender – who are deeply in love and want to create a life with one another.

A spokeswoman from the jewelry company explained in an interview with Elle magazine, “nowadays, the road to marriage is no longer linear, and true love can happen more than once with love stories coming in a variety of forms.” The spokeswoman also said that, “the Tiffany engagement ring is the first sentence of the story that a couple will write together as they create a life that is deeply intimate and exceptional, which is the message we hope to convey through this campaign.” From a marketing standpoint this ad was a great move for the company, and it gives the audience a glimpse into what the future holds.

Looks like an overdue breakfast at Tiffany’s will be quite diversified now that the empty chairs are finally filled.

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Is That You R2?

When I was in third grade, my teacher asked each of us to build our own robot and present it to the class for a school project. Building a robot was an exciting project for all of us. Inspired by “Lampy” from The Brave Little Toaster, I made mine out of an old desk lamp, utilizing the base for its feet, the arm for its body, and the light bulb socket for its nose. I remember feeling so proud of my refurbished lamp-bot. At the time, at least to me, the idea of a real household robot was still one of fantasy; one for the movies and TV shows, and one for children like me to build in day school. I do remember thinking, however, how cool it would be if I could actually own a robot like R2-D2 or C3PO and wondering what the world would be like if everyone owned a robot like that. Yea right, right? Well, little did I know that as I sat building my little toy robot in the third grade, Dr. Cynthia Breazeal was working on hers too… in a lab at MIT.

About 15 years ago, Dr. Breazeal set out to create just that: a robot, a technology that “can support a far more personally meaningful human experience.” That technology is JIBO, which claims to be the first social robot for the family. JIBO is the first robot intended to stay in your home and actually serve a role for you and your family through a variety of interactive engagements.

From only one vantage point, JIBO’s innovative swivel design and facial, voice, and motion recognition allows it to engage with multiple people at once. JIBO will even learn the names of the people in the room and will start to address people by their name. JIBO is small and white (or black) with an LCD screen that projects an emotionally expressive face. Basically, it reminds me of a standing version of “Eve” from Wall-E.

Here are some of the things JIBO will be able to do:

- You can tell JIBO to become the cameraman for your event, and JIBO will document the evening, taking pictures on command, allowing you to stay a part of the action and actually be in the pictures.

- Instead of an e-reader, JIBO is an engaging storyteller, performing the story with you as its audience.

- During a video call, JIBO can address an entire group and will even turn towards whoever is speaking, allowing the entire group to interact with the video call instead of passing around a flat “talking head” on your phone.

- Instead of a preschool application or game, JIBO becomes an interactive teacher and personalized learning companion, actually teaching you and engaging you or your children about a particular subject, answering questions and rendering extrapolations.

- JIBO greets you by name when you arrive home, can turn on the lights for you, and even let you know who called or that someone knocked on the door in your absence.

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The Fitness Fashion Evolution

I’ve started to notice something lately – more and more sports brands are embracing the era of fitness fashion, especially for women. In fact, “active sports” is the quickest booming fitness category on the market.

The term “enclothed cognition” describes the idea that aspects of your clothing can actually have a psychological effect on you. Not only does throwing on a new workout outfit you recently purchased get you excited to hit the gym, but you also may actually perform better at the gym. So hey, I’ll do anything to increase my motivation to wake up at 5:30am and work out.

The other element to this is the gym-to-lifestyle trend. Four years ago, my friends teased me for not only spending so much money on workout clothes, but also for wearing my workout clothes out and about outside of the gym. Five years later, these same friends can be found rushing to the store to buy the trendiest pair of leggings, whether they work out or not. Workout clothes have become more stylish, but more importantly, more widely accepted and even desired as everyday wear.

An article on FASHIONISTA, a fashion news site, recently addressed this trend, “which we’ve seen as a fast growing theme on the runways for the past few seasons,” says Sheila Aimette, VP of North American Content at trend forecasting firm WGSN. “With more consumers adopting this trend, it’s natural for many labels to create product that speaks to what consumers want and are wearing.”

Lululemon used to be one of the only options for “fashionable fitness wear.” In the past couple years, other sports brands have picked up on the popularity of this trend, and have begun to market to it more effectively.

Many of these brands’ websites are featuring women’s clothing to address the “sport-as-style” look, and you can find more and more photos of people lounging, in addition to the high-impact photos. And it’s not just the usual players that are taking part (Nike, Under Armour, Reebok). The competition keeps coming (Well + Good’s 11 Hot New Fitness Brands, May 2013).

Social media certainly hasn’t hurt the evolution of this trend. Fitness-focused accounts have been the rising stars of the Instagram world.

@UnderArmourWomen may only have 103k followers, but Gisele Bundchen has 3 million, and she’s representing the company well.

Personally, I love this trend, and I’m happy more and more brands are embracing what Lululemon knew years ago. It’s also a lot more comfortable than wearing a crop top and heels.

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The Power of Partnership

Although companies and organizations in the same industry are usually considered competitors, it’s no secret that they are partnering with each other more than ever to accomplish a mutual goal. Business partnerships have been increasing dramatically over the last few decades. Whether the goal is to increase sales, to raise awareness of an organization or cause, or to make an impact in the community, companies and organizations are realizing the power of partnership. Because the truth is, we’re all in this together, right?

PetSmart Charities, Inc. is one of these organizations that discovered the power of partnership.

PetSmart Charities is a non-profit animal welfare organization founded in 1994. It is the largest funder of animal welfare efforts in North America providing more than $165 million in grants and programs benefiting animal welfare organizations and has saved the lives of more than 5 million pets through its in-store pet adoption partnership with PetSmart and local adoption partners. In Jacksonville, PetSmart’s local adoption partner is First Coast No More Homeless Pets, Inc.

This year in July, the two organizations came together as a team to accomplish their mutual goal – to save the lives of homeless pets.

The organizations hosted Jacksonville’s Mega Pet Adoption Event at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds. In this tremendous collaboration effort, the partners helped shelters and rescue groups present pets from Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties. At the start of the three-day event, the massive 50,000 square foot exhibition hall was jam-packed with thousands of pets anxiously awaiting their forever home.

“A record-breaking 1,165 pets were adopted,” said Michael Faulk, general manager for the Gate Parkway PetSmart in Jacksonville. “And for the very first time,” he exclaimed, “every single dog was adopted!”

The power of partnership is real, y’all. And organizations like these realize the power they have to make a difference in the community when they work together. This is just one example of how partnerships can produce impressive results. What could your organization accomplish in your community through partnerships?

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