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A bloody nose, a last hurrah for friends, and more prom memories you shared with us

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A bloody nose, a last hurrah for friends, and more prom memories you shared with us

Eddie Almance, left, and his sister Leila, pose for portraits taken by their cousin Ailem Villarreal on the rooftop of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Odessa, Texas

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Eddie Almance, left, and his sister Leila, pose for portraits taken by their cousin Ailem Villarreal on the rooftop of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Odessa, Texas

Danielle Villasana/Danielle Villasana

It’s prom season, and we asked you to share stories from that special night, whether you went last year or decades ago.

We received many heartwarming stories about going to prom with friends, future spouses and high school sweethearts.

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Some people told us they didn’t go to prom at all — or didn’t go with a date. Some people learned big lessons at their prom, while others had unforgettable mishaps.

Here are some of the memories you shared with us. And remember that you can participate in future callouts by signing up for NPR’s Up First newsletter.

Day-of mishaps didn’t stop the celebrations

Marshall Metcalf from Taylorville, Ill. recalls how, after walking into his prom, his “nose exploded in a spontaneous fountain of blood.”

It was “Kind of like Footloose, without the fighting or dancing. Just an enormous nosebleed, all down the white rented shirt,” Metcalf wrote. “I dove into the bathroom to clean up, terribly embarrassed. But to my great surprise no one commented on it the rest of the night. Guess my classmates weren’t that bad after all.”

Anthony Rodas from Wisconsin almost crashed his car when his date mentioned she was dating someone else. “On the way there, she nonchalantly mentions, ‘Oh, by the way, that guy is my boyfriend.’ I drove through a stop sign — which has flashing red lights below the sign as well as little LEDs around the signs themselves, the least excusable stop sign to run — as I am processing what had just happened,” Rodas wrote. His date was a little startled and concerned, but no one was hurt and they made it safely to prom. “It was rather awkward, and we spent a good portion of the prom doing our own things, but we did dance to a few songs and still ended up having a good time,” Rodas wrote.

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Jessica Reitano also ended up marrying her prom date. In 1990, her and her now husband crashed a prom when she came back home from college.

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Jessica Reitano also ended up marrying her prom date. In 1990, her and her now husband crashed a prom when she came back home from college.

Jessica Reitano

Josh Waters in Georgia wrote that his “prom date was so mad at me because I refused to wait in line for pictures right when we got there.”

After three hours of dancing to Boyz II Men, the pair looked “a sweaty mess. However, it must not have made her that mad,” Waters wrote. “We just celebrated 16 years of marriage.”

Prom night was clouded by difficult times, personal and political, for some

Robin Dias of Scottsdale, Ariz. went to prom in Darien, Conn. in 1968, as unrest around the Vietnam War reached its peak. The spring was fraught with protests, political unrest and the assassinations of two of America’s most high profile leaders, Martin Luther King and Robert F Kennedy. Dias wrote that “It almost seemed wrong to want to dress like a princess at a ball when there was so much turmoil,” Dias wrote.

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She recalled her mother standing in her bedroom, ironing while the TV blared with the news of the MLK funeral march. Dias’ mother sighed, and said aloud, “It’s all so terrible. But I really hope the school won’t cancel the proms this spring. You kids still deserve to have your Prom Night.”

Casey Promise Thompson was one of the only openly gay students at her prom night in her small town in Tennessee.

“I walked in, nervous of people’s reactions to me wearing a tux. I had lived a life of being severely bullied and not being the best at making friends. But I had evolved over time and tried to learn to connect to others through art,” Thompson wrote to us.

She would give away her doodles and sketches all the time. She estimates she probably gave away hundreds of drawings. So, it came as no surprise that by senior year, she was voted “Most Talented” by her classmates.

Of course, this would mean that she would have to get on stage at prom and accept her award with all the other superlatives. “I was immediately nervous and sick to my stomach,” she wrote. “Instead of the expected cold shoulder and fear of being laughed at, they all smiled and welcomed me.”

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Thompson learned an important lesson that day: “It suddenly dawned on me that my art had made an impact. Everyone did know who I was. I had actually been a popular kid my Senior year and I didn’t even know it. My brain had built up this idea that no one liked me all of these years, and right before I graduated high school…I finally learned that people actually did respect and appreciate me. My art has made me into someone.”

Romantic dates weren’t always the focus of prom

In 2010, Karley Ford went to her senior prom with her best friends instead of a date.

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Karley Ford


In 2010, Karley Ford went to her senior prom with her best friends instead of a date.

Karley Ford

Karley Ford in Colorado told us that she “had the worst luck with getting dates to… literally any dance. I was just perpetually single. Prom was no exception. Junior prom, my date got swine flu. Senior prom, my date decided to go with someone else– one week – before prom. I had already gotten his boutonniere in 2010.

At senior prom, Ford said she expected to be depressed because she was going alone. One of her good friends asked Ford to join her as her “date” a couple days before.

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“The best thing, though, was this picture. We had been friends since grade school, and it was one of the last hurrahs together before going off to college or wherever the wind took us,” Ford wrote. “Despite me not having a date, my childhood friends all rallied together, made sure that I had reasons to smile and reminded me that I am never alone (and I didn’t need a stinkin’ date).”

Going with a friend also made things 10 times more fun for Laura Popielski in Washington D.C. “My best friend and I decided to go to prom months before the date. He was gay and I was a bit of a wallflower when it came to dating/boys so it made good sense to go together,” Popielski wrote. “Nine years later, he passed away and now it’s been ten years since that… and I still remember how fun it was to collaborate with him, how we were the perfect pair.”

Some who didn’t attend prom are stamping their own traditions on the day

Ananya Paul grew up in India and never went to prom. Now in California, she “will be making memories when my rising Junior wears a saree to her prom. Our children take pride in celebrating and showcasing their culture.” Paul wrote that it is “heartening” to see more students wear traditional attire like sarees or lehengas to prom in recent years.

“What’s also intriguing is how my daughter has chosen to go to prom with her girlfriends rather than a date. It speaks volumes about the evolving dynamics of friendship and independence among today’s youth,” Paul wrote. “It’s these unique cultural shifts and personal choices that make each prom season special and memorable in its own way.”

Chad Campbell contributed production to the audio version of this story and Ally Schweitzer edited. The digital version was edited by Obed Manuel.

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Vietnam’s ‘bamboo diplomacy’ triumphs with visits from Biden, Xi and now Putin

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Vietnam’s ‘bamboo diplomacy’ triumphs with visits from Biden, Xi and now Putin

Over the past nine months, Vietnam has hosted Joe Biden, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, balancing geopolitical rivalries with an élan that has eluded other countries.

The string of visits shows how a country adept at attracting manufacturing investment from companies eager to diversify their supply chains is adroitly managing its foreign policy.

By hosting Putin this week for his first visit since 2017, Vietnam, which has a long-standing independent and diversified foreign policy, joins the ranks of North Korea, Iran and China in opening its doors to a leader shunned globally after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Putin’s visit, which follows his trip to North Korea and comes less than a year after Washington and Hanoi upgraded their ties, has irked the US but is unlikely to disrupt relations. “Vietnam has played this game quite well,” said Nguyen Khac Giang, a visiting fellow at Singapore’s Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute.

Vietnam has been “actively neutral” unlike other countries that have been more passive, he said. “Hanoi knows it must actively balance different powers . . . because that’s the way for Vietnam to gain benefits from all three powers. Otherwise it would be drawn into political games without any ability to change the direction of the game.”

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Communist party-ruled Vietnam’s independent foreign policy dates back to the end of the cold war, when Hanoi decided to be a friend to all countries. Long-standing party chief Nguyen Phu Truong, the most senior political figure in Vietnam, calls this “bamboo diplomacy”, citing the plant’s “strong roots, stout trunk and flexible branches”.

Workers in Hanoi manufacturing Russian flags ahead of this week’s visit by Vladimir Putin © Thinh Nguyen/Reuters

Under his leadership, Vietnam has upgraded relations with the US and allies such as Australia, Japan and South Korea to “comprehensive strategic partnerships”, the highest level of diplomatic ties afforded by Hanoi.

When Biden visited Hanoi last September, the US president hailed the move to upgrade the partnership as part of the 50-year “arc of progress” between the two former foes.

In recent years Vietnam has become a favoured destination for companies such as Apple as they look to diversify their supply chains away from China. Foreign direct investment in Vietnam hit $36.6bn last year.

Yet Vietnam has managed to achieve this without disrupting its ties with China, its largest trading partner, and Russia, its biggest arms supplier. The two have been strategic partners with Vietnam since 2008 and 2012, respectively.

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Three months after the Biden visit, Xi followed in his footsteps and the two communist neighbours agreed to build a “shared future” to strengthen their ties — despite disagreements and regular stand-offs between their ships in the South China Sea, where Vietnam and Beijing have overlapping claims.

Vietnam has been astute in navigating the relationship with China by striking the right balance “between defiance and deference”, said Susannah Patton, the Lowy Institute’s director of south-east Asia programme.

Vietnam has used its relationships with the US and Russia as a balance against China, she said. “Vietnam has benefited from its omnidirectional foreign policy stance and has made itself relevant to many partners.”

Vladimir Putin being greeted at Noi Bai International Airport
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is greeted at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Thursday © Nhac Nguyen/AFP

Vietnam’s foreign policy direction has withstood recent domestic political upheaval — a result of a long-running corruption crackdown — and is unlikely to change even as geopolitical tensions rise.

Analysts said the Communist party was pragmatic about its foreign policy and understood the importance of having western allies, especially as it looked to cement its place as a crucial manufacturing hub.

At the same time, hosting Putin is a “matter of principle” for Vietnam to show the balance and diversity in its foreign policy, said Le Hong Hiep, senior fellow and co-ordinator of the Vietnam studies programme at Iseas.

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The US has expressed disappointment at the visit but said its relationship with Vietnam would continue to strengthen.

“We reiterate that no country should give Putin a platform to promote his war of aggression and otherwise allow him to normalise his atrocities. We cannot return to business as usual or turn a blind eye to the clear violations of international law Russia has committed in Ukraine,” a US state department spokesperson told the Financial Times.

Russia, the biggest supplier of military equipment including submarines to Hanoi, has been a close partner of Vietnam since the cold war. The two countries have run joint exploration projects for oil and gas in the South China Sea.

Vietnamese media has reported that Hanoi is seeking closer co-operation with Russia in natural resources, artificial intelligence, life sciences and energy. Putin is expected to meet Nguyen and other senior officials, with talks focusing on trade, economic and technological prospects, along with international and regional issues. It is unclear if any deals will be announced.

This week’s visit may ultimately prove more beneficial for Putin than for Vietnam, said Iseas’ Le, as it shows that doors still open for him. Vietnam might be cautious in announcing any major deals with Russia as it seeks to remain on good terms with the US and its allies.

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“Vietnam will be wise enough to make sure that the visit will not harm its relation with US and western partners,” said Le. “It has been able to maintain good ties with all the major powers, and that plays an important role in helping Vietnam attract investment from different partners.”

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Louisiana will require the 10 Commandments displayed in every public school classroom

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Louisiana will require the 10 Commandments displayed in every public school classroom

Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom under a bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Jeff Landry on Wednesday. Above, workers repaint a Ten Commandments billboard off of Interstate 71 near Chenoweth, Ohio, on Nov. 7, 2023.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom, the latest move from a GOP-dominated Legislature pushing a conservative agenda under a new governor.

The legislation that Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed into law on Wednesday requires a poster-sized display of the Ten Commandments in “large, easily readable font” in all public classrooms, from kindergarten to state-funded universities.

Opponents questioned the law’s constitutionality and vowed to challenge it in court. Proponents said the the measure is not solely religious, but that it has historical significance. In the language of the law, the Ten Commandments are “foundational documents of our state and national government.”

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The posters, which will be paired with a four-paragraph “context statement” describing how the Ten Commandments “were a prominent part of American public education for almost three centuries,” must be in place in classrooms by the start of 2025.

Under the law, state funds will not be used to implement the mandate. The posters would be paid for through donations.

The law also “authorizes” but does not require the display of other items in K-12 public schools, including: The Mayflower Compact, which was signed by religious pilgrims aboard the Mayflower in 1620 and is often referred to as America’s “First Constitution”; the Declaration of Independence; and the Northwest Ordinance, which established a government in the Northwest Territory — in the present day Midwest — and created a pathway for admitting new states to the Union.

Not long after the governor signed the bill into law at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Lafayette on Wednesday, civil rights groups and organizations that want to keep religion out of government promised to file a lawsuit challenging it.

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The law prevents students from getting an equal education and will keep children who have different beliefs from feeling safe at school, the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation said in a joint statement Wednesday afternoon.

“Even among those who may believe in some version of the Ten Commandments, the particular text that they adhere to can differ by religious denomination or tradition. The government should not be taking sides in this theological debate,” the groups said.

The controversial law, in a state ensconced in the Bible Belt, comes during a new era of conservative leadership in Louisiana under Landry, who replaced two-term Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in January. The GOP holds a supermajority in the Legislature, and Republicans hold every statewide elected position, paving the way for lawmakers to push through a conservative agenda.

Similar bills requiring the Ten Commandments be displayed in classrooms have been proposed in other states including Texas, Oklahoma and Utah. However, with threats of legal battles over the constitutionality of such measures, no state besides Louisiana has succeeded in making the bills law.

Legal battles over the display of the Ten Commandments in classrooms are not new.

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In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a similar Kentucky law was unconstitutional and violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, which says Congress can “make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The high court found that the law had no secular purpose but rather served a plainly religious purpose.

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Officer on Sunak protection detail arrested over alleged bet on timing of UK poll

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Officer on Sunak protection detail arrested over alleged bet on timing of UK poll

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Police investigating bets on the timing of the UK’s general election have arrested an officer from the team guarding Prime Minister Rishi Sunak over the claims.

London’s Metropolitan Police said an officer from its Royalty and Specialist Protection command had been held over “alleged bets”, without identifying whom the officer had been guarding.

A person familiar with the situation confirmed he had been part of Sunak’s protection detail.

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It is the first reported arrest since the Gambling Commission opened a probe into betting on the timing of the surprise election.

The investigation was launched after Craig Williams, a Conservative MP and aide to Sunak, admitted he had placed a wager on a July election shortly before the poll was announced.

The Met said on Wednesday that the Gambling Commission contacted it on Friday saying it was investigating “alleged bets” by a constable from the specialist unit “related to the timing of the general election”.

The force added: “The matter was immediately referred to officers in the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards, who opened an investigation, and the officer was also removed from operational duties. The officer was subsequently arrested on Monday 17 June on suspicion of misconduct in public office.”

The Met said the arrested officer had been taken into custody and bailed “pending further inquiries”. The matter had also been referred to the force watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct, it added.

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The Met did not name the officer, in line with normal practice before anyone is charged.

Sunak aide Williams insisted when admitting laying his bet that the Gambling Commission’s investigation of the matter amounted to “some routine inquiries” with which he would “fully co-operate”. He remains the Conservative general election candidate for Montgomeryshire and Glyndŵr in Wales.

The Guardian reported he had bet £100 on May 19 at odds of 5-1 that the election would be in July, at a time when it was not expected before the autumn. Sunak made his surprise announcement of a July 4 election on May 22.

The police officer is the only person known to have been arrested.

The Gambling Commission said it was investigating the “possibility” of offences concerning the date of the election.

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“This is an ongoing investigation, and the Commission cannot provide any further details at this time,” it said.

Additional reporting by Eri Sugiura

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