5 revelations about the politics of being a millennial.

Elections are getting weirder and weirder, and 2016 is no different. It's a doozy.

You probably already know why. You’ve seen it yourself. From Donald Trump's ... everything to the intense focus on Hillary's emails to Bernie Sanders' eternal sore throat and electro-shock hair, the 14 years this election's seemingly been dragging on for has been full of twists, turns, surprises and off-putting Jim Webb smiles (remember him?).

And like the radiator in an apartment owned by a stingy landlord, it's only barely started heating up.



The ska-band-sized republican field this year. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

Just like in 2008, this race will be largely decided by young voters. Young voters who, as a new poll reveals, are pretty much done with the status quo.

A new poll conducted by Rock the Vote and USA Today reveals young voters (the millennial electorate if you will) as concerned, deeply unsatisfied, and detached.

"Millennials, like the general population, are not as enthusiastic about participating in 2016 as this country needs them to be," Ashley Spillane, president of Rock the Vote says, speaking of the poll results showing that about 6 in 10 young people plan to vote in November.

"We as a country have work to do to restore this generation’s faith that not only is voting a way to make a difference, it is THE way and it really does matter."

What or who millennials want to vote for, however, is becoming uncertain and a lot less traditional and predictable.

1. The millennial voter is counterculture and looking to shake things up.

"Millennials, as has historically been the case, lean toward the candidates who have portrayed themselves as counterculture and outside the system," Spillane says.

This is certainly evident in the millennial support for both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Both candidates represent a strong pivot away from politics as usual ... in their own ways of course.

Bernie's support among young voters is huge. Rock the Vote's poll shows him leading Clinton 46% to 35%, and a Quinnipiac University poll shows him beating Trump by 13 points.

Not pictured: That third person. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

For millennial Republicans though, Trump is their guy. Rock the Vote's poll has him leading the Republican field at 26%, which is an easy lead but much lower than his support in the general electorate.

However, "Republican" and "Democrat" might be outdated terms when talking about the largest voting demographic in America.

Because...

2. Millennials do not reliably lean towards one party or the other.

Millennials are largely issues-based voters. They care about the things that directly affect them, and they're willing to cross supposed party lines to address their concerns.

"A huge portion of the millennial generation is not affiliated with either political party, and their attitudes about issues give candidates from all political parties the opportunity to create solutions that address the things millennials care about," Spillane explains.

One of the angry young voters you may see at the polls this November. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The issues in question are the same ones being discussed nationwide — things like gun control, refugees, and the economy.

But despite these issues being presented as hotly contentious to the general public, for millennials, their minds are pretty much made up:

Photo via Rock the Vote/USA Today. Used with permission.

Other issues that millennials are overwhelmingly concerned about include the legalization of marijuana, which Time reports has 71% support among millennials, and student loan debt, which was their second-ranked concern according to Rock the Vote's poll.

3. The #1 thing millennials are worried about is the economy.

While the presidential candidates and news outlets would have us believe that terrorism is the scariest thing Americans face daily, millennials are far more afraid that they'll be un- or underemployed for extended periods of time.

"The oldest millennials were only 27 years old when the recession began," Spillane explains.

"This means that they have experienced struggles in employment very early on in their careers and that they had to make important decisions about jobs and education during a time of economic uncertainty where opportunities seemed scarce."


Job seekers at a New York City career fair in 2012. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Indeed, a millennial facing the current job market doesn't have it easy.

Despite being the most educated and qualified generation in American history, and despite unemployment being at its lowest since the recession, most young adults struggle to make a paycheck that reflects that, if they have a job at all. That struggle is also multiplied by the most student loan debt in history.

So yeah. You can mark millennials down as "concerned."

4. Despite that economic concern, millennials actually remain pretty optimistic.

57% of the millennials who responded to the poll said they're optimistic about the future of the United States while 34% are not. The other 9% were probably too busy texting or Snapchatting or something.

Millennials recognize that they have the opportunity and responsibility to be the difference they want to see in the world. Despite their attitudes about voting, young people know they have more opportunities than ever to get involved in the issues they care about.

At least do it for the sticker. Photo by Mark Hirsch/Getty Images.

"Young people volunteer at record levels, care deeply about issues, and take actions online and on social media," says Spillane. "Even though young people are frustrated with the state of politics today, we have tools at our disposal to make things better, and that is reason for optimism."

5. Even better — millennials' optimism is well-founded because there are a LOT of them.

As America's largest generation, their numbers alone mean that the issues they care about will be in the conversation. If every millennial voted for the same candidate, that candidate would win in a landslide.

Photo from Rock the Vote, used with permission.

That's why you see Hillary Clinton struggle to "dab" on Ellen. Or Marco Rubio call for a "new generation of leadership" in order to gain young pander-points.

Millennials are the party that will definitively decide the future of this country. So it's important that they, that we, get involved and stay involved.

"Our research shows that when a person votes, they begin to identify themselves as a voter — and that this is habit forming," says Spillane.

It's a good habit to have.

That and — you know — flossing.

Photo courtesy of Yoplait
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When Benny Mendez asked his middle school P.E. students why they wanted to participate in STOKED—his new after school program where kids can learn to skateboard, snowboard, and surf—their answers surprised him.

I want to be able to finally see the beach, students wrote. I want to finally be able to see the snow.

Never having seen snow is understandable for Mendez's students, most who live in Inglewood, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. But never having been to the beach is surprising, since most of them only live 15-20 minutes from the ocean. Mendez discovered many of them don't even know how to swim.

"A lot of the kids shared that they just want to go on adventures," says Mendez. "They love nature, but...they just see it in pictures. They want to be out there."

Mendez is in his third year of teaching physical education at View Park K-8 school, one of seven Inner City Foundation Education schools in the Los Angeles area. While many of his students are athletically gifted, Mendez says, they often face challenges outside of school that limit their opportunities. Some of them live in neighborhoods where it's unsafe to leave their houses at certain times of day due to gang activity, and many students come to his P.E. class with no understanding of why learning about physical health is important.

"There's a lot going on at home [with my students]," says Mendez. "They're coming from either a single parent home, or foster care. There's a lot of trauma behind what's going on at home...that is out of our control."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait

What Mendez can control is what he gives his students when they're in his care, which is understanding, some structure, and the chance to try new things. Mendez wakes up at 4:00 a.m. most days and often doesn't get home until 9:00 p.m. as he works tirelessly to help kids thrive. Not only does he run after school programs, but he coaches youth soccer on the weekends as well. He also works closely with other teachers and guidance counselors at the school to build strong relationships with students, and even serves as a mentor to his former students who are now in high school.

Now Mendez is earning accolades far and wide for his efforts both in and out of the classroom, including a surprise award from Yoplait and Box Tops for Education.

Yoplait and Box Tops are partnering this school year to help students reach their fullest potential, which includes celebrating teachers and programs that support that mission. Yoplait is committed to providing experiences for kids and families to connect through play, so teaming up with Box Tops provided an opportunity to support programs like STOKED.

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Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash
smiling woman in gray hoodie beside smiling boy in blue and red jacket

After a year and a half of a global pandemic and domestic upheaval, most of us are feeling some variation of tired, fried, exhausted and generally done with everything. We've been swimming through choppy and uncharted waters, and even strong swimmers need a life jacket under such conditions.

We can all use an extra measure of grace and understanding as we navigate these waters, which is why this email from a professor to her English 101 class is so dang heartwarming. This message went out to students the day after their first essay was due, with the subject line, "You need a break today."

Here's what it said:

"All,

The pandemic is kicking everyone's ass. Can I say that? I don't know, but I did.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!