I swapped out 'millennials' in headlines for something better. It made a huge difference.

Ah, millennials...

At once destroyers of worlds and lazy slackers who won't move out of our parents' houses, we're all-purpose punching bags for society at large.

We're also ferocious killers. Did you know that we're responsible for the death of consumerism, the American Dream, Applebee's, marriage, boobs, beer, home ownership, the oil industry, and the future of humanity itself? Not bad, right? With so many contradictions, we're what Winston Churchill might have described as a "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."


With no clear start and no clear end, the term "millennial" has mostly become a stand-in for "youths" in angry "kids these days"-style news stories.

There's just one major problem: We're not kids.

Pew Research defines a millennial as anyone born between the years 1981 and 1996. In 2018, that's most everyone age 21 to 37.

Other sources might have slightly different start and end dates for the qualifying range, but the point is, we're not pre-teens. And yet, the way the label of millennial is used, it certainly gives that impression.

"Have millennials killed the political primary system?" JK JK JK this is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrating her primary victory in New York's 14th congressional district. Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images.

When AL.com asked readers if we should elect more millennials to Congress, responses demonstrated just how much people misunderstand what the term means.

While those in favor of more millennials in Congress mentioned the benefits of having more diverse representation, those opposed clung to tired and factually inaccurate stereotypes.

"No! F--- no! Not until they get some life experiences! If this past presidential election taught you anything, it should've taught you millennials don't have life experiences to know how to vote. Living off of your parents doesn't give you life experiences," wrote one Twitter user.

(According to Pew Research, only 13% of people aged 30-34 live with a parent.)

"Until you are working on your own, off your parents health insurance, and paying real taxes I don't think you should be able to to be elected to Congress," wrote another.

(Parental health care expires at age 26, and anyone whose income meets a certain minimum must pay taxes regardless of age.)

"Not until they learn personal responsibility at least," wrote a third.

In all three of these examples, it's clear respondents don't have an accurate demographic understanding of what a millennial is.

Author Summer Brennan came up with a really interesting idea aimed at getting people to accurately understand the term "millennial."

Every time you see a headline that mentions "millennials," she suggests, consider whether it'd sound any more ridiculous if you replaced it with "adults under 40." In the examples above, for instance, the implication that adults under 40 don't have their own health care, pay taxes, or have any life experience sounds a little absurd.

Your reaction to the experiment might help determine whether or not you're viewing "millennial" as a group of young- to middle-aged adults with diverse views and experiences or as a buzzword loaded with years of negative press. (And yes, yes, I know, Pew's classification puts the cap on millennials at 37, not 40, but as I said, this can vary.)

Let's take a look at what a few other "millennial" headlines would look like if we used Brennan's trick. Do they seem a little silly?

The Economist recently asked why millennials weren't buying diamonds. Think about it rationally, and you'll realize it could have something to do with the fact that we entered the workforce at roughly the same time that the entire economy was in total free fall and haven't really recovered.

When you swap the headline to read "adults under 40," this becomes much more clear:

GIF via The Economist/Twitter.

Inc. put together an explainer for people trying to understand why millennials are so "entitled." Swap in "adults under 40," and suddenly that headline just looks poorly thought out.

GIF via Inc./Twitter.

The Guardian told its readers that La Croix sparkling water was virtually a religion to millennials. Reframing that headline reveals it to be an odd, unfounded claim.

GIF via The Guardian/Twitter.

This thought exercise can be applied to all sorts of issues, not just debates about whether millennials are the worst.

The way we frame conversation plays a big role in how we view the world. If specific words and phrases didn't have the power to change minds, marketing firms would have no reason to exist.

For instance: In 2009, political strategist Frank Luntz wrote a memo encouraging Republican members of Congress to change their vocabulary in order to derail Democrats' efforts to pass health care legislation. Luntz found that the public generally favored health care reform, so in order for Republicans to successfully oppose it, he urged them to instead refer to health care reform as the "Washington takeover" of America's health system.

While the Democrats' law was eventually passed, Luntz's rhetoric generated a lot of confusion around the health care debate that year. That confusion made it a political liability for Democrats and ultimately led to a thrashing during the 2010 midterm elections.

Frank Luntz in 2009. Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival.

The same concept applies to the immigration debate. When you replace innocuous terms like "undocumented immigrant," "asylum-seeker," or "refugee" with far more loaded words like "illegal immigrants" or the even more dehumanizing "illegals," the debate shifts again. As pundits switch out adjectives for buzzwords, it becomes harder to remember that these discussions are about actual human beings.

The "millennials" vs. "adults under 40" trick is a doorway to untangling a lot of the learned rhetoric we've been taught to use on a number of issues.

Next time you read a story that evokes a powerful emotion, take a deep breath and mentally swap out buzzwords to see if you still feel the same.

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

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Today, he's bumped up that date by two full months.

That's great news.

In his announcement to the nation, Biden outlined the updated process for getting the country immunized against COVID-19.


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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

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