Meet the 15-year-old hero who just gave the U.N. some real talk about the future of his generation.
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Unilever and the United Nations

A 15-year-old kid from Colorado just walked into the United Nations and dared a group of world leaders to do something about climate change.

His name is Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, and he's a true teen badass with a badass Aztec name to match. But, to truly appreciate how epically out of left field his speech was, allow me to set the scene...

The United Nations is a majestic place. At least on the outside.



Photo by WorldIslandInfo.com/Flickr.

On the inside, it looks a little like my grandmother's apartment.

She definitely has those chairs. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

It is filled with Very Serious and Powerful People who spent the morning addressing each other as Your Excellency...

Figures. Those two always sit together. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

...watching a Very Serious Video narrated by Morgan Freeman that featured sad polar bears ('cause we're all a sucker for Morgan Freeman and sad polar bears, even us)...

"Are you a fish?" — a polar bear. Photo by Eric March/Upworthy.

...and spent much of the morning on June 29, 2015, speaking to one another about how climate change is a Very Serious Problem.

They also talked about how world leaders have really got to get around to really, really solving it this time with the climate agreement they're going to make in Paris this year.

And that's good! It's awesome that the UN is pushing world leaders to talk about climate change. And it's good to have goals. Yay, goals.

When Martinez got up, he immediately threw some fuel on the fire.

"In the last 20 years of negotiations, almost no agreements have been made on a bonding climate recovery plan," he said.

Image by the United Nations.

Whoa.

Frustration with the slow place is common and something folks at the U.N. also feel, as even Ban Ki-moon compared the speed of the negotiations to “a snail's pace."

It's not surprising. This fight against climate change is a huge undertaking by a huge group of people. But, Martinez wanted to remind the assembly that urgency is key because the stakes are too high.

Martinez believes that climate change isn't just a moral issue, it's a life-or-death issue.

“What's at stake right now is the existence of my generation," he said in his speech.

He's 100% right. It's great that politicians are thinking about climate change and are getting together to talk about when they're going to talk about what they're going to do about it. But the decisions they're making won't affect them as much as the generations after them.

Kthxbye, hope you like the planet we left you! Photo by Ricardo Stuckert/PR.

Martinez is 15. He and his friends are actually going to have to deal with the consequences of whatever gets decided here.

"We need to reconnect with the earth and end this mindset that we have that we can take whatever we want without ever giving back," he said.

As an accomplished writer, hip-hop artist, climate warrior, and all-around way-too-impressive 15-year-old, Martinez gets invited to speak at a lot of events like this.

This is the third time he's spoken at the U.N. alone. And he knows the drill.

Photo by Patricia Carnevale/Upworthy.

I spoke to Martinez after his speech, and he was characteristically to the point:

"At climate talks, the fossil fuel companies are lobbying in the hallways," he told me. "There are a lot of systems in place that are making it so that we're kind of stuck. ... It's the truth of the message, the voice, the passion I bring against money."

And the politicians who spoke before him at the conference?

"They were all talking about the same thing in a way," he said. "A lot was addressed about needing to take action and wanting to do something, and that's great. But the people are listening are the people in the room, and the world's not listening to them. ... They're not finding ways to relate to this generation."

It may sound like Martinez is a pessimist, but he's not. Not even close.

He just speaks bluntly and from the heart. Because he cares so deeply. And his passion is infectious.

GIF by the United Nations.

"It's reassuring there's a conversation going on," he said. "We have to speed up the conversation. ... Unless we make the right decisions, we're going to wind up with a pretty messed-up planet."

In order to help people make those decisions, Martinez and his organization, Earth Guardians, came up with a list of 50 simple things you can do to start reducing your carbon footprint.

You can try some of them right now! They're really simple.

Every little bit helps the massive global effort Martinez hopes to kick-start with his speech.

And when the nations of the world meet in Paris later this year to draft a new climate agreement, he hopes that this time they'll actually take some serious, no-doubt-about-it action. The U.N. hopes so, too; they gave him a round of applause.

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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!

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

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He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.