Starbucks has a different kind of holiday cup this year with a powerful message.

This is our world to share, now and after the election.

As Starbucks sets aside pumpkin spice lattes to make way for peppermint mochas and gingerbread-flavored drinks, the Seattle coffee-chain is doing something a little different this year.

It's tradition for the retailer to put their standard white cups with green logos into storage around this time of year to make way for a special edition red "holiday" cup. This year, however, they're going green, literally, and for a very good reason.

Photo by Joshua Trujillo/Starbucks.


With the presidential election less than a week away, the United States feels more divided than usual. That's why Starbucks commissioned artist Shogo Ota to produce a special edition cup that will be available until the election.

Ota's design, overlaid on a green cup, consists of a single line that connects a large group of people.

"The green cup and the design represent the connections Starbucks has as a community with its partners (employees) and customers," said Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz in a press release. "During a divisive time in our country, Starbucks wanted to create a symbol of unity as a reminder of our shared values and the need to be good to each other."

Ota creates his art on the window of a Starbucks store in Seattle. Photo by Joshua Trujillo/Starbucks.

By keeping the red cups in storage until after the election (they're coming; don't worry), Starbucks aims to mend our nation's divisions — in so much as a coffee chain can. Ota's design represents unity and is meant to serve as a symbol of our shared humanity.

Photo by Joshua Trujillo/Starbucks.

Some people reacted to Starbucks's call for empathy with anger.

Some decried diversity and unity (this Twitter user later tweeted that "[unity] does become more difficult the more groups are added to the mix.").

And others saw this as a political message of its own.

Of course, this is social media, where you could say, "The sky is blue," and you'd be hit with responses telling you that it's actually purple. So while it's kind of ridiculous that there are people this upset about a call for empathy and unity, it's worth noting that these people are probably very small in number.

The truth is that no matter your political leanings, the message Starbucks is spreading is important. After all, when this election is over, we still have to live with one another — no matter how different we may be.

Maybe you're a Trump supporter, or maybe you're planning on voting for Hillary Clinton. When all is said and done on Nov. 8, our country will still be made up of the same people it is today. To think that the election of one of the candidates will eliminate the anger, resentment, distrust, and hostility we face in each other in the world would be naive.

No election will solve those problems. No election can solve those problems. Those issues — what it means to coexist with people who hold vastly different beliefs than our own — are on us to solve in our everyday lives and in how we choose to treat others. This isn't a Democrat or Republican issue; this is a human issue.

GIF from Starbucks.

As people, we will continue to disagree on a great many issues, some of which are very important. That is OK. There are more than 300 million people in this country. There will never come a day where we will all agree on everything, and that's a fact. There will still be issues that divide us in big ways — issues like the environment, culture, race, gender, religion, the economy, the military, and so much more.

That is OK. That is healthy. That is human.

Ota creates his art on the window of a Starbucks store on 1st Avenue in Seattle. Photo by Joshua Trujillo/Starbucks.

When we look back on history, the "right" side of some of these battles might be obvious. Others, not so much.

If you're looking for a good barometer for what constitutes being on "the right side of history," it's usually the side rooted in empathy. Again, though, not all of these battles are as simple as "good" versus "evil" — humanity is far too complex and nuanced for that to be the case.

A civil rights protest button being worn by a female demonstrator at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963. Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images.

Empathy, unity, and life are not values exclusive to a political party. And while the value of Starbucks urging us to see that can be debated, the message should resonate.

It's easy to feel cynical about a brand calling on humanity for any purpose. It's easy to look at the negative responses and feel disgusted by the world. It's easy to forever see yourself and what you stand for as the good in a battle versus evil.

But let's not. Let's try to do what is hard — let's try to see each other as human beings. Clinton supporter, Trump supporter, Democrat, Republican, Independent, or otherwise — we all share this earth, now, next week, and the world after.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

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Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

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Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

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In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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