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

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.

True

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!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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