Like many young Americans, Shailene Woodley was largely apolitical — until a democratic socialist senator from Vermont came along with kooky ideas like free higher education, fighting economic inequality, and overturning Citizens United. Woodley has said in the past that Bernie Sanders made her "realize that all issues I care about are political," a sentiment echoed by many millennials.
So when Woodley appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers to talk about the controversial North Dakota Access Pipeline, it was no surprise that she was joined by the young political left's guiding light, Sanders himself.
As a staunch Sanders supporter, Meyers asked Woodley a question that Hillary Clinton and her supporters have struggled to answer themselves: "What do you think the Clinton campaign has to do for voters like you, of your generation, to convince them, with the current situation, she is the right path?"
Woodley responded that Clinton must show liberal millennials that she walks the talk, pointing to the North Dakota Access Pipeline as an opportunity for Clinton to prove her dedication to environmentalism and climate change concerns. The actress urged Clinton to "stand up and show where her stance is on this particular issue."
The pipeline is a large, interstate infrastructure project transporting crude oil that claims to be "cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible." But environmental activists and tribe leaders have stood firmly against its construction because its route crosses sacred Native American sites and burial grounds, and it poses a threat to local drinking water.
Jessie Weahkee, a protestor from Albuqurque, New Mexico, told NPR:
It's about our rights as native people to this land. It's about our rights to worship. It's about our rights to be able to call a place home, and it's our rights to water.
Despite relatively scant media coverage, the pipeline protest is a big deal. Thousands of people from around the world have traveled to North Dakota to protest the pipeline in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
Woodley and Sanders were among those protesting, too. "This is the first time that you have this many tribes gathered in one place, standing together, united, to stand up for not only their rights, but human rights and the access to clean water," she said.
At the moment, the Obama administration's order on a temporary halt to construction on the pipeline is in place, a move that earned widespread praise from protestors when it was announced. But "that's not a win," Woodley said. "A win is when they say 'we're not moving this pipeline to some other location... but we're going to stop it. We're going to nix it like we did with Keystone XL."
Meyers' most pertinent question, though, came at the end. As a generation as reviled as they are confusing (at least to older people), millennials are nevertheless a coveted group. Meyers wanted to know how he could pass as one, "like, if I wore the right cool clothes and stuff?"
In response, Woodley whipped out shirts showing support for the Standing Rock Sioux and gave them to Meyers and Sanders, unofficially christening them as honorary members of the activist millennial generation.