Sitting here in the Hanover, NH Starbucks watching Howard Schultz speak live to an audience at Miami Dade College. If there’s anyone I’ve ever rooted for in this world, it’s Howard. I’ve studied everything he’s ever done. I wrote him letters (the paper kind) for years – six years, I think – before we ever had a real meeting. I’ve admired Starbucks for its uniquely human traits, for its early efforts to push employees towards their potential, for its health benefits when nobody was doing it, and countless other innovations that are often taken for granted today.
Most people see Howard as they see others in his position… a “multi billionaire” who is “out of touch with people” and has no business running for President. “Selfish”, I keep hearing people say. “What a narcissist!”, say others. His running will guarantee another 4-years for Trump in the White House, says just about everybody I know. And to drive home my point, if its not already clear, someone shouted at one of his recent events ““egotistical billionaire asshole”.
Let me be just as blunt here… I think we, that’s the collective we, are out of our fucking minds. Here we have someone who has defied most of the laws of what’s possible to the benefit of hundreds of thousands (millions ?!), and we resort to putting him down, calling him names, telling him to go away, disappear, and shut up?!
Howard Schultz built Starbucks in a manner that reflects today’s so-called benefit corporations – long before such a thing even existed. A business that placed other priorities such as social justice alongside the need to earn a profit and return to shareholders. Howard and his team are no doubt proud of the profits and investor returns they’ve earned for so many, but only when humanity was front and center along the way did they seem even remotely satisfied. Many bumps and bruises along the way made the Starbucks journey as human as ever… but through it all, and especially when things got really, really tough, Howard stayed true to his principles. When naysayers accused him of the very things he fought against hardest, he stood his ground, plowing forward, disregarding the odds on multiple extended periods of challenge that have broken most others in similar situations.
If he runs for President, Howard says he is running as a “Centrist independent.” It wasn’t long ago that just about every person I know claimed to be somewhere in the middle. “I am socially progressive but fiscally conservative”, was the safe line you heard up and down the east and west coasts. But how times have changed. Most everyone, it seems, has taken a side, often to the extreme. And if you dare to say you support Howard Schultz’s possible run for top dog, the attack dogs, almost all from the left (as the right stand back chuckling), will say you are supporting Trump. “It won’t work,” people are saying… “it can’t be done.” And yet, Howard refuses to let the naysayers stop him. Most would have caved 5 minutes after the Twitter and news media pummeling he received when he first announced in late January, but here he is now 6 weeks later pushing “onward”.
One thing I am sure of. We are more than 18 months from the 2020 election and nobody’s voice should be muted, especially not Howard’s. He has earned the right to be heard, whether he chooses to be an Independent, a Republican, or a Democrat. He listens to everyone. He builds great teams. He makes magic happen. He beats the odds. He has energy. He is kind. He is human. He will make mistakes. But he will own up to them when he does. He is far from perfect, and would proudly agree, but… and this is the big but… he’s as in touch with “ordinary” people as anyone else I know running for President. He started out pretty ordinary, and has moved into the extraordinary, but his roots are grounded and his perspective is broad and far-reaching. If he has something to say, we should take a pause and listen for a while. Stop yelling and screaming. Just listen.
And that goes for every other candidate out there. I’ve been to an Elizabeth Warren event down in Claremont, NH, I was at a Beto O’Rourke watch party just today, and have listened with interest to Cory Booker as he makes his rounds. There are many more and I respect all of them for putting themselves on the line to serve our country.
If the election were today, I would hope to be able to vote for someone with the qualities carried by Howard Schultz. He is as qualified to lead this country as any individual I’ve ever known or studied. I hope he finds a way to officially enter and stay in this race for another 18+ months. If he can’t win, he’s said very clearly he would pull out of the race. But if he did win, that would mean his message and ideas finally overcame the irresponsible accusations of narcissism and selfishness that have dominated his candidacy so far. Crazier things have happened… after all, just look who is in our White House today…
PS. What follows are my notes as I listened to his talk at Miami Dade if you want more…
He just mentioned this startling statistic… “1 in 6 Americans have stopped talking to friends and family because of the 2016 elections.” He says we are better than this.
“Revenge politics rule the day instead of collaboration.” Our country is better than this, he says.
Here are the critical issues he just laid out – I’m literally writing these down as I hear them:
- Income inequality
- Health Care
- Climate Change
- Schools not preparing young people for jobs of the future
- Rising level of student debt now at 1.5T.
But mainly he points to two massive failures… the failure of America’s character and the failure of America’s institutions.
First, character – when one political side wins and the other loses, the AMERICAN people lose because the battle of character and soul of this country is being lost. We are in a war of truth vs lies, talking versus shouting, acceptance vs bias, integrity vs trickery, respect vs contempt and love versus hate. How success is achieved and measured is as important as success itself. Profits earned through deceit or at the expense of others should have no value in this society.
Second, our institutions. Our 2-party system has devolved into a self-serving duopoly that does not serve the interests of the American people. Banks got bailed out, workers did not. 71% believe that our system of government is rigged… and it is rigged, emphasizes Howard.
Then he brings up gerrymandering… congress essentially reflects the will of the prevailing parties, not of the people. Voices are silenced because everything is predetermined. Gerrymandering is code word for “rigging the system”…
Now he’s saying how loud the extreme left and right are… and aren’t they so loud??
As far left and far right adopt more authoritarian policies, Howard says there is less tolerance for dissenting opinions. Most compelling example he shares of this threat is the presidency of Donald Trump. The damage already inflicted on democratic institutions and principles is severe. He has demonized the free press. He flagrantly used national emergency for pet projects. No better example of a failure of character than our current president.
Nothing is free. Extreme left does not have the answers. And the answer to these socialist tendencies cannot be met with another extreme.
Howard now calling for a renewed era of capitalism… the time has come, he says. Capitalism that creates new levels of equality. Held accountable. Businesses of all kinds have moral opportunity to serve interests of people and communities beyond their own. Success is best when the rewards of success are shared.
The center of America is not holding… the vital center of America is crumbling and falling apart. The center must hold, as it always has.
He respects the passion of those who believe extremes are necessary… he knows that the intentions of many on the left are in the right place.
But the center is the heart of America. And… what is the heart of America? It’s principled, encompasses our core values, aspirational but realistic in our plans, a place where common sense and reason prevail. The heart of America embraces objective truth and our truth informs our problem solving… in our heart science is real as are religion are faith. In our heart, everyone is equal. We stand with our allies. America’s heart is compassion and humanity.
We the people… that’s our heart.
America’s heart is where freedom and economic opportunity come together.
I will fight for the center where the vast majority of Americans stand.
- Will not sign any legislation into law that doesn’t have bipartisan support – both sides have good ideas when we work together
- Missed this.
Restore civility, dignity, respect, to the Oval Office.
Be proud again.
My mother inspired me to imagine a brighter future.
It will not be easy… yes, we are all Americans. We can come together, fix this,
Civility and respect as we disagree… and find solutions.
Time for a new birth of Freedom.