Starbucks Stands For More Than Coffee


I’m a fan of Howard Schultz and Starbucks. This is the second time I’ve written about the company.  Today my devotion was solidified when I saw a letter printed in a full page ad in the New York Times signed by Schultz.  Schultz is asking people to become part of a movement to stop financing politicians until they break the gridlock that is leaving the country in a state of financial decline.

But this post is not about politics.  I really dislike almost everything about politics because of the phoniness apparent in almost every voice I hear.

This is a about business standing for something beyond the product or service it offers.  It’s about a business showing leadership and taking risks to stand behind its values. Writing this letter is in concert with everything I have read about Schultz.  He is using his platform to reflect the meaning and purpose that he speaks of in his book.  He is raising the business to a higher level but behaving in a way that is in keeping with his values.

Starbucks came from a poor family and his mission was informed by his personal experience of seeing what happened to his father and to his family when his father lost his job. It’s an honest and heartfelt letter and he is publicly taking a brave and genuine position. He is showing real leadership beyond the business. Some people will like Starbucks less for this.  I’m happier than ever that I have a gold Starbucks card and more loyal because of his taking a stand.

Here is the text of that letter:

September 2011

Dear Starbucks Friend and Fellow Citizen:

I love our country. And I am a beneficiary of the promise of America. But today, I am very concerned that at times I do not recognize the America that I love.

Like so many of you, I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failure of leadership in Washington. And also like you, I am frustrated by our political leaders’ steadfast refusal to recognize that, for every day they perpetuate partisan conflict and put ideology over country, America and Americans suffer from the combined effects of paralysis and uncertainty. Americans can’t find jobs. Small businesses can’t get credit. And the fracturing of consumer confidence continues.

We are better than this.

Three weeks ago, I asked fellow business leaders to join me in urging the President and the Congress to put an end to partisan gridlock and, in its place, to set in motion an upward spiral of confidence. More than 100 business leaders representing American companies - large and small - joined me in signing a two-part pledge:

First, to withhold political campaign contributions until a transparent, comprehensive, bipartisan debt-and-deficit package is reached that honestly, and fairly, sets America on a path to long-term financial health and security. Second, to do all we can to break the cycle of economic uncertainty that grips our country by committing to accelerate investment in jobs and hiring.

In the weeks since then, I have been overwhelmed by the heartfelt stories of Americans from across the country, sharing their anguish over losing hope in the strongest and most galvanizing force of all - the American Dream. Some feel they have no voice. Others feel they no longer matter. And many feel they have been left behind.

We cannot let this stand.

Please join other concerned Americans and me on a national call-in conversation on Tuesday September 6th hosted by “No Labels,” a nonpartisan organization dedicated to fostering cooperative and more effective government. To learn more about the forum and the pledges, visit

America is at a fragile and critical moment in its history. We must restore hope in the American Dream. We must celebrate all that America stands for around the world. And while our Founding Fathers recognized the constructive value of political debate, we must send the message to today’s elected officials in a civil, respectful voice they hear and understand, that the time to put citizenship ahead of partisanship is now.

Yours is the voice that can help ignite the contagious upward spiral of confidence that our country desperately needs.

With great respect,

Howard Schultz

chief executive officer, Starbucks Coffee Company

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