Voice of the Restaurant Industry
So last Friday, an Open Letter entitled “How Can America Win This Election?” was posted on the Starbucks Responsibility page by “Howard S”, the Chairman, President, and CEO of Starbucks. [Here’s the link: How-can-america-win-this-election] Already two schools of thought have developed around this post.
One is exemplified by a comment yesterday on Business Insider [sell-a-lot-of-brownies] which speculates that the letter will do little more than sell product for Starbucks. While the comment offers faint praise, it generally dismisses the letter’s call to action as vague and therefore of little import. Funny, I’d think that the advertising world might see the predicted outcome (brownie sales) as a good thing, and if Howard Schultz accomplishes nothing more, it seems to this writer that his shareholders should not only applaud but ask that he do the same thing again -- and soon! Maybe advertisers are distressed because he’s (presumably) done this without paying them to ghostwrite?
The other is a sort of general relief and positive response, at least as witnessed at a few Starbucks stores since the letter appeared. I suspect many of Starbucks’ customers (and a fair number of non-caffeinated as well) identify with, and appreciate, a few of the points the letter makes. A few samples:
I am a product of that American Dream. As a kid who grew up in public housing, went on to get an education at a state university and build a business, I am grateful for what this country has made possible for me.
I love America, but we all know there is something wrong. The deficits this country must reconcile are much more than financial, and our inability to solve our own problems is sapping our national spirit.
... as citizens, let’s all get more involved. Please, don’t be a bystander. Understand that we have a shared responsibility in solving our nation’s problems.
Recall that some of the criticisms fault Mr Schultz for not recommending more specific policies/remedies/solutions. I, for one, applaud him. While Starbucks has an agenda, as do we all, Howard Schultz is trying as hard as possible NOT to foist his agenda on the citizenry/voters/consumers except to elevate the level of discussion and involvement. At the heart of this letter, it seems to me, are two somewhat quaint notions, at least notions which seem quaint if one listens to too much cable news and talk radio: (1) none of us is as smart or strong as all of us, and (2) therefore we need to address the issues bedeviling all (and each) of us in order to get along. The letter notes two key issues -- jobs and lack of veterans’ support; it could identify many more, but then it’d be a book.
Remarkably, and unlike a long list of talking heads, Howard Schultz is less interested in telling us how he’d solve the problems than in asking that we each play a role in the solution(s). I, for one, appreciate his restraint -- so rare these days -- and echo his request.
Remember, one of the truisms of this world is that no one gets out alive, so we might as well make it as pleasant and functional as possible -- for everyone. After all, we’re not so much independent beings as interdependent beings, so, to paraphrase an old Gene Roddenberry line, “we might as well get good at it.”