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Starbucks CEO Laments 'Unseemly Election' In Latest Letter to Staff

“Be the person who embodies the promise of America,” he writes

Starbucks Holds Annual Shareholders Meeting Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is keeping “optimistic” in spite of the divisive election. The coffee giant’s head honcho is known for getting philosophical in his addresses to employees — especially during times of political and economic uncertainty — and didn’t hold back in his latest letter. In the message titled “The Promise of America,” Schultz describes the campaign politics as “unseemly,” lacking in “truth and void of leadership.” He writes:

Dear partners,

It's a rainy Sunday morning in Seattle, we've turned the clocks back an hour, and I'm enjoying a French Press of my favorite coffee, Aged Sumatra. I woke up this morning feeling a bit anxious about Tuesday's election. Regardless of the outcome, our nation will feel divided. Many Americans have allowed the vitriolic nature of the presidential campaign to ignite our differences and strip away our civility and dignity. In the process, we've lost faith in what we all know has always been true, the promise of America.

But you are the true promise of America.

My faith in you has me more optimistic than ever. Today, I'm not talking about our business or the Starbucks brand. I'm talking about you as a person. As a mother, a father, a daughter, a son, a sister, a brother, a neighbor, a citizen. I also am talking about we as people. We as Americans. And, I am talking about the people who have come before us, those who sacrificed so much to give us a better life than the lives they had. Each of us has a great responsibility to those who preceded us, as well as to "pay it forward" for the next generation. So what can we do? What will we do?

In the face of this epic, unseemly election and the concern we all share about the direction of our country and the lack of truth and void of leadership, we can still make a difference in the lives of the people we touch and influence every day. Kindness, compassion, empathy, and yes love is what we need. It is what we must display and share. We are all longing for a deeper sense of human connection and humanity because, when we are touched by it, it fills us up.

Start today by recognizing the power we have to walk in someone else's shoes, to demonstrate understanding, and to strip away the differences that divide us. Let's each embrace the universal virtues of respect and dignity, refusing to allow the hatred on cable news, the ugliness of our politics, and the lack of political role models for our kids to define us and to dictate how we treat each other. Rise above this moment to be the person that makes a positive difference in your neighborhood and community. Be the person who makes your family proud. Be the person who embodies the promise of America so others may see and feel the possibilities that come with being an American—today, tomorrow, and long after this Tuesday.

Like the drawing of so many faces with a single, unbroken line on this season's green unity cup, we are all connected.

On this Sunday, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, know that I send you my love and respect.

Proud, as always, to be your partner,


The eccentric billionaire, who some believe should run for president, has a reputation for pushing socially-minding, if not always successful, campaigns at Starbucks cafes. In 2015, the company was widely criticized for attempting to improve racial relations with a message on a cup. However, he’s also spearheaded programs assisting employees with their college tuition and offering interest-free home loans. Most recently the company has tried to encourage unity through its pre-holiday green cups.

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