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Is Starbucks’ Howard Schultz Going to Run for President?

The former CEO has always denied it, but sounds downright presidential in a new interview

Starbucks Holds Annual Shareholders Meeting Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

He’s denied it before, but that hasn’t stopped rumors from percolating that Starbucks’ founder (and until recently, CEO) Howard Schultz might one day run for President. The visionary who taught great swaths of Americans to enjoy coffee in dozens of different permutations has always been outspoken on matters of social policy. In a new interview with the Washington Post, Schultz sounds downright presidential as he discusses a wide range of topics, from income inequality and the destruction Hurricane Harvey left in Houston to the responsibility business leaders and all citizens have in building a better America.

“I think the country needs to become more compassionate more empathetic. We can’t have an America, and speak of the promise of the American dream and leave millions of people behind...” Schultz said, though he prefaced those words with, “and I’m not talking about politics...”

Reporters, analysts, and personal friends have suggested Schultz should run for the nation’s highest office at least since 2012, and in the past year, Starbucks’ longtime leader has been particularly outspoken.

The day after Donald Trump was elected president last November, Schultz sent a letter to his staff that left no doubts as to his political standing. In it, he wrote:

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.

In February of this year, according to a Business Insider report, he told a group of staffers that "there is a tremendous amount of pressure and anxiety in America...” and "We have a president that is creating episodic chaos every day, and that is no doubt affecting consumer behavior.”

In August, after the violent protests in Charlottesville, he gave a speech that sounded Obama-like in its emotional delivery.

The moral fiber, the values, and what we as a country have stood for is literally hanging in the abyss. We are at a critical juncture in American history. That is not an exaggeration. We are at and facing a crucible in which our daily life is being challenged and being questioned about what is right and what is wrong.

Had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential election, Schultz might have been Clinton’s cabinet pick for Labor Secretary, according to several reports. But the business leader has repeatedly denied having plans to run for any kind of office. “I’m all in on all things Starbucks and have no plans to run for public office,” he told the New York Times in December. “That’s the way I feel today."

But yesterday, Schultz continued to advocate for change. “Leave Washington and all the politics aside, businesses and business leaders need to do a lot more for the people they serve,” Schultz said. “We should not be embracing indifference right now. We have to be engaged and stand up for the things we know that are true. The country is in need of a moral, cultural and economic transformation.”

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Is Stepping Down [E]
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sure sounds like a 2020 presidential candidate [WaPo]
All Starbucks Coverage [E]

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