Howard Schultz calls for ‘better angels’ to emerge in a country divided

By Linda Dahlstrom / Starbucks Newsroom

Everyday heroes are all around us, uniting us even in the midst of heartbreak. This week we’ve seen them in action in the flooded waters of Houston. Recently, we watched them stare down white supremacists marching with lit torches on a college campus in Charlottesville, Virginia. And, we see them in the myriad ways people find their voices to proclaim that all are equal and that hate cannot stand.

The emergence of such “better angels” is the American way, as Howard Schultz, executive chairman of Starbucks, said in an op-ed published today in the Financial Times. And it’s the responsibility of all of us in this nation to rise to the defense of others.

“All of us in positions of power – from politicians to parents, chief executives to educators – must see ourselves as part of history’s bigger picture and ask, ‘What is my responsibility to the republic?’,” he wrote.

Earlier this month, Schultz raised the same question during a company forum held to address the hatred, violence and racism that had been on display at Charlottesville. He encouraged people to look for ways to work toward positive change and to bring people together and act with moral courage.

“We need belief and faith in the country and the American people,” he said. “It is hard in the midst of such a storm to maintain an optimistic view. But I raise my hand, and I say I am optimistic about our country and the true promise of America.”

Schultz recounted in his op-ed a July visit with historian Nancy Koehn of Harvard Business School to the battlefield of Gettysburg where more than 40,000 died during a three-day period and compared the division of the nation to the struggle we see today. And he paid tribute to a nurse named Elmina Spencer who walked into the midst of battle to care for wounded soldiers and then opened a hospital where she attended to both Union and Confederate soldiers. She saw them not as soldiers divided between two sides, but rather united in their humanity.

“With words and actions, better angels emerged then,” he wrote. “They must do so again today.”

Times of crisis can divide – or unite, but it is the way of the American people to rise above, he pointed out. During an interview Wednesday, he noted that both bold unity and great humanity are being demonstrated over and over in Houston in ways large and small as ordinary citizens help each other survive.

“The hope I expressed in the op-ed about Charlottesville is being realized in Texas,” Schultz said. “In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, our country’s better angels are showing up with compassion and incredible strength as Americans help Americans through this tragedy."

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5 things to know about first-ever Starbucks Promises Day