During Starbucks 2016 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, Starbucks chairman and ceo Howard Schultz expanded on a question he posed two years ago: What is the role and responsibility of a for-profit company? Schultz asked partners (employees), shareholders and customers: “What is the role and responsibility of all of us, as citizens?”
Schultz said he has “struggled for weeks to find the right words to express the pain I feel in my heart about where America is headed and the cloud hanging over the American people.” And he said there are times when he’s had a hard time recognizing “who we are and who we are becoming.”
Two years ago, on the same stage in Seattle, Schultz challenged shareholders to think about the role and responsibility of a for-profit company. In the two years since, “dysfunction and polarization have worsened,” he said.
Viewing the American Dream as a “reservoir” that is replenished with the values, work ethic and integrity of the American people, Schultz said, “Sadly, our reservoir is running dry, depleted by cynicism, despair, division, exclusion, fear and indifference.”
He suggested citizens fill the reservoir of the American Dream back up, “not with cynicism, but with optimism. Not with despair, but with possibility. Not with division, but with unity. Not with exclusion, but with inclusion. Not with fear, but with compassion. Not with indifference, but with love.”
“It’s not about the choice we make every four years,” Schultz said. “This is about the choices we are making every day.”
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