For the past few weeks Starbucks boss Howard Schultz has been stirring up interest in his town hall meeting. The town hall meeting was held Tuesday night as a phone-in and social media debate about the “paralysis and uncertainty” he says is being brought about by the high levels of political internal strife in Washington.
Shultz took to the podium in New York’s historic Cooper Union. He delivered his message to the people with his hosts No Labels. No Labels is a non-partisan organization promoting the meeting.
The Guardian.co.uk reported that Shultz sounded “every bit like a politician in the making.“
Shultz is a Democrat party member and said that America was suffering from a “crisis of confidence”, a crisis he said that had been created by the war in Washington. He had to speak out after watching Democrats and Republicans fight over raising the debt ceiling. “I had to ask myself if it’s right to be a bystander when you know in your heart something is wrong,” Schultz said.
Schultz said he decided to hold the forum after receiving hundreds of emails and letters from people struggling to find jobs, keep their homes and send their children to school.
The phone-in debate was advertised online, via a mass emailing, with full-page ads in the national press and some, ‘robo-calls’ of a recorded message of Schultz inviting people to join the debate, according to the Guardian.co.uk.
Schultz wrote at the end of his email that he sent to his customers, “Yours is the voice that can help ignite the contagious upward spiral of confidence that our country desperately needs.”
The Starbucks boss also formed the group Upward Spiral, reachable online and through social media sites like Facebook. Upward Spiral’s site includes a Pledge to Withhold campaign contributions and a Pledge to Hire. The Facebook page is getting plenty of action with comments about making the pledge.
Schultz and No Labels’s three founders fielded questions from the audience, callers and Twitter. One asked him about the difficulty of recruiting other CEOs to his cause. The Starbucks boss has called for a boycott of political donations until a “transparent, comprehensive, bipartisan debt-and-deficit package is reached that honestly, and fairly, sets America on a path to long-term financial health and security”.
It looks like the call is paying off. The CEOs from big business such as AOL, JC Penney, J Crew, Pepsi, Whole Foods Market and Walt Disney have already taken the pledge.
Schultz has a track record for speaking his mind and going into action. Starbucks was falling into a Yuban-style coffee shop in the early 2000s. On that fateful Valentine’s Day in 2007 Schultz sent an email to the former Starbucks CEO, Jim Donald, warning the company had lost its soul. The email leaked, Donald was fired with Schultz returning to run the company. He is responsible for the massive turnaround at the firm.
Can Schultz pull the same massive turnaround with the whole country? You have to give him credit for trying. “People have to realize what is at stake,” said Schultz. “This country is heading in the wrong direction because Washington is taking us there.”
It was a bold move on Schultz part to come out in public and hold a town hall to discuss our politicians failing to do their job. I am sure with more social media actions the campaign will grow. The campaign’s Facebook page grew a thousand more strong in just 15 minutes.