September 14, 2020
Last year, I had hopes that I could serve America by running for president in a way that transcended the divisiveness and gridlock of our two-party system. My motivation for exploring a potential candidacy was fueled by my love for this country, and a deep desire to help people from all walks of life experience a future that is more civil, equitable, and ambitious.
While my exploration revealed that a run for office was not the best way for me to give back to a country that has given me so much, I continue to believe that our nation can live up to our ideals, and that we all must envision and fight for a new American future.
I am writing today to pose a few questions about that future, share some ideas, and talk about the contribution I am trying to make as a citizen.
Health of our nation
At no other time in my life have I understood health as a foundation for the human condition as I do today.
Last summer, as many of you know, I had three major back surgeries over a six-week span. In moments of vulnerability, one’s life jolts you awake to the deepest realities around you.
So, as COVID-19 hit, my wife, Sheri, and I felt it viscerally. At first as a distant rumble in China, as Starbucks was affected. Then in our hometown of Seattle, where the suffering in America first started. Then in New York, the city in which I grew up. We grieve, as you do, for the pain of our nation and the world.
The pandemic has laid bare many uncomfortable truths about America—among them the politicization of science, the lack of trust in government, and the depth of our divisions. At the same time, it has also made us still. In the murder of George Floyd, hundreds of millions of Americans were paying attention, woken up to what our Black and brown fellow citizens have experienced from the very origins of our nation: systemic racism, which eats at America’s soul.
The virus will, I believe, be beaten back by a vaccine. But the inequities it vividly illustrates—both economic and racial—will not be cured with an injection. In turn, the damage to our institutions and the social fabric of America will not be cured with a single election. The job of rebuilding, of creating a more perfect union—one that provides true justice and opportunity for all—will require all of us to summon new courage and commitment.
With every generation, a contribution
The Promise of America is not an entitlement.
Every generation must place its deposit in the reservoir. These deposits can take many forms. Some carve out part of their young lives to join the military or civilian national service programs. Others commit years as a first responder, nurse, or educator. And yet others build businesses that create meaningful jobs, strengthen communities, and make possible economic mobility for millions of people.
All of us fill the well through our civic engagement, volunteering, and, of course, through the most fundamental act of a free democracy: Exercising our voice by voting.
In my view, our choice this November is not just for one candidate over another.
We are choosing to vote for the future of our republic.
What is at risk is democracy itself: Checks and balances. Rigorous debate. A free press. An acceptance of facts, not “alternate facts.” Belief in science. Trust in the rule of law. A strong judicial system. Unity in preserving all of our rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Sheri and I will vote for Joe Biden, and we are joining millions of Americans in making a contribution to his campaign.
It is essential that Americans turn out to vote, that every American is able to vote safely, whether by mail or in person, and that every vote is counted. It would be a grave miscalculation to think this election is secured for a Biden victory.
To that end, we are supporting nonpartisan initiatives to defend the legitimacy of our elections and ensure that the winner is not declared in the presidential contest until all votes are tallied. We also are backing organizations that are mobilizing historically marginalized groups and those who haven’t yet made voting a habit. We believe that every American deserves to have their voice heard.
Biden also must win over legions of working-class people in the Midwest and Rust Belt who looked to Donald Trump in 2016 as someone who would disrupt the system for the better. Today, many of them are deeply disappointed in Trump but are equally concerned by the extreme left. For them, this election will turn on our economic and social recovery from Covid-19, a restoration of trust in government, and a thoughtful reformation of public safety. Biden’s outreach to these Americans, including his speech at the Democratic convention, is a crucial first step in the bridge-building and healing we need as a nation. We are supporting this critical work by helping to engage these voters in swing states.
Creating one nation, indivisible
Trump’s defeat is but the first step to repair and rebuild our country. The months and years to follow are a time not for Democrats to exact revenge and enact a far-left agenda. Rather, it will be a vital opportunity to bring a scarred, divided nation together. There are big challenges to be tackled—from immigration and health care to climate change and expanding economic opportunity—with pragmatic, innovative solutions on which a clear majority of the nation agrees. The next administration must also focus on restoring trust in our government. That begins by speaking the truth and working for the betterment of all Americans.
For America to succeed, we also need a fully functioning legislative branch of government—one that restores trust in public service, imprints a sense of morality, and improves the lives of our fellow Americans. For too long, our hyper-partisan legislative branch has breached the trust of the American people with patronage-driven revenge politics. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle consistently put their party’s interests, and those of special interests, over the nation’s.
There are, however, members of Congress who want to work across party lines to pursue policies on which a vast majority of Americans agree. I hope you will consider lending your support, as I am, to Republicans and Democrats who are willing to work together. They need to know that we have their backs to reach across the aisle.
I am also excited by a new generation of members and candidates, with diverse life experiences and backgrounds, who want to disrupt the status quo. If they seek to address big challenges by forging unexpected coalitions—think of the recent progress on criminal-justice reform—they can have as much impact as those who want to work from the center.
Our focus as a family
Since leaving my full-time role at Starbucks, I’m turning my attention, with Sheri, to ways we can help to build a more moral, more decent America through two organizations that are central to our life:
The first is the Schultz Family Foundation, which develops and supports a range of philanthropic initiatives across the United States to lift populations out of risk, particularly young people and post-9/11 veterans.
The second is the Emes Project LLC, which will bring an entrepreneurial lens to public-private partnerships, strategic advocacy, policy challenges, and political reform.
We see the Schultz Family Foundation and the Emes Project as vehicles to support initiatives that increase opportunity and reduce inequality for all Americans. In this regard, addressing racial injustice will be present in all we do, not as an add-on but a consistent through-line in our work. That work will extend to our initiatives at the Emes Project, and to strategic investment decisions, where I intend to explore new opportunities to address the African American and Latino wealth gap in our society.
Both organizations will be funded in part by investments my family is making in the entrepreneurial companies of tomorrow. As part of investing in values-based, innovative people and companies, I am offering mentoring and guidance through the lens of my experience building Starbucks. Speaking with entrepreneurs about achieving their dreams is, of course, something that is close to my heart. Returns from many of these investments will be re-invested in the Schultz Family Foundation and the Emes Project to increase our impact over the long-term, with the goal of creating meaningful change for generations to come.
The Emes Project and the Schultz Family Foundation will be nimble, creative entities that will generate entrepreneurial prototypes and targeted interventions to address big problems. We will seek to achieve scale for what works and be transparent about what doesn’t, we will work in partnership with others, and we will use our learnings and data to improve all we do.
One early example of this approach was the Plate Fund, an emergency cash assistance program we developed with community support to provide electronic payments to nearly 15,000 restaurant and food service workers in the Seattle area who were laid off due to the pandemic and had not yet received government assistance.
Last month, we organized 100 CEOs, including the leaders of some of America’s largest companies, to sign onto a letter sent to Congressional leaders urging meaningful, market-oriented measures to help struggling small businesses transform and survive until a vaccine is deployed. Last week, we released a follow-up letter signed by more than 8,700 small business owners and chamber of commerce leaders from all 50 states.
Tomorrow, we will launch a first-of-its-kind national service corps in Washington State that will provide an opportunity for young people whose educations and job searches have been disrupted due to COVID to participate in a year-long program to address food insecurity caused by the virus.
As the Schultz Family Foundation and the Emes Project find our pace, I will report on what we learn, how we can collaborate, and what else we might do to build a better America. I hope you’ll find this next chapter as exciting and as full of possibilities as we do.
My love for America, her people, and her potential remains strong—despite the challenges ahead. I am optimistic about the future, and I am ready to embark on this new journey with Sheri, our colleagues, and with you.