Ciao, Howard Schultz: Thanks for the Stardust and Civility

One of the best conversations I ever had was not too long ago at a Starbucks near a community college in California. It was packed with students, profs, and  community folk, not unlike most coffee shops. But on this evening, the routine of common greetings and small-talk was delightfully disrupted when a young man stuck his head out over the counter and asked me, personally, if I would like to talk with him about race. No one had ever asked me that question before. So, I said, sure. And that’s how I came to learn about the genius of Howard Schultz. Schultz advocated for lots of civic and social causes and he found a way to incorporate the do-good and respect-human-dignity ethos into his corporate marketing strategy.

After completing his shift, the barista joined me where I sat watching evening traffic flow up the boulevard. Together, we browsed the newspaper that Starbucks printed containing  data related to race as part of Howard Schultz’s project to get people talking about race in the wake of tragic deaths of black youth. How often does one get the chance to have a non-superficial conversation with someone who, by all outward appearances is your exact opposite? Not often. And on the West Coast, it can be a challenge, for many reasons that have nothing to do with identity, per se, but a lot to do with logistics,  economics, and desire. 

Sometimes, people need motivation just to talk. Howard Schultz mastered the art of motivation. 

Another reflection of his genius is the Starbucks app with the sparkly “star” rewards. I don’t know if he came up with the idea and the app, but he probably led the effort to get people excited about spending money on lattes. Sadly, with the recent change in the way the stars are now allotted, it’s much harder to a). spend money at Starbucks, b). have a great, and I mean great, conversation, and c).earn a star reward. I already miss this CEO. Not all change is heroic. My fingers are crossed.

Howard Schultz, whatever you do next, please know that your CEO-magic lit up my life. 

My hope is that Starbucks will  evolve into a revolutionary food company with a bright and strong social compact. Please do not succumb! 

The Messiness of Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Search: Good for Trump for Keeping it in Limbo!

Not everyone follows President-elect Donald Trump’s Trump Tower-to-the-White House transition. Let’s look at the serialized  melodrama of Secretary of State. High drama (in Trump Tower, no less)!

Trump desires to capture the (collective) heart, forget about the (collective) mind, of the political class whilst turning the eye of the aspirational class. Trump presents the public with the heart of this campaign for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts (2003-2007) and former candidate for President of the United States (2012). Popular, statesman-like, with a nod toward pluralist-thought (look at his record on health care as Governor of Mass.) Romney tells it like it is. But more importantly than his track record of speaking out (witness his Salt Lake City speech) Romney’s physical presence radiates statesmanlike decorum and this, more than anything else, is why it is unlikely that Mitt Romney will be the next Secretary of State. (I could be wrong, though.)

Not that Mitt Romney would not be an outstanding choice for the top diplomatic position. Not that Mitt Romney would not exemplify the best of American diplomacy whilst serving in this position. Competency and capability have no bearing in this competition. Should the President-elect choose Mitt Romney over, say, Rudy Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City, the city of Donald Trump, then the President-elect would send a huge message about open-mindedness, forgiveness, and tolerance.

Still, there is not much indication that open-mindedness, forgiveness, and tolerance is part of the American zeitgeist at this moment. Best to put on your seatbelt. We are in for a long ride.

The alternative

What if what Donald Trump needs a best friend? What if his Secretary of State is another version of himself? Well, then Rudy Giuliani might be that guy. Maybe even uber campaign strategist Kellyanne Conway.

Good for Donald Trump for keeping this Secretary of State search in limbo. Trump likely needs to wrestle with his conscience prior to assuming the office and not whilst serving in the office of President of the United States.

The image of the President-elect sitting down to dinner with Gov. Romney and RNC Chair Reince Priebus speaks. How kind of Priebus to play, what may be surmised as a mediating role. How nice of Trump to invite Romney to share a meal. How brave of Romney to accept this invitation, or how revealing that Romney has the time on his calendar to take a meal with Trump when he could be doing something else, like surfing, or bringing clean water to neighborhoods beset by tainted water lines.

Time heals. Time (and more amicable date-nights/outings?). Yes, heal the wounds. Then get on with the business of diplomacy.

However, in the event that nothing comes of it, my advice to President-elect Trump is to pick a true outsider, someone who is not a “name” and who does not fit preconceived notions, but who has the will and the drive to represent the best of America.

Then, progress may be made. Or, at the very least, America will be different.