Starbucks Executive Chairman Howard Schultz asked leaders "to speak their conscience with more conviction" in an op-ed published Thursday morning in the Financial Times.
Schultz, who was reportedly Hillary Clinton's would-be pick for labor secretary, said two weeks ago in response to President Trump's comments on Charlottesville: "It is vital that our elected officials speak with one voice against racial bigotry — Hate has no home here in America."
In Thursday's piece, he wrote, "Today, our country is not in a civil war. But we are in another period of grave division. Racism was on the march in Charlottesville, and persists throughout the country."
In this dire climate, he urged elected officials to take a stronger stance against "threats to civil liberties."
We look to leaders to condemn vitriol and intolerance, as well as to reaffirm our foundational values. Many have spoken out since Charlottesville, but the time for words has not passed. It never will. Not enough of our elected officials are using their voice with due force and eloquence to elevate the ideal of equality.
We implore all elected officials to speak their conscience with more conviction. History shows that silence is unforgivable, for it gives bigotry license. And when meek words masquerade as moral courage, they are perceived as indifference and give the worst of human nature permission to flourish. All of us in positions of power — politicians, parents, chief executives and educators — must see ourselves as part of history’s bigger picture and ask, “What is my responsibility to the republic?”
The business community has distanced itself from the White House following the president's reluctance to condemn the racism and violence in Charlottesville. A cascade of executives resigned from various business councils in the days following, and several groups were fully disbanded. Carl Icahn said he would "cease to act as special advisor to the President on issues relating to regulatory reform."
This winter, Schultz — who in 2013 started a petition urging Congress and the White House to "come together" — committed to hiring 10,000 refugees in the US following Trump's executive order banning people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the country.
"The work to form a more perfect union never ends," he said in Thursday's op-ed. "We can say that democracy is messy, especially in a country that welcomes people from many lands and with diverse backgrounds and lifestyles. But differences are a source of unmatched strength in the global economy and a digitally connected world."
The well-known coffee executive has been rumored to consider a run for president in 2020 (although he has publicly said he has "no plans"). In his op-ed, Schultz alluded to other issues too, writing, "while a good education and good jobs are not equally accessible to all, they must be" and "America is still the only country where, for more generations than anywhere on earth, parents have told their children that their station in life does not define them."
Venessa Wong is a deputy business editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Venessa Wong at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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