Last week, my friend Earl Watson arranged a breakfast meeting for me to meet with Starbucks founder, Howard Schultz. Watson and Armando Tam were also in attendance. Earl Watson’s relationship with Schultz goes back to when Schultz owned the Seattle Supersonics, the NBA team that drafted him out of UCLA. Schultz later sold the team to a group that moved the franchise to Oklahoma City. Schultz and Watson have remained friends and clearly have a great deal of respect for one another. The meeting was set at a Jewish deli in Los Angeles and I drove up the night before and stayed downtown at the JW Marriott. During the drive to Los Angeles, I listened to two interviews Schultz had done with CNN and Oprah Winfrey to get some sense of who he is and where he stands on the issues. Earl Watson wanted me to meet with him because as many people now know, Schultz is contemplating a run for the presidency and Watson thought it would be good for him to hear what I had to say about Hispanic voters. Meeting somebody as accomplished as the guy who invented Starbucks is a rare opportunity, but I was also looking forward to the chance to introduce him to what we are doing with NAHREP and L’ATTITUDE.
The meeting was set for 9 AM, and Armando and I met in the lobby of the JW Marriott at 8 AM to grab some coffee and get ready to head over to the meeting. A few minutes before 9 AM we arrived at the famed Canter’s Deli on Fairfax, and after parking the car, we proceeded to cross the street towards the deli. At that moment, it dawned on me we were both carrying Illy coffee cups, and I remembered hearing Schultz tell Oprah that it still offended him when he sees people drinking coffee from a cup other than Starbucks. Like a couple of Keystone Kops, Armando and I made a dash for the nearest trash can to dump the Illy coffee cups before we walked into Canter’s. A few minutes after we arrived Schultz showed up in a black SUV with two security people who stayed in the car, and his assistant, Ian, who joined us. The five of us settled into a booth towards the back of the restaurant and introduced ourselves to each other. Schultz introduced himself as “Howard”. He started by telling us about his childhood in Brooklyn and how his modest upbringing prepared him for success. He said that he has lived the American dream but has recently become deeply concerned about the direction of the country. Schultz has made no secret about his disdain for Donald Trump who he calls “despicable”, but he also believes both parties have essentially failed the American people. He has said publicly, if he chooses to run for President, he would only do so as an independent candidate. Schultz talked openly about how his possible candidacy has prompted an avalanche of criticism (primarily by Democrats) that surprised even him. About 30 minutes into the breakfast, he asked me point blank, “If I chose to run, what would it take for me to win the support of the Hispanic community?” Anticipating the question, I had given this some thought the night before and decided to tell him what I would say if I were in his shoes. I told him he should avoid the immigration trap. When asked about immigration, I told him he should say “We do have an immigration problem that we need to fix, and I do believe the majority of the 11 million undocumented people who are currently living in this country should have a chance to become Americans, BUT when I think of the Hispanic community I don’t only think of immigration, I think of the fact they have the highest workforce participation rate in the country… that they are creating new businesses at twice the rate of the overall population… and that they account for 50% of all new homeowners nationwide… Hispanics are driving growth in our economy and they are part of the new mainstream in America”. I told him no other candidate has ever characterized Hispanics in this way, and if he were the first to say it, millions of Hispanics across the country would be talking about him within days. He said he loved it and asked me to send Ian the data so he could use it in future interviews and speeches.
After about an hour, we wrapped up our conversation and agreed to follow up on possibly having him speak at a future NAHREP event. As an independent, Schultz’ path to the presidency would be nearly impossible, and many pollsters believe he would actually help Donald Trump get re-elected by swaying democratic voters his way. Who knows? The election is a long way away. I think Schultz is an interesting guy who at the very least has a chance to add some intelligence to the national narrative. He says he will make his decision to run sometime in May or June. I wish him well. Here is a video Schultz is promoting about our broken political system.
Almost everyone, including Democrats, were expecting last Tuesday’s midterm election results to heavily favor Republicans. Many predicted a “red wave” where they would pick up 50-60 seats in the House and 3-4 in the Senate. Joe Rogan said the red wave that is coming will be like the elevator doors opening in the horror film The Shining.
For most people, there is little upside to writing about the January 6th hearings, but as you probably know by now, I don’t worry about those things. We all must stand for something. The hearings have almost everyone taking sides before a single witness is called. Democrats believe that the events of January 6th were a calculated effort to undermine our democracy by demolishing two of the most sacred tenants of our nation, free elections, and the peaceful transition of power.
Most people consider themselves either a conservative or a liberal. I think if we forget political parties, which flip their positions on things all of the time, and instead focus on the actual definition of what it means to be a conservative and what it means to be a liberal, we might be able to temper the emotional reactions some of us have with political discourse.