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Forward 50 2018

Howard Schultz

Life Beyond Coffee

Before he stepped down as Starbucks’ executive chairman, Howard Schultz announced that the coffee chain would open its restrooms to all visitors, regardless of whether they are paying customers.

The policy change was Schultz’s way of acknowledging the controversy that hit in the company in May, when two black men were arrested after asking to use the bathroom in a Philadelphia Starbucks. Told it was only for paying customers, they sat down without ordering anything. Then the manager called the police.

Schultz, 65, set the tone of a corporate leader genuinely concerned that his company should do the right thing. He addressed the incident immediately, directly and apologetically, and directed the company to close 8,000 stores for a day of racial bias training.

“We don’t want to become a public bathroom, but we’re going to make the right decision 100% of the time and give people the key, because we don’t want anyone at Starbucks to feel as if we are not giving access to you to the bathroom because you are less than,” Schultz said at the Atlantic Council. “We want you to be more than.”

His sentiment is in line with progressive views he’s projected for years, such as his support for immigration (in 2017, he pledged to hire 10,000 refugees over five years), LBGTQ+ issues and gun control.

He has hinted at a desire to run for office for a long time now, so when he announced plans in June to leave his post as Starbucks’ executive chairman (a few months after stepping down as its CEO), the move prompted speculation of a 2020 presidential campaign. An outspoken critic of President Trump, Schultz told CNBC that he is not ruling out the option, saying “Let’s just see what happens.”

It appears he may use his upcoming book tour as a platform. “From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America,” his rag-to-riches story about overcoming odds to become one of the country’s most recognized CEOs, is due out in February, and Axios learned that he plans to discuss how to increase the numbers of opportunities for young Americans. He’ll also argue against the so-called “Medicare for all” health care plan, claiming that both business and government are necessary for driving people to succeed.

— Alyssa Fisher

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