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Howard Schultz: 'I come to you with profound, profound concern'

Nicole Sinclair
·Markets Correspondent
Schultz forum
Howard Schultz speaking at company forum on Aug 16. Courtesy of Starbucks

Starbucks’ (SBUX) Chairman Howard Schultz on Wednesday held an internal meeting for employees in the wake of the weekend’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I come to you as an American, as a Jew, as a parent, as a grandparent, as an almost 40-year partner of a company I love so dearly,” Schultz said to employees. “I come to you with profound, profound concern about the lack of character, morality, humanity and what this might mean for young children and young generations that are growing up at a time that we are imprinting them with behaviors and conduct that are beneath the United States of America.”

Schultz did refrain, however, from directly critiquing the President.

“I’m not here today to specifically criticize or blame the President, I’ll leave that to the media, to the bloggers. I’ll let what he has done speak for itself. I think this meeting is for us,” he said to employees.

Schultz told the packed room of employees that an event like Charlottesville is a character test for our political leaders and government and that the need for moral courage and leadership has never been greater, according to spokesperson Linda Mills.

“I can assure you, as we always have, as a company, as an organization, that our culture and values and guiding principles will hold true,” Schultz told employees. “We will stand tall, and will be respectful of what the green apron represents. We need the belief and the faith in the country and the American people. It is hard in the midst of such a storm to maintain an optimistic view. I raise my hand, and I say I am optimistic about our country and the true promise of America.”

Mills explained that Schultz wanted to spend time talking to employees mostly to create a sense of community, hearing their own stories about racism and their view on the state of our country today.

“He spoke to our partners (employees) to reassure them of the moral fabric and resilience of America. But, mostly to create a sense of community where we all can come together in a safe and loving environment to share and try and heal from the ugliness and vitriol of the images from Charlottesville and the aftermath,” Mills said, explaining that the meeting lasted about 90 minutes.

This meeting follows Schultz’s voicing his concerns about the direction of the country earlier this year.

“Starbucks has held Open Forums throughout the company’s history at various important times, and today is one of those days,” Mills said, adding that the company had a discussion about race after the unrest in Ferguson, Oakland and NYC.

Schultz, who stepped down as CEO of Starbucks earlier this year, has been outspoken on a number of social issues over the years, including supporting same-sex marriage, advocating for tougher gun control regulation and addressing race issues. He told Yahoo Finance that he believes an emotional connection with the consumer about higher values also helps business.

“I think the currency that matters most is your values and the trust with the consumer,” Schultz said. “And I think that’s what we’ve tried to do. If you look at all the things we’ve done around social impact.”

On Wednesday, President Trump’s CEO councils were shut down after a slew of CEOs quit, distancing themselves from the President after his widely-criticized response to the events in Charlottesville.

Nicole Sinclair is markets correspondent at Yahoo Finance

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