America's Independence Day is all about fireworks, BBQ, and celebrating the birthday of America, but it also has a long history as a day of deeper reflection and examination about how the country can be improved. Former slave and abolitionist did just that when he wrote the famous essay "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" on July 4th, 1852, and women's suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony followed suit on America's Centennial with a "Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States."
Now, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz hopes to join that esteemed list with a social media campaign called #Indivisible, which he hopes will help start a conversation around job creation and the direction of America. As a signature part of the initiative, more than 7,000 cafes of the mega-coffee chain will be handing out FREE tall hot brewed coffees to customers.
The campaign is not new (it's been around since October, when Starbucks started selling Indivisible bracelets, but Schultz says the initiative takes on special meaning for Independence Day. In an open letter to the American people, Schultz writes:
Across the country, millions of Americans are out of work. Many more are working tirelessly yet still unable to adequately care for their families. Our veterans are not being welcomed home with the level of support they deserve. Meanwhile, in our nation’s capital, our elected leaders are continuing to put ideology over real solutions. I love America, but we all know there is something wrong. The deficits this country must reconcile are much more than financial, and our inability to solve our own problems is sapping our national spirit. We are better than this. America’s history has showed that we have accomplished extraordinary things when we act collectively, with courage, creativity, and generosity of spirit—especially during trying times.
As we celebrate all that is great about our country, let’s come together and amplify our voices.
Schultz wants Americans to tell our elected officials to "put partisanship aside and to speak truthfully about the challenges we face. Let’s ask our business leaders to create more job opportunities for the American economy. And as citizens, let’s all get more involved."
With unemployment still hovering at over 8 percent, this kind of initiative from a leader of the private sector is much-needed. Far too often, we blame our elected officials (namely, President Obama) for the economic crisis, as though government policy is the end-all-be-all to job creation, without asking how we can fuel economic growth without relying on government. Thus, Schultz' message that we all must take a more active role in our economic future and stop acting as bystanders while Washington falters is spot-on.
Of course, free coffee days, cool bracelets, and social media alone won't get the job done (no pun intended), but these actions can certainly help to raise awareness and spark a wider conversation. And perhaps, they can make a real difference. Starbucks teamed up with Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), a group of community lending institutions providing financing to low-income communities, and customer purchases of Starbucks' wristband for $5 provide a direct donation to OFN. Notably, the wristbands were made in the USA.
According to Starbucks, community businesses have created 64 percent of new jobs in teh past 15 years. While Congress continues to dither, CEOs in the private sector like Schultz can help stimulate growth for start-ups and community businesses.
Starbucks' initiative is even more admirable because it is not driven by a profit motive, but by a sense of corporate social responsibility. It's time other business leaders take note and follow suit.