by Rob Schwarzwalder
February 20, 2012
My home state of Washington has produced some of America’s leading corporations and entrepreneurs: Microsoft and Bill Gates; the Nordstrom, Boeing and Weyerhaeuser families and their eponymously named companies; the Eddie Bauer sporting goods empire; and the nearly omnipresent Starbucks (almost 11,000 stores worldwide).
Starbucks emerged in the 1970s at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. One of my sisters bought me a bag of cocoa powder from this location more than three decades ago; if I still had it, it likely would fetch a nice collector’s price.
For many years, I’ve enjoyed going to Starbucks, becoming acquainted with any number of “baristas” and drinking enough of its variously flavored beverages that “grande” characterizes my waistline as much as the size of a given drink. Even when traveling in the Middle East, the taste of a frappuccino has been a welcome reminder that one can go home again. And I’ve always been glad to go into a place that, in some ways, still reminds me of home (there’s a reason Starbucks’ interiors usually are muted; it’s a Pacific Northwest thing).
With Microsoft and several other major firms, Starbucks last month endorsed the effort of some of the Evergreen State’s leading politicians to enact homosexual “marriage.” Although this initiative passed in the state legislature and was signed into law by departing Gov. Christine Gregoire, it likely will be on the state ballot in November.
What is a bit maddening, given Starbucks’ strident advocacy for the redefinition of marriage, is CEO Howard Schultz’s claim that he is non-political. As he said just a few days ago, “I have no interest in public office … I have only one interest, and that is I want the country to be on the right track.”
Schultz continued, “I just feel that for some reason, over the last few years, there’s been a fracturing of understanding and sensibility about the responsibility that the leadership in Washington must have to the people who are being left behind … And I’m significantly disappointed about the ideology, the partisanshipness, and, obviously, the way in which everyone in Washington is focused on one thing right now, which is reelection.”
To Schultzs credit, he authored a pledge, now signed by a fairly large group of CEOs, in which they promise, I join my fellow concerned Americans in pledging to withhold any further campaign contributions to elected members of Congress and the President until a fair, bipartisan deal is reached that sets our nation on stronger long-term fiscal footing.
This is admirable, and no doubt motivated by a patriotic desire to see the U.S. once again become the engine of economic growth that, for so many decades, it has been. Yet the key to a strong economy is a strong family a family composed of a father, a mother, and children. The hard data prove it. By supporting a movement that would further vitiate the already weakened family unit, Schultz is tacitly but actively advocating the continued erosion of the institution the two-parent, heterosexual, traditional and complementary family unit without which no economy or society generally can thrive.
Additionally, Schultzs decrying of divisiveness rings a bit hollow when he plunges his company feet-first into the culture wars. The effort to redefine marriage to include same-sex partners is a radical social innovation, one fraught with dangerous implications for individuals, families, and culture. Claiming to be post-political and then allowing ones chief corporate spokesperson to say that same-sex marriage is is core to who we are and what we value as a company are assertions that dont quite add up.
So, for now, at least, I will buy my overpriced flavored coffees elsewhere. I dislike boycotts for a number of reasons, but am undertaking a personal one at present. Being for marriage, as understood in the Judeo-Christian context and Western tradition, is much more to the core of who I am than a Starbucks iced mocha ever will be.