Love was in the air this Valentine’s Day as Washingtonians ate out to fancy restaurants, exchanged romantic gifts, and…went to see Howard Schultz? The longtime Starbucks chairman and CEO dropped by Sixth & I to speak about his new memoir, From the Ground Up, with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, a book-tour stop that came almost three weeks after Schultz told 60 Minutes that he is thinking about running for President as an independent. Maybe this is DC’s idea of a good date? Or maybe everyone here is single.
Schultz delivered something that resembled a TED Talk mixed with a stump speech, touching on parts of his history mentioned in the memoir and fielding questions about his political ambitions. Among the scintillating things Schultz shared: He starts his day with two cups of French-press coffee (Starbucks beans, obviously). Oh.
Schultz also doubled down on his vague message of centrism and fiscal responsibility, and insisted that he does not want to see Trump re-elected in 2020. Outside, a small group of protesters expressed their displeasure with his possible candidacy, accompanied by Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and a mobile billboard with slides that included a fake Valentine from Trump.
Other than protesters, who would come to a talk like this? Well, a lot of people. (It was sold out, after all.) Several I spoke to bought their tickets before Schultz floated his Presidential ambitions; they just wanted to hear from the guy who made Starbucks famous. Meg, a government employee who declined to give her last name, says that’s why she came, and she wouldn’t be a supporter of his White House bid. “He should stick with his business and not run for President,” she said. “He needs more government experience. Let him run for Congress if he wants to do that.” Another audience member, Anthony, who also declined to give his last name, said he came for Schultz’s business insight, but that his potential Presidential run “doesn’t pertain to him as a person.”
Some attendees were curious politics nerds. “We’re interested in hearing what several of the people running for President have to say, even though it’s early,” said Melinda Becker, an architect whose husband, Bill, bought the tickets. They headed to Valentine’s Day dinner after the event. Heather Robinson, a political science student at George Washington University, snagged a free ticket through the school. “I love politics,” she said. “It’s a great way to spend Valentine’s Day, going to an event that makes me think about the political spectrum and really indulge in political thoughts.”
Others, like Dorri Scott, an educator and brand strategist, are just really big fans. “I think the world of Howard Schultz,” she said. “I think he’s a great leader. I’m tired of what I see in the White House and it’s time for a change and I believe he can lead us in a positive way.”
Schultz told that audience that he is “seriously considering” a run for President in 2020, adding that he will make up his mind in late spring or early summer. Until then, he’ll continue hawking his book.