As delivered by Howard Schultz
At Miami Dade College
Miami, Florida
March 13, 2019
Wow, Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much,  I really appreciate that. 
Thank you Sol for that kind introduction.

I’ve been told that about half the students at MDC are the first in their family to go to college. Can I ask for a show of hands? How many in the audience are the first to attend college in your family? 
That’s fantastic. Congratulations!

Congratulations. We have something in common. I, too, was the first in my family to go to college
In my case, I grew up poor, in the housing projects of Brooklyn, New York. No one in my family went to college before me. My parents didn’t even finish high school.

My mother wanted more for me. She believed in the American Dream, and imprinted in me the belief that if I got an education and worked hard, I could create a better life for myself.

In 1971, I enrolled in Northern Michigan University, where I must confess, they measure snowfall by feet, not inches. 

Believe me, that was not in the brochure. You guys are much smarter than I was at your age.  I mean, of course I should have gone to Miami. 

I paid for school with student loans. I worked two jobs. There were even times I had to sell my blood for some cash. Four years later, I became the first in my family to earn a college degree. 

I became the CEO of Starbucks when the company had just six stores. By the time I left last year, it had almost 30,000 stores in 77 countries -- and over the years, Starbucks has provided a job for nearly 3 million people. 

Along the way, I sought to build a different kind of American company: one that would achieve profit with humanity. We provided first jobs for tens of thousands of young people, many of whom are here today. Thank you. We hired more than 20,000 veterans and military spouses. We provided our front-line baristas a pathway to the middle class. We offered all of our employees, even part-timers, healthcare and stock ownership. Today, employees can also earn a four-year college degree, tuition free. 

At each juncture, people said that these kinds of investments shouldn’t and couldn’t be done in a for-profit company. That it would not work. But we refused to listen to the skeptics. Instead, we put our people first and found a way to give them access to healthcare, ownership and education while building a profitable company.

Now, over the past few weeks, I’ve heard a similar refrain as I’ve travelled the country discussing that I’m seriously considering running for president as a centrist independent outside the two-party system. It won’t work, people are saying. It cannot be done.

Well, let me say to all of you: I do not accept that. I also refuse to be deterred by the naysayers because I love this country, and because so much is at stake.

I believe from the bottom of my soul that our country is in crisis. We have a crisis of division. Today’s divisions run deep and wide.

Divisiveness has infiltrated our most personal spaces. I heard this satitsitc and I couldn’t believe it: one in six Americans have stopped talking to family members and friends because of differences about the 2016 election. Trust in the American government is at a record low. Many Americans think the biggest problem we face is the government itself. Many politicians are more engaged, everyday, in revenge politics, stirring up hatred and division, instead of finding ways to collaborate in the interest of our public, of the people.

Over the past several weeks I’ve asked every group I’ve met, all over the country, a question I’d like to ask of you: Raise your hand if you think the government is working well for you, your family, and the American people.

Just look around. We don’t have one hand up. This has been consistent throughout the country over the last five weeks. No hands go up.

Well I’m here to say that I don’t accept that and I believe that we as Americans deserve better. The system is broken, it’s not serving us, and we need to do something about it.

The cost of our government's dysfunction is great and obviously it’s impacting all of us. Our biggest problems are not being solved: Income inequality. A lack of opportunity in too many communities. The rising cost of health care. A broken immigration system. Climate change. Schools that aren’t preparing young people for jobs of the future. And something you all know, all too well, and that is the rising level of student debt. Which is now at $1.5 trillion dollars. 

I believe strongly that this dysfunction should not stand. I know together we can solves these problems. We can. 

But first, let’s examine about how we got here.

During the past few decades, there have been two mounting, massive failures in our country. One of character, and one of institutions.  

First, I want to speak of the failure of character.

When elected officials in D.C. stir up division rather than craft consensus, when they opt for revenge politics instead of problem solving, one party or the other may win the moment, but the American people lose the biggest battle of all: and that is the battle of our national character.
I don’t use words of combat lightly, but we must recognize, right now, that our country is at war for its very soul. This is not a war of party versus party, or ideology versus ideology. It is a war of truth versus lies. Acceptance versus bias. Talking versus screaming. Integrity versus trickery. Respect versus contempt. And, yes, love versus hate. 

We are forgetting that ​how​ success is achieved and measured is as important as the success itself. Now in business, I have always acted on the belief that money made cannot be the sole measure of worth for a company or for a person. Profits earned through deceit or at the expense of others should have no value in a humane society. And while I am not yet a public servant, I am citizen who wants to live in a country where the behavior of elected officials counts as much as the election promises they keep and the laws they pass.

A lack of character at the highest levels of government is related to the second significant failure of our times, which is institutional: primarily our two-party system, which has devolved into a self-interested duopoly, is not serving the American people. 

When our political parties accept millions of dollars in contributions from lobbyists, Congress acts in the interest of lobbyists, not in the interest of the America people. Pharmaceutical and healthcare companies spent 280 million dollars last year alone to unduly influence elected officials and should we be surprised, at any level, that congress has not acted more vigorously to reduce the price of pharmaceutical drug products. 

During the Great Recession, big banks and automakers, who have legions of lobbyists, got bailed out. American workers who lost their jobs did not. No wonder seventy-one percent -- seventy-one percent -- of Americans believe that our system of government -- right now, seventy-one percent believe -- the system is rigged. And it is.    

Another example of our broken political system is gerrymandering. When our parties draw voting districts to favor one side or the other, Congress reflects the will of the political parties, not the will of the people. That’s not how it’s supposed to be done. If you’re a Republican in a Democratic district or a Democrat in a solidly Republican district, or an Independent in any district, your voice and your vote is silenced, and it doesn’t matter because it’s been predetermined. That’s not our democracy. That’s not how it should be. 

Our dysfunctional two-party system has also fueled political extremism on the far left and on the far right. These two extremes differ in nature, but their respective voices, while small in number, are loud and getting louder. So loud, in fact, that they now represent a clear and present danger to our democracy and our free-enterprise system -- two key pillars of American democracy and our American life. 

Let me first address the threat to democracy. As the far left and the far right adopt more authoritarian styles of governing to advance their respective and wildly diverging policies, there is less tolerance for dissenting opinions.

The most compelling example of this threat is the presidency of Donald Trump. Let me repeat that: The most compelling example of this threat is the presidency of Donald Trump.

The damage this presidential administration has already inflicted on our democratic institutions and ideals is severe and should be unacceptable to all of us. 

It has assaulted the rule of law and undermined our justice system. It has demonized our free press. 

It has flagrantly used a national emergency for pet projects, circumventing an entire branch of government. 

It has given hate speech license by failing to quickly and fiercely condemn bigotry and racism at every level. There’s no better example of a failure of character than our current president. 

The response to Trumpism by Democrats in Congress has produced, in my view, a reciprocal danger and another brand of extremism. And that extremism threatens our American Free-Enterprise system.

Now, America's free-enterprise system has provided more opportunity and created more prosperity than any other economic model in the history of the world. It has encouraged and unleashed the creativity of the individual. And it has birthed and scaled inventions that have enhanced and empowered humanity all over the world.

Here in Miami, you understand that. This city, and all of south Florida, is the home of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have fled socialist revolutions that have destroyed free-enterprise systems and the rule of law. These immigrants, these extraordinary, wonderful people -- from Cuba, from Venezuela, from Nicaragua, and other parts of Latin America -- have embraced the American way and found success while making tremendous contributions to their communities and our country. 

In my view, and I think of the views of so many, this truly exemplifies the American dream. 
But today, our free-enterprise system is under attack. Several Democratic presidential candidates espouse policies that amount to thinly veiled levels of socialism. Democrats in Congress are full partners in this leftward tilt, with unrealistic plans like the Green New Deal and false promises like government-paid healthcare, free college and jobs for all.
The intentions behind these ideas are sincere. The problems they seek to address -- from climate change to health care -- do need to be solved. But these socialist ideas cannot be sustained financially. Nothing is free. Nothing. They would raise taxes on all Americans, not just the one-percent. They would reduce the freedom of choice that many people count on. They would squash the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.

In my view, once again, the answer to one extreme cannot, and should not, be another extreme.

Let me be clear about this: Our free-market economy must be preserved, but not as-it-is. It must be transformed. It needs a reboot. It is time for a renewed era of capitalism in America and I say that  as somebody who has run a public company for the last three decades. We need a capitalism that creates more economic equality. A capitalism that is held accountable. A capitalism that recognizes that businesses of all kinds have a moral responsibility to contribute to communities they serve, and to make opportunities available to their people and communities beyond their own. A capitalism that realizes success is best when it’s shared.

For more than two centuries, our political parties have been moderating institutions in American life. Both sought the same goal: majority coalitions that could win national elections, and those elections were determined by which candidate was most effective at occupying ​the center​ of American politics and American life. 

But the center, right now, is not holding. America’s vital center is weakening, and it’s falling apart. In a sense, the two emergent political extremes have hijacked the center. The center, in my view, ​must​ hold.

I know many Americans think we need extreme solutions to fix what’s broken. I respect that passion, but I respectfully say, there is a better way forward. 

Let’s break the cycle of swinging from one extreme to another, in which that we see and witness revenge politics everyday. 

Let’s open our minds and hearts to a better way forward. Let’s fight for what binds us. It’s worth fighting for because the center is the heart of America. 

Let’s be clear about what that heart is:

America’s heart is principled, it encompasses our core values, and it is our common ground.

America’s heart is aspirational in its dreams, yet realistic in its plans.

In America’s heart, common sense and reason prevail.

America’s heart does not favor partisan ideas; it opts for the best solutions, no matter where they come from.

America’s heart also embraces objective truth, -- yes, truth! -- and our truth informs our problem solving.

In America’s heart, science is real, and so is religion and faith.

In America’s heart, all people are equal — no matter your gender, your race, your religion, your sexual orientation, or your station in life.

In America’s heart, we stand as we always have, with our allies around the world. 
America’s heart is compassion and humanity.

In America’s heart is not “We the faction“ or “We the tribe.” It is, and always has been, and needs to be again, “We the People” -- “We the People.”

America’s heart is one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. Its is where freedom and economic opportunity come together. We have an obligation to preserve and strengthen it not just for today, but for future generations. Once the center is lost—the Heart of America will go with it.

We can’t allow that to happen.

But I stand here with the deep, deep belief that we can do better. That we are better than this -- we are. 

I will do everything I can to fight for the center, where the vast majority of Americans stand.
And I want today to ask you to answer the call and to join me -- join me -- to preserve and strengthen ​the Heart of America. Join me. 

For this historic moment, we need to reimagine the presidency and what’s possible. Should I decide to run for President, and have the honor -- the true honor -- of being elected, I will not be beholden to the political ideology of either party or any special interest group. My administration will prioritize reforms that work, reforms that are common sense, and provide the leadership necessary to heal our wounds and bring both sides back together.

First and foremost, I would not sign any legislation -- none -- into law that does not have bipartisan support. We need to be candid and truthful with the American people and admit, yes, that both sides do have good ideas if we work together. Over the last century, our most inspirational initiatives have been bipartisan: Social security, the National highway system, the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, welfare reform, and the tax reform act of 1986 — none of these were one-party initiatives.

Looking back, The Affordable Care Act passed with no Republican votes. Trump's recent tax cut, which I did not agree with, had no Democratic votes. We should not be jamming an agenda through strictly on partisan lines. Real reform does not depend on the other side disappearing. Real reform requires us to come together and find common solutions that honors and preserves our democracy. 

Now, I stand here today as just one citizen of 330 million.

I’m one voice among many. 

As an independent president, I would be a bridge to bring leaders of both parties together in a way no president has done in recent years. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill were about as far apart on the political spectrum as possible. Yet they consistently found ways to work together because they had respect for one another and they knew what their responsibility was. They respected public servants. They did not demonize people. Our current president and Speaker of the House can hardly stand to be in the same room together. I can promise you this: I’ll have members of both parties to the White House for coffee -- Starbucks Coffee -- as often as I can.

I would also assemble a cabinet --- and this is important -- that truly represents America in every way. Including a cross-partisan group of Democrats, Republicans, and independents—and a greater share of women than any previous president in history. And I will seek out, regardless of party or affiliation, the most qualified people, period. Based on merit. I won’t humiliate them on Twitter or make decisions so outrageous that they feel compelled to resign in protest. The loyalty I will expect from them will be to the Constitution and the rule of law.

I would not nominate a Supreme Court justice unless he or she could be confirmed by two-thirds -- two-thirds -- of the United States Senate. The Courts have become yet another battlefield in the ongoing war between Democratic and Republican leaders. That’s not how our democracy should work. These battles have undermined our faith in the rule of law and the impartiality of the entire judicial system. All of this has to change. We need to restore faith and confidence of in our courts so that we can get back to believing that we’re all equal -- all of us -- under the laws of this country. Taking politics out of the Supreme Court nomination process is a critical first step. 

In fact, I challenge every single candidate running for president, from both parties, to make the same commitment, right now, that I’m making. Regarding two-thirds, and to honor that. 

I will push for functional government, a government that works at all levels, not just in the executive branch. I will prioritize reforms that break the logjam of extremism and partisanship that have prevented us from coming together and passing common sense legislation. Among these reforms will be aggressive measures to limit the power of lobbyists and special interests in Washington. I will also use all of the tools available to the president to bring an end to gerrymandering -- and by the way, gerrymandering is a code word for rigging the system. No wonder seventy-one percent of the American people have lost trust and confidence in our leadership. Independent commissions should draw political districts in every state. The days of politicians selecting their voters must end and must end now. 

I will restore the presidency to the proper position as one of the three branches of government. I believe the next president needs to reduce, not expand, executive authority. We have to reduce the trend of winning by any means necessary. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I will restore civility, diganty, honor, respect, grace, back to the Oval Office. 

Governing from the center means responsibility. For too long now, our government has been spending more than it takes in. This year, that figure -- unbelievable -- will be almost one trillion dollars. Yes, one trillion dollars. Our national debt -- all of the money our federal government has spent, beyond its means -- is $22 trillion. It’s immoral, it’s reckless, and both parties are complicit. 
That’s larger than the size of the entire U.S. economy.

This is a moral abdication -- because the burden of that debt is going to fall on the shoulders of your generation. We already spend more on interest on the debt -- this is an amazing number, 500 billion dollars of interest expense every year -- than we do on all federal programs to help the children of our country. It’s insane. It’s reckless. It’s wrong. It’s a lack of leadership. It’s a lack of responsibility. And once again, it’s emblematic of how broken the system is and both parties are complicit. That figure is only going to increase in the years to come unless somebody decides to fix it, to stand up and be accountable. The government is going to have less to spend on education, health care and everything vital in our national interest if we do not get hold of this national debt. 

It’s as if the two generations before you took out a bunch of credit cards in your name, at your birth, and completely maxed them out. And then, said to you, we’re going to leave you -- after we did all of that -- to pay the bills. It’s appalling, it’s outrageous, and we should all be upset about this. A trillion is a hard number to get your arms around but let me tell you, this number is increasing, with Donald Trump in office, a trillion dollar a year. It can’t continue but we can fix it. 

If I decide to run, and if I become president, I promise -- I promise -- that I will get the federal budget under control and address the reckless growth of the national debt. I make that promise to you. It will require hard work and painful tradeoffs. But I refuse, as this government and both parties have done for years, to continue to punt the problem. 

The ideas I am proposing can change the system so it once again works for the American people. Let's have the best of both parties represented in a cabinet, in legislation, in the White House -- with the unified purpose of reforming government and making the American people proud again, and trusting, with great confidence, our leaders. 

Now, some will argue that a bipartisan government will result in gridlock. And yet, does anything about our current way of doing business in Washington and our political system, seem like it’s working? No. Remember no one raised their hand. It’s not working. So why should we continue embracing the status quo?

Our intractable challenges -- from the debt, to healthcare, to immigration -- have been with us for decades, irrespective of which party is in charge.

To meet the challenges of the 21st century, we need to completely reimagine and reform the system in the most primary and basic of ways to reflect what most Americans want and believe.

I believe with strong leadership, truth, renewed vision, a focus on the center, we can come together to solve our biggest challenges and make you proud again of the government that should be serving you the people. We are, after all, a nation of innovators, of problem solvers. We are Americans!

I believe that there is widespread consensus on so many of our most pressing issues, even if we don’t see that reflected in our political class. Now, in the coming weeks, I will be outlining an economic agenda for the American people, and how we can join together to better support American workers, communities, and families. 

Americans are fed up and exhausted with our two parties. We want another choice, and a new way. We -- you -- are the voices that can revive the center, and it’s your time for your voices to be heard, not to be a bystander, but to be heard. 
Growing up, my mother inspired me to imagine a better future. I’ve never stopped trying.  
Today, all of us can follow in the footsteps of those who came before us and reimagine the promise of America. I realize, it will not be easy, but it is our destiny. Because, yes, we all are Americans.

We can come together, we can fix this, and we can unify the nation. Along the way we may disagree, but we can embrace our differences with a high level respect and with civility. We can protest the way things are, but we can also plan for a better tomorrow. We can criticize the status quo, but we can also create a better future.

It is time, as Abraham Lincoln so eloquently urged at another perilous moment in our nation's history, for "a new birth of freedom."

"And that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

We have the power to write the next chapter of American history.

The future is on the line. The country is on the clock. It’s time to answer the call.

It’s time for all of us to believe. To believe in the country. To believe in each other.

I love this country, and I believe in the goodness of the American people. I also believe America is longing --longing -- to come together.  That's why I"m here -- to fight for your, your family, the next generation -- and most importantly, the heart of America.

Thank you very much.

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