Starbucks Founder Howard Schultz Has Created Inspiring Original Content Series ‘Upstanders’

In an unusual move for the company, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz has shifted his focus from making great coffee to promoting those in America who are making a real difference in the communities where they live.

Upstanders is a new original content series written and produced by Schultz along with Starbucks executive producer and former Washington Post senior editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran. The new series featuring 10 mini-documentaries is now live online.

“We’ve asked ourselves what is the role and responsibility of a public company and, as citizens, how we can catalyze hope in a time when we need more optimism, empathy, compassion and leadership,” said Schultz in a press release for the project. “The Upstanders featured in this series are inspiring individuals whose actions are emblematic of the American spirit and what is missing from so much of today’s national dialogue. We have always been storytellers at heart, and more of these stories need to be heard. We are using our scale to share them as broadly as possible.”

Through the rest of September, Starbucks will highlight other Upstanders through special “town hall” events in Memphis, Tennessee; Dallas, Texas; Deerfield, Florida; and Washington, D.C. All will be hosted by Chandrasekaran.

Upstanders is a unique set of stories told in a unique way,” said Chandrasekaran. “When we turn on the news or scroll through our social media feeds, we are inundated with stories of discord and dysfunction. But there is more to America than that. In cities and towns across the country, there are people who are courageously, selflessly, collaboratively, and thoughtfully creating positive change. We want to share their stories, which are often ignored by traditional news organizations, with millions of our fellow Americans through Starbucks unparalleled platform.”

The Upstanders website features three ways to enjoy the stories: video documentary, written story form, and a podcast. Visitors of the site can also nominate fellow Upstanders who are “fighting injustice, challenging the status quo and making an extraordinary impart in their community.”

“We want to show you a different story of America – a country where ordinary people are making an extraordinary difference by fighting justice, challenging the status quo and creating opportunities for others. These are the Upstanders in our midst, and they remind us of the choice we have every day: To stand by, or to stand up,” said Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran in a joint statement.


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The stories featured on Upstanders website include:

  • “The Mosque Across the Street”: How Pastor Steve Stone reached out to his new Islamic community planted in the middle of the Bible belt.
  • “Breaking the Prison Pipeline”: How ex-convict Susan Burton has helped keep other female ex-convicts out of prison by providing a home free of drugs, alcohol, and abusive relationships.
  • “Homes for Everyone”: How Lloyd Pendleton and the state of Utah has reduced its homeless population by 91 percent.
  • “Scholarships for Every Student”: How residents of Baldwin, Michigan raised money so that every graduating student could go to college for free.
  • “The Kids Who Killed an Incinerator”: How 17-year-old Destiny Weatford and friends stood up against the construction of an incinerator in her community.
  • “The Hunger Hack”: How Maria Rose Belding created a new web-based program that has helped saved an enormous amount of food from being wasted.
  • “The Empathetic Police Academy”: How Susan Rahr in Washington Stage is helping training new recruits in a different way.
  • “A Warrior’s Workout”: How a former Seattle Seahawk foot player, David Vobora, is training wounded warriors from and giving them new inspiration for their lives
  • “Building Homes. Building Lives”: How a former trouble-maker is helping at-risk youth in Newark change the lives of others by building homes for poor families.

[Photo by Ted S. Warren/AP Images]