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People keep asking Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz if he’s running for president—and he keeps saying no

Well, sort of.

Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In a response to recent speculation that he is being drafted into the 2016 race, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said Thursday that he's not running.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, the founder of the global coffee chain wrote that "despite the encouragement of others, I have no intention of entering the presidential fray. I’m not done serving at Starbucks." Schultz ticks off some of the things he has offered part-time employees at Starbucks—health care, free college education, stock options—writing that "there is more we can do as a public company to demonstrate responsible leadership."

His piece follows a column by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who wrote over the weekend that Schultz's friends, seeing Hillary Clinton's campaign lose its "sheen of inevitability," were urging Schultz to run for office. "For the passionate 62-year-old — watching the circus from Seattle — it may be a tempting proposition," she wrote. "He has strong opinions, and even position papers, about what he calls the fraying American dream."

Speculation about Schultz's potential interest in the presidency is nothing new. The coffee king's willingness over the years to embrace social issues and cast himself in a CEO-as-statesman role is so unusual for typically cautious public company CEOs that it's led to frequent conjecture of whether he might have his sights set on Washington. His campaigns to end the dysfunction on Capitol Hill and improve race relations, his very public support of same sex marriage, his writing of books about veterans and citizenship have all served to further those questions.

In the op-ed, Schultz does not say he would never consider the job, and he does not detail what his plans could be once he is done at Starbucks. At turns, the column even has an air of campaign rhetoric. He invokes his humble roots, growing up in public housing in Brooklyn. He bemoans the current state of campaign pettiness.

He also writes about those who have most influenced his approach to leadership, noting that he was mentored for three decades by the late scholar and guru Warren Bennis. More recently, he writes, he has drawn lessons from Pope Francis's approach to leadership, mentioning the image of him washing the feet of a young Muslim woman. "I have taken to recalling that humble, inspiring act of servant leadership as I observe the antithesis: a field of presidential aspirants unable to rise above petty politics."

His call for unity also sounds something of the note of a presidential aspirant. "Our country deserves a candidate courageous enough to select a member of the other party as a running mate. Our country deserves a president humble enough to see leadership not as an entitlement but as a privilege."

And yet he closes with an anecdotal passage in which he appears to say he doesn't think he's the person for the job. "The speculation about my candidacy reminds me of a lesson from a great Jewish leader," he writes. Schultz tells about a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem with the rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, who refused to get closer than 10 yards from the holy site as they approached it. When Schultz asked why, the rabbi said "you go," explaining "I'm not worthy."

When Time Magazine put him on the cover in February, it displayed checkmarks in boxes on many of the issues he's embraced—race, veterans, jobs, education—but left the one marked "2016 candidate" empty. The magazine talked to friends and supporters about Schultz's interest in the political arena.

But just as he did in the op-ed and elsewhere, Schultz said that wasn't his plan. “I don’t think that is a solution," he told Time. "I don’t think it ends well.”

Read also:

Remembering leadership sage Warren Bennis

Why Starbucks chief Howard Schultz put himself at the center of America’s race debate

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