Facing a new future with President Obama

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On the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration, do you get the feeling that we’re on the cusp of a new era?

* first African-American president - this inauguration makes you believe in the dream that we can overcome the past to create a nation of equal citizens. (Yes we can. Hunh. After all, why not?)

* first president with deep ties to the developing world - Obama’s experiences growing up in Indonesia, Hawaii and later visiting Kenya mean that the new occupant of the Oval Office can relate directly to the struggles and perspectives of people living in traditionally exploited, colonized (and coffee-growing) regions of the world

* most challenging economy in 50 years, with two wars, health care issues and climate change weighing in - despite this daunting outlook, the incoming President voices a positive, pragmatic conviction that we can solve these problems. He’s proven that he can bring together smart advisers, implement brilliant planning and speak articulately and candidly with real people.

BLAH Blah - I know, you’ve been hearing this non-stop on TV, radio, Internet for weeks. But geez, if we’re supposed to keep up with this guy — and he’s asking all of us to get involved in the work ahead — well, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to need some serious caffeine. Good thing my husband is knee-deep in coffee. Seriously, if you’ve been in Seattle Coffee Works, you know that Sebastian, Kristi and Katie are SERIOUS about great coffee, great community, and trying their hardest to make sure everyone in the chain, from the customer to the coffee grower, is getting a good deal. That’s just part of their mission in life, making GOOD coffee, sustainably, for everyone.

So when they tossed around the idea of a special edition coffee in honor of the inauguration, with a $2benefit to go to a non-profit, I had a few suggestions. There are dozens of “benefit” coffees out there, many of them sold by students, to benefit a particular village, school, region, or endangered species. Most of these coffees are UNDRINKABLE, because they were roasted ages ago, often in the originating village. I know people who keep it in their freezer for years, because they don’t want to throw it away, but they can’t stand drinking it either. Rancid coffee has no place at 111 Pike, so we decided to make this edition for just ONE week. That way everyone knows exactly when the coffee was roasted and its vintage. When you buy the Inauguration Blend, be sure to drink it well within the first 100 days, ideally by Feb. 28. You can frame the bag, but please don’t keep the coffee beans as a memento. A good coffee is a terrible thing to waste.

The next question was which non-profit to choose as a recipient. We wanted to honor the new president, but political parties, PACs etc. were obviously out of the question. International development NGOs, Coffee Kids, Rain Forest Action Network and the NAACP were all great possibilities, but we thought that a one-time contribution might get diluted to just a drop in the bucket. Then we came up with Facing the Future, which in name alone, captures the spirit of this unique moment in time.

Here’s more reasons why Facing the Future fits:

- their lesson plans for K-12 students transcend issue areas, highlighting the connections between environmental sustainability, the global economy, poverty, migration, education, conflict and resource use — all timely issues that we care deeply about;

- their materials are rigorously tested and used by teachers in classrooms in 50 US states and 42 countries, with plans to reach 12.5 million US students by 2020, a new generation of citizens and voters

- all the materials are well-researched, pragmatic and promote positive solutions

- the lessons are just plain fun. (Have you ever tried to pick up chocolates through a straw?) We’re not sure if the President-Elect likes to have fun, but in any case, WE do!

- $2 makes a difference - that’s how much it costs to get Facing the Future programming to one student, so for every bag of beans you buy, one student is gaining access to critical thinking skills, increased global perspectives, timely topics and engaging role plays and exercises. More than 90% of teachers surveyed say these materials actually improve student achievement in areas ranging from reading and writing to math and social skills.

I’m so impressed with Facing the Future that I’ve been volunteering with them, and they recently accepted me on the Board of Directors! If you’d like to learn more about Facing the Future or get more involved, please let me know.

Photo Credit: Obama Coffee

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