America really does run on Dunkin’

Posted on Tuesday, Jul 21, 2015

It’s true, America really does run on Dunkin’.  This truth has become acutely apparent to me from my time working in Washington, D.C. at the Department of Defense. The Pentagon offers a plethora of coffee options to keep our nations policy leaders sharp and on task, yet I can’t help but notice the overwhelming abundance of Dunkin’ Donut reusable mugs seen in the halls. Everyday at 2:30 I join the Dunkin’ army descending upon the closest fill-up station to get my fill of iced coffee. While this routine event is usually quite uneventful, a couple weeks ago during this coffee ritual, I had an experience I will not soon forget. 

It was a Tuesday and time for the afternoon coffee run. At this point in the day, there generally isn’t a line in the shop but maybe 1 or 2 people standing around. I happened to walk in behind an individual in a military uniform (the branch will remain non-distinct) who, upon closer inspection, was in fact a general. While I do not know the exact details of this individual’s service, I do know that his rank would place him amongst the highest in the entire military stratagem. He stated the first part of his order clearly, “a medium iced coffee,” and then leaned in towards the barista to complete the process. Now, whenever I see a general quietly lean in to speak in hushed tones, I can’t help but assume the issue is of national importance and must be addressed in the moment. With that context in mind, I was surprised to hear the words “…with a cookie dough flavor swirl,” uttered from his mouth.  Yes, this established General wanted cookie dough flavored coffee, and didn’t want me –or anyone else – to know about it. I cracked a smile and went on with my order and the rest of my day.

While this event was humorous in context, it led me to reflect on a reality that is far too prevalent in our society. I reminded, in that moment, that this great leader was human just like me. With the advancement and availability of technology, this generation has been raised to digest our information through the screen. Whether it is a tablet, television, cellphone, or laptop, we see these high profile, larger-than-life figures being discussed in the news in relation to their latest political blunder or scandal. We disassociate these individuals from the static figure portrayed by the mainstream media; forgetting the fact that they too have lives and may like flavor shots in their coffee. Secretary Carter is the guy stuck with the ISIS problem instead of being understood as a basketball fan and father of two.  When we, as a society, begin to lose sight of the inherent humanness of our great leaders, we simultaneously lose the ability to empathize with their decisions.

Polarization stands today as a tenet in our political scene. We see politicians more and more being elected on the premise to NOT reach across the aisle and guaranteed refusals of compromise.  Many political tacticians seek to paint their opponent as a lunatic bent on destroying the country from the inside, which in reality is far from the truth. I contend that an injection of empathy into our society would vastly improve the political scene, as we know it. No longer would campaign teams push unfounded rumors of misconduct if they took into consideration how that might affect the daughter or hometown of the candidate.

One could assert that my views are optimistic to the point of naivety, but in a world where politician is synonymous with untrustworthy, it doesn’t hurt to look for ways to restore faith in the system that when operating as intended can do a significant amount of good for society. 

Jacob C. Beach
Department of Defense Office of Legislative Counsel
Washington, D.C. - Summer 2015

Tags: Donuts, Leadership, Washington