Political Headlines February 20, 2013: Sen. John McCain Defends Immigration Plan at Arizona Town Hall Event





John McCain Defends Immigration Plan at Testy Town Hall

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-20-13

Sen. John McCain defended his immigration reform proposals during a contentious town hall event on Tuesday in his home state.

The Republican senator from Arizona is a member of a bipartisan group of eight senators crafting a bill that contains a pathway to citizenship for many of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. But he heard an earful from constituents who were unhappy about the plan and want more to be done to secure the border….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines January 29, 2013: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Holds a Farewell Global Townterview — Townhall Interview Transcript





Secretary Clinton Holds a Global Townterview


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 29, 2013

MS. SALES: Hello. I’m Leigh Sales from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Welcome to this town hall-style event with the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has her last day at the State Department this Friday. This is a town hall with a difference though because we have people all around the world ready to ask to questions from Britain to Beirut to Colombia.

Here’s how the event will run in front of our live audience here in the Newseum’s Knight Studio in Washington, D.C. I’ll start the ball rolling with five minutes of discussion with the Secretary, and then we’ll cross to locations around the globe to hear other questions, and we’ll also be taking submissions from social media. Now, of course, live TV is fraught with peril to begin with, but when you throw in six lives satellites around the world, it’s a bit of a high-wire act, so please bear with us if the technology doesn’t quite cooperate as we’d like.

So to start, and for her final town hall, please welcome the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)


MS. SALES: Hi Secretary Clinton. Have a seat.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello, everyone. Hello.

MS. SALES: Super warm welcome there. This is your 59th event like this, so there’s nothing new I can ask you, is there?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I’m sure there is. (Laughter.)

MS. SALES: I’ve had a look at some of the transcripts of previous events like this and you’ve been asked some very funny things, from what was Chelsea’s first word, which was Mommy, for the record, to what you favorite film was. I bet they’re all quite memorable in their own way.

SECRETARY CLINTON: They really are because part of what I’ve tried to do in the last four years is to reach out to people across the world, particularly young people, and I’m so happy to see so many of them here in the Newseum. And for me it’s been a learning experience as well, because as I’ve traveled around doing these – this is the 59th, as you said – of these kinds of events, all over the globe I’ve heard what’s on people’s minds and what their questions were, and so it’s been a great two-way communication.

MS. SALES: I have seen some interesting statistics: You’ve had 1,700 meetings with world leaders, 755 meetings at the White House, 570 airplane meals – (laughter) – and three times caught dancing on camera.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, dear. Yes. (Laughter.) That’s supposed to be erased from the record, you know. (Laughter.)

MS. SALES: Now, in a moment I’m going to throw to questions around the world, as I just explained. But first of all, I just want to us to set the scene a little bit by talking about some of the big foreign policy issues that are around in the news. So let’s start with North Africa, which has been very prominent lately. We’ve seen the Islamist extremists in Algeria, of course the ongoing problems in Libya, the crisis in Mali, in recent days violent protests in Egypt. How much of a global security threat is this region?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Leigh, it is becoming a threat, first and foremost, to the people of the region. This is not what the Arab revolution was about, and there’s a great deal of concern across the region about people who choose to use violence to try to impose their extremist views rather than participate in politics. It does have the potential, however, of expanding beyond the region, which is why I think you’re seeing an international concern and coalition coming together to support the people of Mali, to stand by the Government of Algeria, to work with the Government of Libya, so that they themselves are given the tools they need to combat this extremist threat.

MS. SALES: Has there been an insufficient global focus on that part of the world to now?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think historically there has been exactly that, that much of Africa – you can separate North Africa from Sub-Saharan Africa – have not had the kind of attention on a range of issues, whether it’s security or development. But that is changing, and it’s very exciting to me that I think seven of the fastest performing economies in the world now are in Sub-Saharan Africa. It’s also exciting to see people in North Africa, after so many decades of oppression, looking to find their own way forward democratically.

But transformations are never easy and they are never preordained. If North Africa and the fruits of the Arab revolution are to be democracy, prosperity, better opportunities particularly for the young people of the region, the people themselves will have to ensure that. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, helping to improve governance and create more opportunity has been one of my primary goals.

MS. SALES: The world saw your passionate response to a Senate committee last week about what happened in Benghazi. You said that you want the focus to be on making sure that something like that can’t happen again. But is it really possible to prevent things like that from happening?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we live in a dangerous world and it’s unpredictable and complex. I think we in government have to do everything we can to provide as secure conditions as possible for our diplomats, our development experts, in order that we don’t end up in bunkers, abdicating from regions that are important to us. But it’s also now an increasing threat, as we saw with the Algerian hostage taking, to businesses, to cultural institutions. We’ve seen the extremists destroying shrines and libraries that were holding priceless remnants and artifacts that were of great meaning to people. So yes, it’s something we have to deal with, but we have to also be realistic that we live in this dangerous world and we can’t retreat from it.

MS. SALES: When we were watching that hearing, we saw the Republican committee members go on the attack. Is Washington today more bitterly partisan than it was when you were first lady, or has it always been like this and we just have a recency bias?

SECRETARY CLINTON: It has been increasingly partisan. It was 20 years ago, 30 years ago, you can go back in history and see certain constituencies represented in our Congress and our politics certainly squaring off against each other. But it’s become more so, and it’s also resulted in less productivity. You can be partisan, you can have a strong sense of the rightness of your position, but democracy and certainly legislative bodies require compromise. And you can’t let compromise become a dirty word because then you veer toward fanaticism.

I mean, we were just talking about extremists who think it’s only their way, they are the ones who have the truth, none of the rest of us have any kind of claim on what is real in their views. And so it’s important in our democracies – like Australia, like the United States – that yes, be passionate, be intense about your feelings, but at the end of the day you’ve got to serve the people who sent you there, and that requires compromise.

MS. SALES: I think at these events you are always asked a question that involves the year 2016, and so I’m not going to ask it because I think somebody else around the world will. So let’s start our criss-cross discussions around the world with the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation, which is based in Dubai. Presenter Muna AbuSulayman is standing by in Beirut.


MS. ABUSULAYMAN: Hello, hi. I just wanted to tell you thank you for inviting us to this global town hall. We are very happy to be a part of this. We have a lot of Arab students in the studio in Beirut to ask Madam Secretary a few questions. But I want to actually start the ball rolling and ask the first question myself: Madame Secretary, what is your biggest unfulfilled mission in leaving the Department of State?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Muna, it’s wonderful to see you in Beirut and to have the students there with you. Obviously, I want to see peace in the Middle East and I want to see prosperity that includes all people, and I want to see women and girls given their rights and opportunities. So those are three of the pieces of unfinished business.

Now, as a Secretary of State, a diplomat, I know that a lot of the work that I have done is, by its very nature, complicated and difficult. So it’s not a surprise that some of these big issues would be unfinished. But what’s important is that we continue the work and that we build bridges across our world, across cultures and societies, so that we engage in moving toward a better world that will certainly give more opportunity, peace, and prosperity to the young people in your studio.

MS. ABUSULAYMAN: Well, thank you. We all know how much you’ve worked on linking women rights with human rights, so it is quite appreciated in our parts of the world, but I also have a few questions from the students. And the first question is from Haled.

QUESTION: Yes. Good afternoon, Madam Secretary. Haled Kaber from the Lebanese American University.

My question to you, Madam Secretary is: What is your opinion? The main obstacle these opposition-led demonstrations that are being held in the Arab world are facing, is it the lack of clear organization between its members and not having a unified, clear vision for the future of the country? Is it the involvement of international or regional actors, or maybe the actions that are practiced by the ruling regimes? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it probably is all three. I think you did an excellent summary of three factors that are involved, and let me quickly respond.

The Arab revolutions which have swept the region hold such great promise. But I don’t think that you go from a top-down society that often imposed oppressive regulations and punishments on people for expressing themselves to a democracy overnight. And so when you look at the trajectory, this will take some time, and there has to be a combination of persistence and patience, and I would hope that the opposition demonstrators are demonstrating because they want to participate in the political process, not to derail it. Part of our problem is that there are elements within the countries, certainly in North Africa, who don’t believe in democracy, who don’t believe in equal rights for women and men, who don’t believe that there can be cooperation among people who have different points of view. That has to be overcome.

Now, Lebanon, which has suffered for so many years, as you all know better than I, has this uneasy balance in your democracy, but so far it has sustained the stability of your country. So different countries will reach different conclusions about how to fashion and manage their democracy, but everyone should stand against those who wish to hijack it, whether they are internal or external, who believe that their extremist point of view should cancel out everyone else’s point of view, and really stand up and speak out and work toward what were the aspirations of the people, particularly the young people who stood up and said, “We want a better, different life.”

MS. ABUSULAYMAN: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Of course, extremism is something that we actually have to deal with a lot in the Middle East, and is something that needs to be negotiated quite delicately. And I think the second question from one of our students will lead to that.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. Ahmadin Mohaissen, American University of Beirut. I would like to ask you: With the recent reelection of Benjamin Netanyahu, the chances of peace are almost negligible. Out of your experience, what’s needed to achieve to the most comprehensive and long-lasting peace in the Middle East? What about the role of the USA? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I actually think that this election opens doors, not nails them shut. I think the outcome of the election in which a significant percentage of the Israeli electorate chose to express themselves by saying, “We need a different path than the one we have been pursuing internally and with respect to the Middle East peace process.” So I know that President Obama, my successor, soon-to-be Secretary of State John Kerry, will pursue this, will look for every possible opening.

I have been involved in, one way or another, working toward peace for more than 20 years, first with my husband, then as a senator, now as Secretary of State. And what rests at the core of the problem is great mistrust, great concern on both sides, because I also speak frequently with our Palestinian counterparts. And somehow, we have to look for ways to give the Palestinian people the pathway to peace, prosperity, and statehood that they deserve and give the Israeli people the security and stability that they seek. I think that still is possible, and I can assure you the United States under President Obama will continue to do everything we can to move the parties toward some resolution.

MS. SALES: We’re going to leave Beirut there for now, Muna and the people there. Thank you so much. I mentioned before that maybe we would have some technical issues, and as you could see with the audio there, we did indeed. And also, please just bear with the delay that you have when you’re traveling enormous distances like this.

Let’s go across the other side of the world now to NHK in Tokyo, Japan’s national public broadcaster, where the director of the international news division, Kenji Kohno, is ready with a question.

MR. KOHNO: Good evening from Tokyo. Madam Secretary, thank you very much for this opportunity to talk to you again. We have here a group of 10 Japanese college students, very good students, and let me turn this microphone to them. They have some questions. So who wants to ask the first question? Okay. Here you go.

QUESTION: Hello, Madam Secretary. I’m Yuki Kao coming from the University of Tokyo, so I would like to ask about the future of U.S.-Japan economic relationship. It is widely said that the U.S.-Japan relationship, especially in the field of economy, are becoming weaker and weaker. In my opinion, it is because a lot of Japanese companies are switching their focus onto the emerging markets in Asia.

So how can we reinforce or maintain the U.S.-Japan relationship? Could the Trans-Pacific Partnership be one of the solutions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m glad you mentioned that at the end of your question, because I certainly believe the Trans-Pacific Partnership holds great benefits for Japan’s economy. And it is true that the United States and Japan have both expanded economically on a broader scale, which of course is necessary because consumers in the middle class in many emerging democracies or emerging economies are now demanding more goods and services.

But I think the Japanese-U.S. relationship is a very secure one, and what we want is to look for new ways that we can work together on behalf of our common values and our hopes for the future. I highly appreciate the excellent working relationship that I’ve had over the last four years with my Japanese counterparts. But I think you’re right to point out that in today’s world, we have to be more creative, innovative, open and transparent about our economies, because Japan and the United States have comparative advantage. We’re high tech, we have highly educated workforces. In order to keep producing jobs and rising incomes, we have to be smart about how we use our economies. So I think the Trans-Pacific Partnership is one way that could really enhance our relationship.

MR. KOHNO: Madam Secretary, let me add my questions, which is on the possibly imminent nuclear test by North Korea. North Korea has still threatened to do this, but your spokesperson said that if they do, the U.S. would take very significant action. I wonder what this significant action means, and I wonder this – more – simply more sanctions would be enough to stop their provocations?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for that, because we, of course, share Japan’s concerns and the concerns of the entire region about what the new regime in North Korea is doing and threatening. And let me express my regret, because I think with a new young leader we all expected something different. We expected him to focus on improving the lives of the North Korean people, not just the elite, but everyone to have more education, more openness, more opportunity. And instead, he has engaged in very provocative rhetoric and behavior.

So we did go to the United Nations after the missile launch, and with very good work on behalf of our teams, we came up with additional and much tougher sanctions. But we’re going to have to work closely together to try to change the behavior of the North Korean regime. I’ve had long conversations with my Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Chinese counterparts, because this is a threat to all of us. And it is something that is so regrettable when young people the world over, including in North Korea, are getting better connected with the rest of the world, to remain as closed off and denied the opportunities they should have.

So it’s going to be a lengthy consultation. I don’t want to preview what the outcome might be in terms of actions that would have to be taken, because we still hope that there is a way to convince the North Korean regime not to pursue this path.

MR. KOHNO: Now, let me have a student to have the second question. Who wants to have the second question? Okay, you.

QUESTION: Good evening, Madam Secretary. I’m Yosuke Kawanebe from Tokyo University of Science. As mentioned, I think Japan and U.S. will need to have stronger relationships in the future. And I’m an entrepreneur, and I feel our generation is now taking over important positions in politics and businesses. So I want to ask your advice for younger people who want to become leaders, tomorrow’s leaders in the future.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m so happy you asked that question because I think that is something every young person should be considering, particularly in a democracy like Japan. There are many roads to leadership. You mentioned being interested in entrepreneurship. Those kinds of business investment opportunities are leadership ones – starting businesses, building businesses, creating employment. That has to go hand in hand with whatever the political leadership is able to do.

And I believe strongly that we need to open up all of our economies, knock down barriers to the participation of young people, of women. I think you can take any economy in the world, including mine and including yours, and see that there are still barriers to the dreams of young business leaders. And I hope that in the next few years, we will do more to open up our markets, open up credit, clear away the barriers so that a young man like yourself will have a chance to make a real contribution to your country’s economy.

MS. SALES: That’s where we’re going to leave Tokyo; wonderful to see that enthusiasm there with the hands. We might take a Facebook question that we received, Secretary Clinton. It was received in Farsi from Rasoul Ali Asgari.

It said: I’m glad she – meaning you – has regained her health. My only question is if you have issues with the Government of Iran, why destroy the people with the current sanctions in place? It’s very difficult to find medicine in Iran. Where is your sense of humanity?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say on the medicine and on food and other necessities, there are no sanctions. And what we have tried to do, and in fact, I have approved the sending of medicines to Iran for exactly the purpose that is pointed out. We do not want the people of Iran to suffer and certainly to be deprived of necessary medicines. But this is a dilemma for us, and for the entire world, because when I say “us,” I’m not talking only about the United States. But if you look at the United Nations sanctions, the European Union sanctions, across the globe, people are very worried about what the Iranian Government’s actions and intentions are.

We know that there is a lot of support for terrorism by the Iranian Government. We know they send out agents and proxies across the world to do bombings and assassinations. That’s deeply troubling. And we also know that their pursuit of a nuclear weapon would be incredibly dangerous to Iran, to the region and the world.

So we have tried diplomatic outreach. President Obama came into office saying that he wanted to engage in diplomacy with Iran to see if there were a way to end their nuclear weapons program. And we hope that that will still be possible. And we think the people of Iran, in their upcoming election, have the opportunity to send a very clear message. Iranian people are educated, intelligent, historically significant; they deserve to have a government that integrates them into the world, not isolates from the world. So we hope that the Iranian people will speak out and make known their views to their own government.

MS. SALES: Secretary Clinton, let’s see if we can go now to Bogota, in Colombia, to journalist Andrea Bernal. She interviewed you in 2010 in Ecuador, and she’s at NTN24, which is a 24-hour news channel based in South America.


We’ll just wait for the audio to come up on that. Hopefully we can get it. No, we might just see if we can go somewhere else while we wait for that to come up. Let’s go for a Twitter question, Secretary Clinton. We have one here from @ManxNige, Nigel Walker to the State Department: “Can you tell me why the USA didn’t engage with the democratically elected Hamas government in Gaza?”

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, because we believe, and there’s unfortunately a lot of evidence to support this, that Hamas is not interested in democracy, not interested in political participation and pursuits, but instead is largely still a military resistance group. And we’ve made it very clear that if Hamas renounces violence, if they morph themselves into a political entity the way that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have, from the origins in the PLO. If they accept the previous commitments by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, there’s a place for them at the table. And it would be my great hope that they would do that.

MS. SALES: We’ve had an email question that’s come in from the Antarctic.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, the Antarctic. (Laughter.)

MS. SALES: We’re going everywhere in this discussion —

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, my goodness.

MS. SALES: — all around the world. From Marcelo Leppe, a Chilean scientist, he wants to ask if your government has defined any position about the future of the mineral resources in Antarctica.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Excellent question, and hello to everybody in Antarctica. It’s the one continent I haven’t been to so I’m very jealous that you’re down there. (Laughter.) We are working on that. We want the same kind of international agreements and enforcement that has preserved the Antarctic as an international treasure and resource for research and scientific experimentation. I think it’s an important question to raise. I thank you for doing so. I hope that we’ll make progress in order to protect the treasure of the Antarctic that belongs to all of us.

MS. SALES: Let’s have one more Twitter question. It’s from @OliverSB022: “Which former Secretary of State does Hillary Clinton most admire and why?”

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, well, if I say any of my recent successors, I will lose friends, which I don’t want to do. (Laughter.) But I will say that one of the people who I especially admire and am identifying with is Secretary Seward, who was President Lincoln’s Secretary of State. And he was from New York. He was a very successful politician from New York when he became Secretary of State. He had run against President Lincoln – (laughter) – so there’s a little bit of parallel here in the whole team-of-rivals concept. And if anyone has seen the Steven Spielberg movie, “Lincoln,” you see Secretary Seward by Lincoln’s side the whole time, advising and supporting him. And in fact, the night that President Lincoln was assassinated, the conspirators broke into his house and tried to kill him. So I don’t want that to happen to anybody – (laughter ) – but I like his willingness to work with President Lincoln, he made a real difference during our civil war, and I admire him greatly.

MS. SALES: We will try to go to Colombia again shortly, we’re just having some technical issues getting that up. So instead let’s swing over to London, to the BBC, where Ros Atkins is waiting. He’s the presenter of the BBC World Service program “World Have Your Say.” Ros, tells us who’s with you there.

MR. ATKINS: Leigh, hi. And, Secretary Clinton, you’re very welcome to the BBC’s new home here in London. I’ve got five guests; they come from Britain, Greece, Germany and Italy. And our first question is from Carolina.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, my name is Carolina. I come from Turin, in Italy. And I wanted to ask you, what do you think is the most powerful diplomatic tool? Do you think that it’s more economic preponderance or legitimacy in international status, or perhaps just access to the media? And would you have given me the same answer four years ago?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a great question. I think all three are different and they are used differently at different times. Certainly one of my responsibilities, when I became Secretary of State, was to restore American leadership in the world. It had been somewhat damaged and we needed to get out there and reach out to people, demonstrate our willingness to be everywhere in the world, working with people who shared our values and our aspirations, solving crises, doing what we could to deal with many of the underlying problems.

It’s also very important, however, to focus on technology and communication because four years ago, that was not part of diplomacy. We have brought a lot of the tools of modern technology – social media – into the State Department. In fact, we’re using them now with Twitter and Facebook. Because there needs to be a two-way conversation. It’s no longer governments just talking at people, whether it’s talking at other leaders or talking at populations. There has to be a dialogue and people are hungry for that, young people in particular. They deserve to have their views heard and acted on as we shape the world for the future. So these are the kinds of considerations that we are constantly balancing, and we need to do a better job, frankly, at those tools you mentioned and others that have to be deployed.

MR. ATKINS: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for answering Carolina’s question. We certainly appreciate the chance to connect BBC viewers and listeners with you today. Our next question comes from Octavia, who’s from Germany.

QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Secretary. My name is Octavia. I’m from Frankfurt, in Germany.

My question is the following: The Obama Administration has stressed its intentions to reset and improve its relationship with Russia. So far, however, it seems like this project has failed, if we think, for example, of recent disputes over Russia’s stance towards the Assad regime in Syria, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the Magnitsky bill. In your opinion, do the United States need Europe as an intermediary in order to achieve a relationship of mutual trust and cooperation with Russia one day?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, another excellent question. I think it’s not either/or. The United States has a very important bilateral relationship with Russia. During the last four years, we got a new nuclear weapons agreement to decrease our stockpiles, we worked together to enhance our efforts in Afghanistan, we had a bilateral commission that didn’t draw headlines but produced results in many areas of mutual interest and concern.

But it’s also important that we work with Europe and that Europe also work to make sure that we try to shape and create a positive relationship with Russia. And I will admit it is challenging right now. Russia ended all of our aid programs where we were working on ending tuberculosis, helping abused children, and so much else.

So it’s going to have to be a mutual effort, Europe and the United States both bilaterally and together, working to try to persuade Russia and particularly Russian leadership that they should become more integrated into and connected with Europe and the West. That’s where the future lies, and we hope that the next few years will be more successful doing that.

MR. ATKINS: (Inaudible) Octavia’s question, and I should mention that before this program began, we all sat around discussing the kind of questions everyone here would like to ask you, and one came up a number of times. Sahara is a British Pakistanian; you were suggesting this one.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, my name is Sahara Sawar. I’m from Dubai, but a British Pakistani. My biggest question to you was: Firstly, are you planning on writing your memoirs already? And if you are following in the footsteps of Madeleine Albright in hers, where she said that her lasting regret was what happened in Rwanda, what would you say was your lasting regret?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, certainly, the loss of American lives in Benghazi was something that I deeply regret and am working hard to make sure we do everything we can to prevent.

When you do these jobs, you have to understand at the very beginning that you can’t control everything. There are terrible situations right now being played out in the Congo, Syria, where we all wish that there were clear paths that we could follow together in the international community to try to resolve. So every day is a mixture of trying to end crises, help people be smart about using the tools of American diplomacy and development to join in with others who are facing similar crises as we are.

But I take away far more positive memories. And yes, I will write a memoir. I don’t know what I’ll say in it yet, but – (laughter) – I’ll have a chance to go into greater detail on this and other matters.

MS. SALES: That’s where we’ll leave London, and we will pick up instead in New Delhi, to NDTV, which is one of India’s top broadcasters, and presenter Barkha Dutt, India’s top female journalist and news anchor, who did one of these events with you, Secretary Clinton, last year.

Barkha, are you there with us?

MS. DUTT: I absolutely am. And Secretary Clinton, good evening from India. It’s an absolute pleasure to be talking with you again. We all remember that wonderful town hall with you in Kolkata on your last trip here to India. I have here with me a bunch of very bright young students all itching to ask you a question.

But before I take my microphone to the students, just by way of comment, Secretary Clinton, I know despite all your denials, all of us are waiting to see you back in political action in 2016 as possibly – (laughter) – the United States’ first woman president. So I’m not saying that as a question. I’m just observing that we think – (laughter) – that might happen. Great to have you on the show, Secretary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good to see you again. Thank you so much.

MS. DUTT: I notice that you didn’t answer that. I’ll try get a little more out of you as this program goes along.

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) That’s why you’re such a good journalist, Barkha.

MS. DUTT: We have a lot of people here – (laughter) – thank you. And I will probe that a little further, but I’m going to hand over the mike to a young boy on my right who has a question for you, Secretary Clinton.

QUESTION: Thank you. Good evening, ma’am. My question concerns the recent Richard Headley case and the sentence that was handed out.

MS. DUTT: David Headley.

QUESTION: Sorry, David Headley case and the sentence that was handed out to him. Given that he’s pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the 26/11 attacks, why is America so hesitant to extradite him to India?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that is not directly under my jurisdiction, but I will say this: There was intensive amount of investigation and interrogation of him by Indian authorities as well as American authorities. A lot of useful information was obtained, and I think that this sentence represents both the punishment that he richly deserves for his participation, but also a recognition of the role that he has played and is expected to continue to play in supporting Indian and American efforts to prevent the kind of horrific attack that occurred in Mumbai.

MS. DUTT: Secretary Clinton, if I can just pick up on that question by this young boy here, I know that when we were doing the town hall in Kolkata, you assured Indians that it was you who had cleared the $10 million bounty on Hafiz Saeed’s head, who, as you know, is a key architect of the Lashkar-e Tayyiba, the terrorist group. You also spoke about al-Zawahiri being in Pakistan according to your information.

I know a lot of people in India want to hear from you tonight. When you look back at your term, are you satisfied with the success that you were able to achieve in bringing the perpetrators of 26/11 to justice? Or are you left with a sense of regret? Are you left with a sense that more could have been done, and somehow you didn’t have enough time or weren’t able to put enough pressure on Pakistan to get it done?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Barkha, I think it is unfinished business that we are not in any way walking away from. I’m leaving office, but I can assure you and the Indian people this remains one of our very highest priorities.

We were successful in capturing and eliminating a number of the most dangerous terrorists who have safe haven inside Pakistan. We have continued to press the Pakistani Government, because of course the terrorists inside Pakistan are first and foremost an ongoing threat to the stability of Pakistan, and they need to deal with it because of that, as well as the implications for India, Afghanistan, the United States, and elsewhere.

I also think that the efforts that both Prime Minister Singh and President Zardari in Pakistan have made to improve communication, business, trade, commerce between India and Pakistan helps to create a more receptive environment for dealing with these serious threats. So of course, I’m not satisfied. As I told you in Kolkata, I believe going after terrorism is an obligation of every country, everywhere, every sensible person. We can have disagreements, but they cannot be in any way using violence or condoning the use of violence.

So we’re not giving up. We are on this job literally every single day. And we’ve improved our information sharing, our law enforcement cooperation with India, and I think that will pay dividends in years to come.

MS. DUTT: We’re testing (inaudible).

MS. SALES: Just lost audio to Barkha there. Let’s see if we can get that back up because it would be great to hear one more question from India if we can.

MS. DUTT: As you must know, we’ve been seeing street protests by young students here related to the horrific gang rape that took place in Delhi recently, and gender rights are really on the top of public consciousness here in India. So, a question from this young boy here.

QUESTION: So my question to you is this: Why is it that women in politics, even in supposedly progressive societies like the United States, have to conform to masculinist and privileged constructions of a statesman in the public sphere? And I must ask you, how difficult is it for a woman politician to access political space that is heavily gendered and that dictates how a woman leader has to behave and conduct herself?

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) That could be a topic for a whole show because it’s a profound question, but let me make two brief points. First, although it is better than it was, having been in and around politics for many years now, there is still a double standard. And it is a double standard that exists from the trivial, like what you wear, to the incredibly serious, like women can’t vote, women can’t run for office, women are not supposed to be in the public sphere. But there is a spectrum of the double standard, and of the both legal and cultural barriers to respect for women, for the full participation of women.

So we do have a ways to go, and even in democracies. And a democracy like yours, unlike mine, that’s had a woman leader and has a woman at the head of the current governing party where women have achieved a lot of political success, there is still a tremendous amount of discrimination and just outright abuse of women, particularly uneducated women, women who can’t stand up for themselves, but clearly, even as we saw in the terrible gang rape, a woman trying to better herself, go to school.

Secondly, this has been the cause of my life and will continue to be as I leave the Secretary of State’s office, because we are hurting ourselves. The young woman who essentially was raped and then died of her terrible injuries, who knows what she could have contributed to India’s future? When you put barriers in the way of half the population, you, in effect, are putting brakes on your own development as a nation.

And there is more than adequate research to prove this, but just in a personal, everyday life example, I’m looking at one of the leading journalists in the world, certainly one of the leading journalists in India, Barkha. She brings to her job her experiences that are then infusing the coverage that she provides. And if you lose that kind of perspective, you are really doing a disservice to your society. So I personally was very encouraged and even proud to see young men and young women out in the streets protesting the way that young women are treated by men who do not understand or have never been taught to accept that it’s not just their sisters and their mothers that they should respect, but all girls and women. So I’m looking for big changes in India in the years to come.

MS. SALES: Thank you, Secretary Clinton, and thank you Barkha and our friends in India. Now, I can already tell you, we’re probably going to have some technical issues with this but we would really like to try to go to Lagos in Nigeria. So let’s give it a go. We have some people there at Channels Television, and news presenter Maupe Ogun is waiting with some young people.

Maupe, can you hear us?

MS. OGUN: Yes, I can, loudly, too. Well, it’s a pleasure to be here, and I’m joined by a group of people who have warned me not to call them young boys or girls. (Laughter.) They’re all young professionals and we’re absolutely delighted to be a part of this conversation. Well, Madam Secretary, I’m going to take my first question, and it’s from in-house. We’re asking that, in 2009, when President Obama did visit Ghana, he said that what Africa needed was strong institutions, not strongmen, something that you’ve also echoed as well. Can you uphold any models in Africa where you can say that they’re making progress in building strong institutions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, and in fact, both politically and economically, I see progress happening in Africa. I don’t want to overstate it because some places are more stable, but let me give you just an example or two. When the President of Malawi recently died, the Vice President – now President Banda – was in line to become President. But there was an immediate reaction by some in the government and some in society who said, we can’t have a woman president, or we don’t agree with her politics. But thankfully, the people of Malawi said, no, we have a constitution, we want the rule of law, we want Joyce Banda to be the President since she is in line to be President. That was a big move, and it was very important, and we obviously supported it.

When you look at the reelection of President Sirleaf in Liberia – tough job, post-conflict society, but peaceful transition despite a hard-fought election. The recent election in Ghana, another example where President Atta had passed away, his Vice President came into office, but he still had to go through an election. So when you look through the countries in Africa, you can see democratic institutions getting stronger and you can see economies getting stronger. Now, you are sitting in one of the most important countries in Africa – I would say in the world. It really matters how well the next election in Nigeria goes, whether it’s free and fair and transparent. It really matters whether the endemic corruption is finally pursued so that everybody in Nigeria feels that they’re not going to be left out.

So I think there is work being done and challenges ahead, but I see positive steps that I want to recognize.

MS. OGUN: Well, we’ll take the next question now. Chude would like to ask the next question.

QUESTION: Right. Hello, Madam Secretary. Congratulations on the spectacular run and we’re looking forward to the next one in 2016. But moving on quickly, when you look at the things that have happened in – I mean, some the crises in Mali or South Sudan or Benghazi, Libya, some people have said that the U.S. has led from behind mostly, and perhaps that’s a mistake in some of these cases. What would you say is the biggest mistake? I (inaudible) even though you’ve had the June 2012 review. What would you say is the biggest mistake that you – that has happened over the past few years, and how will the incoming Secretary of State be able to work on those issues moving forward after you’re gone?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me clarify that I think what President Obama and I have tried to do is to build international coalitions to address serious crises. We believe that, of course, the United States remains the paramount military and economic power in the world, but the future we want to see are more nations taking responsibility and playing a role. And I think that is visionary leadership. I think it is looking over the horizon and recognizing that in Africa, for example, what we hope to see are key countries, anchor countries like Nigeria, dealing with your own internal challenges, but also playing a role externally in order to help keep and create peace.

We just had a quite successful outcome in Somalia. Still a long way to go for Somalia, but thanks to African troops – from Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya – trained and funded by the United States along with others, they were able to push al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida affiliate, out of key cities and territory in Somalia, and then we were able to have an election. So we now have an elected government for the first time in many decades, and we want to support that. Because one thing that President Obama and I believe is that ultimately what happens inside a country is up to the people of that country; they are the ones who have to stand up against oppression, corruption, the kind of poor governance that holds countries back. The United States wants to be your partner. We want to help you economically and in other ways. But we want to create the conditions where more countries can achieve the kind of outcomes that will benefit them.

So it’s a different model than what we had in the prior Administration to the Obama Administration. But we believe strongly in supporting reform in Burma, for example, where I was privileged to go to make a statement and then accompany President Obama back there, to helping Mali fend off these extremists who are trying to disrupt and destabilize the country. But we want other people to step up and learn more about what they are capable of doing themselves.

MS. SALES: Okay, we’re going to leave Nigeria there and we will take another Twitter question, Secretary Clinton. This one was received via Sina Weibo, which is the Chinese sort of micro-blogging network, like Twitter. It’s from somebody named “Terracotta Warriors on Horseback.” (Laughter.) The question is: “Do you not think that competition between the United States and China in Asia will not lead to both sides losing?”

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don’t. I think healthy competition is part of development, human nature. I don’t see any problem with healthy competition as long as it is rules-based. Healthy competition requires that everybody know what the rules are, and then you go out and compete, whether it’s on the sporting field or in the economic or political arena.

My hope – and I have written about this, I’ve spoken about it – is that the United States and China will together defy history. Historically, a rising power and a predominant power have had clashes, whether they were economic or military. Neither of us want to see that happen. We want to see a rising power like China join the international community as a responsible stakeholder, continue its extraordinary efforts to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, create a strong, vital middle class, have respectful relations with its neighbors in all of the ways on land and sea that that is required.

And the United States wants to deepen and broaden our engagement with China. I helped to put together the strategic and economic dialogues, which we then used to discuss everything, from border security to food safety to cyber matters. And we want to continue that, because we believe strongly that the world is big enough for a lot of nations to be important players, and that is certainly true of China, and we want to see the kind of cooperative, comprehensive, positive relationship that I worked for.

MS. SALES: We’re still desperately hoping we can get up the Bogota satellite, but in the meantime we’ll take one quick question again from London once more. So Ros, are you standing by there?

MR. ATKINS: I am. Hello, Leigh. Secretary Clinton, our next question comes from Elisa, who’s German. It’s as much a plea as a question, I think.

QUESTION: Yes, very much. Dear Madam Secretary, I’m Elisa from Germany, and just before the show, we’ve been talking about how we would really like you to run for president. And we were wondering when you’re going to make a decision on this really important question, and we believe that would be a really important symbol for women essentially all over the world. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am not thinking about anything like that right now. I am looking forward to finishing up my tenure as Secretary of State and then catching up on about 20 years of sleep deprivation. (Laughter.)

In fact, you say you’re from Germany. I spoke this morning to your chancellor, Chancellor Merkel, and someone I have admired and watched over a number of years. I do want to see more women compete for the highest positions in their countries, and I will do what I can, whether or not it is up to me to make a decision on my own future. I right now am not inclined to do that, but I will do everything I can to make sure that women compete at the highest levels not only in the United States, but around the world, because I take seriously your question, and I think it’s not only for young women; it’s for young men, it’s for our future.

We have to break down these attitudes that kind of pigeonhole and stereotype people. Like what does a leader look like; well, a leader looks like somebody who’s a man. And in so many ways around the world today, sitting here with a journalist from Australia, which has a woman prime minister, women are subjecting themselves to the political process, which is never easy anywhere, and I want to see more of that. You have to have a thick skin. I will tell you that. But it’s really important that women are out there competing at the highest levels of government and business not only to demonstrate the capacity and quality of women’s leadership, but also to take advantage of the talents of every person we have.

MS. SALES: All right. Let’s see if we can get lucky now with Bogota, and journalist Andrea Bernal hopefully is able to speak to us this time. Andrea, are you there?

MS. BERNAL: Leigh, how are you? I’m here. Thanks again for giving us the entrance. Good morning, Mrs. Secretary Hillary Clinton.


MS. BERNAL: Thanks for being here with us at NTN24, the international news network for the Hispanic audience. We had the chance to have a conversation back three years ago in Quito, Ecuador. Thanks for being again with us here.

I would want to start with a question. Barack Obama’s government and you as a Secretary of head – State have led an international policy acknowledging the fact that the United States is not the only powerful nation in the world, recognizing the relevant roles of other countries in the world’s order, and considering dialogue as the right path. However, Latin America does not seem still to be a high priority for the United States. If it were in your decision, in your hands, how could the United States build a closer, more productive relationship with Latin America?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I want to say very clearly that Latin America has been a very high priority. I have spent a lot of time, as you know when I saw you in Ecuador, traveling throughout Latin America. We want to build on a couple of very important initiatives that the United States is partnering on.

One is energy. We are working hard to help bring greater access to affordable energy to all of Latin America. In fact, we’re working very closely with Colombia to do that, to come down from Mexico all the way down through Chile as well as in the Caribbean. We are working on climate change together, because a lot of the Latin American countries are quite advanced in using alternative forms of energy. We’re working on security now, particularly in Central America. The United States, Mexico, and Colombia are working to help our neighbors in Central America. We’re working on expanding education. I want to see many more students from Latin America coming to the United States and more students from the United States coming to Latin America. We’re working on technology transfers. So there’s a long list of what we’re working on.

But I must say, in part because Latin America is doing so well, your countries are resolving old problems and making progress democratically and economically. A lot of the conflict that was present decades ago has been resolved, and so it’s not a relationship that’s in the headlines all the time, because it’s so positive. We spend time working together. We don’t have to worry about threats to democracy, to security that have unfortunately found their way around the world. So I think we have a very close working relationship. I want it to be even closer. I’m working with President Obama for some second term initiatives that I think will be more headline comprehensive initiatives so that everybody knows how much we value our relationships with our closest neighbors.

MS. SALES: We’ve unfortunately lost —

MS. BERNAL: (Inaudible) a business management student at the University of Tolima in Colombia.

MS. SALES: Andrea, can you repeat that, please? Here we go.

QUESTION: Hi, Ms. Clinton. Well, it’s a pleasure to have you here. And since we have you here, I would like to ask you about democracy. Okay. Latin America, it’s currently experiencing an economic breakthrough that has helped most country in the region reduce poverty. However, it is not clear if this economic progress has actually strengthened our democracies.

So now with that in mind, the question would be: How do you evaluate the diverse democracies in our region, and how do you see our future?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think I see a lot of progress, but still work that needs to be done. If you look at Colombia, you are not the country you were 15 years ago. You have consolidated democracy. You – I know President Santos is attempting to try to negotiate a peace agreement so that people will turn away from violence and participate politically. In Mexico, we see great economic growth but also a very vibrant political system in the last election. In Brazil, similarly, we see the same kind of trends. There are others that you can point to.

But there are some outliers. Unfortunately, we still have a dictatorship in Cuba, which we hope will change soon. We have democratic challenges in other countries in Latin America. But overall, I think that progress has been made and you have to stay the course. It doesn’t happen quickly, but there is great reason to be quite optimistic about the institutionalization of democracy throughout Latin America.

MS. BERNAL: And we have a last question, Mrs. Secretary, thanks for your time, from Ana Maria Rodriguez. She’s a journalist and a student here in our studio. Ana Maria.

QUESTION: Ms. Clinton, good morning. I am Ana Maria Rodriguez. I’m a journalism student. I want to know, today, President Barack Obama will talk about immigration in Vegas. This is a very important (inaudible). And I want to know exactly, all of those immigrants at U.S., what can they expect from this speech from President Barack Obama?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they can expect that the President will put specifics behind his commitment to provide a path to citizenship for the immigrants who are here undocumented in the United States. And I was very pleased that even before the President’s speech, we had a bipartisan group of senators come out with a plan that would accomplish the same goal. So the President is very committed. We have leaders in our Congress who are very committed. And we’re going to do everything we can finally to achieve immigration reform.

MS. SALES: And that is where we’re going to leave Colombia. We have one final request today, Secretary, and we’re going to go to Australia via Skype to hear from two very serious, experienced foreign policy experts – people I know you rely on – your old mates, Hamish and Andy. (Laughter.) For those of you in the audience who don’t know, they’re Australian comedians. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, hello. Welcome.

SECRETARY CLINTON: These guys are hilarious.

QUESTION: Hamish and Andy here. It was an honor to interview you a couple of years ago. Here we are at Government House.

QUESTION: Yeah, this is it.

QUESTION: The Royal Palace here in Australia. It’s wonderful. We’re out in the back, so it’s not as fancy as it is from out in the front. But we just wanted to say, first of all, congratulations on a wonderful term as Secretary of State, and it was amazing having you out here. Certainly a career highlight for us to get to meet you. So many Australians took a lot away from your trip, Madam Secretary. We were just wondering, what was the best thing you took away from Australia?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, clearly my interview with you two.

MS. SALES: Oh, excuse me. (Laughter.) Excuse me. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) a lot of people will accuse us of having scripted this. (Laughter.) But thank you. Obviously, someone is saying that to you in your ear.

QUESTION: We were hoping it might have been the gravy chips that we gave you, but that was part of the interview, so that’s fine. We must stress, do not eat them under any circumstances. They’re well past their use-by date.

QUESTION: They’re still poisonous.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, obviously a lot of the good questions that we had were taken earlier tonight by some of the wonderful participants around the world, but luckily we still have a few. I have a friend, and I know obviously as you’re stepping back from the Secretary of State position, I have a friend who is about 31. He’s a cute-looking brunette.

QUESTION: Just a friend.

QUESTION: He’s very good, he’s been to university. He did two degrees; he graduated from one, so that’s quite good. (Laughter.) What qualifications – let’s just say John Kerry, something comes up, he can’t do the job, he can’t be the next Secretary of State. What qualifications could I tell my friend he should put on his CV if he wants to become the Secretary of State of the United States?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think his educational background is important – the fact that he finished one degree out of two, that gives him a 50 percent record. (Laughter.) Better than most baseball players or other professional athletes. I think his good looks, that’s important. Yeah, because you’re going to be given a lot of TV time. I know you guys are radio guys, but it’s good that he doesn’t have just a face for radio. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Nothing (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: I guess, thirdly, broad travel, willingness to meet other people, listen to them, as you —

QUESTION: He loves petting zoos.

SECRETARY CLINTON: — have a lot of experience from interviewing. I would drop the gravy chips. I think the gravy chips would be misunderstood in diplomatic settings, especially since I sent them to a lab to be analyzed and you don’t want to know what’s in them. (Laughter.) So – but I think he’s got a good start here.

QUESTION: Unfortunately, gravy chips are the center of our policy, so I guess we’re (inaudible). (Laughter.) But you did say politics is about compromise, so I’m sure we could find a way there. Probably the big question on everyone’s lips is when you step back from being Secretary of State —

QUESTION: Well, she won’t be having to be called Madam Secretary.

QUESTION: You’re no longer Madam Secretary.



QUESTION: I think on behalf of all the global citizens joining in the town hall meeting tonight, which of these three names would you like to adopt? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We spent three or four months on this.

QUESTION: The Incredible Hillary, the Artist Formerly Known as the Secretary – (laughter), or just Hill Clinton – but it does sound a bit like your husband.

QUESTION: Like Bill, yeah.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah, I think we’re going to have to work on that list. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: None. Okay.

QUESTION: None. (Laughter.) We will need another four or five months then to come back with another three at least. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We’re going to sack it. We’re here at Government House so we can sack some of our advisors right now. (Laughter.) Junk.

QUESTION: We understand that you’ve been trying to cross to every single continent today at the town hall meeting. You haven’t got down to Antarctica. There’s one email – we’ve got a recent telegram that’s just come in here.

QUESTION: Yes, because we’re closest to Antarctica, our signals are a little bit better from them. Just a little telegram from Antarctica. I think it’s very important, obviously, that we recognize the frozen continent.


QUESTION: It says, “Dear Madam Secretary – stop. Alien spaceship reactivated – stop. Help – stop. Send” – and then that’s it.

QUESTION: That’s it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So what should we write back to our stricken comrades in Antarctica? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s quite distressing. I think, as your first diplomatic mission, you may have to go to Antarctica and find evidence about what happened. The person sending that to you clearly is counting on you. (Laughter.) We will be happy to provide satellite support. I don’t know how fast you can get there, and you’re going to need different clothes than the ones you have on. But I think you need to follow through on this. You guys need to go to Antarctica and broadcast from Antarctica what you find.

QUESTION: That’s nice. Can we have a —

QUESTION: That’s so late here, it’s 2:30, and these are such cheap suits. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We’ll have a swell, and then we’ll get right on. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We’re going to have the first (inaudible) for having that comment. (Laughter.) Thank you. Amazing advice. This is why – we always say this. This is why you’re the Secretary of State, and we are not. (Laughter.)

MS. SALES: That’s exactly why.


QUESTION: Thanks. Congratulations.

MS. SALES: I hope everyone around the world gets them.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Leigh, I meant radio interview. Yes, great.

MS. SALES: Well, thank you. Thank you very much, Secretary Clinton. (Laughter.) I think Andy is unfortunately out of luck because while we have been talking, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has confirmed John Kerry as Secretary of State.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good. Excellent. Well, that’s good news. (Applause.)

MS. SALES: Have they hit you up for John Kerry’s number yet?

SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) No, but they will.

MS. SALES: They will.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Don’t you think?

MS. SALES: They will. They absolutely will. To wrap it up, let me just ask you one question. As you prepare to hand over to John Kerry, what would you like to see American diplomacy focused on?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think we have a choice. We have to deal with the immediate crises that come across our desk every day. We have to work on the longer-term challenges like security in North Africa. And we have to deal with what I call the trend lines, not the headlines. So continuing to use technology, women and girls, climate change, alternative energy – the kind of big projects that will have a tremendous impact on what kind of world we have. And there will be two alternative visions. If we don’t deal with climate change, food security, energy access that is sustainable, we could have increasing conflict over resources, for example. That’s not in the headlines today, but in ten years, it could be.

So when I think about the sort of buckets of responsibilities I have, very often what first comes across my desk is an attack here, a terrorist threat there, the immediate crises. And then I also am constantly asking for what are we – what do we do to get ahead of the crises, and then thirdly, what do we do that is not in those two buckets, but instead helps us shape the kind of world that these young people deserve to have.

MS. SALES: Secretary Clinton, thank you so much for making time in your schedule all throughout your term as Secretary of State to speak directly to people all around the world. And all the very best for the next leg of your journey. Thank you so much. Please thank Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Leigh, thank you so much. You were masterful.

MS. SALES: Oh, thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Just masterful. Have you ever done anything like that, with satellites?

MS. SALES: I have done a few things.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That was really good. Thank you all.

MS. SALES: Thank you. And wherever you are in the world, thank you for your company. Goodbye.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all. (Applause.)

Full Text September 26, 2011: President Barack Obama Answers Questions at Linkedin Townhall Transcript



President Obama at a Town Hall sponsored by LinkedIn
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 9/26/11

President Obama’s Town Hall with LinkedIn: “We are in this thing Together”

Source: WH, 9-26-11
Today, President Obama was at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California for a discussion on putting America back to work with members of LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network with more than 120 million users worldwide. LinkedIn members from Gainesville, Florida to Phoenix, Arizona submitted their questions on the economy and jobs for the President to answer during the live Town Hall.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner kicked off the Town Hall, noting the role of passing the American Jobs Act in putting the country back to work:

There’s one number you may be less familiar with, and that’s 3.2 million, the number of available jobs in this country — 3.2 million.  We have everything we need to begin to put this country back to work — the raw materials, the basic building blocks and, perhaps most importantly, the will of a nation.  What we need is the way.  With the American Jobs Act, our President is leading the way.

Then he turned it over to President Obama to say a few words before diving into questions:

As you mentioned, I put forward a proposal, the American Jobs Act, that would put thousands of teachers back into the classrooms who have been laid off due to downturns in state and local budgets; that would make sure that we are rebuilding our infrastructure — taking extraordinary numbers of construction workers who have been laid off when the housing bubbles went bust and putting them to work rebuilding our roads and our airports and our schools, and laying broadband lines — all the things that help us make a success; and also make sure that we’re providing small businesses the kinds of tax incentives that will allow them to hire and allow them to succeed.

During the discussion, the President addressed topics ranging from Social Security and Medicare to strengthening our education system and ways to jumpstart the economy. He also addressed the need to invest in our future and pay for those investments in part by making sure everyone, including the wealthiest among us, is contributing a fair share:

If we don’t prepare our people with the skills that they need to compete, we’re going to have problems.  If we don’t make sure that we continue to have the best infrastructure in the world, we’re going to have problems.  If we’re not continuing to invest in basic research, we’re going to have challenges.  If we don’t get our fiscal house in order in a way that is fair and equitable so that everybody feels like they have responsibilities to not only themselves and their family but also the country that’s given them so much opportunity, we’re going to have problems.

And so I am extraordinarily confident about America’s long-term future.  But we are going to have to make some decisions about how we move forward.  And what’s striking to me is, when we’re out of Washington and I’m just talking to ordinary folks, I don’t care whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, people are just looking for common sense.  The majority of people agree with the prescriptions I just offered.  The majority of people by a wide margin think we should be rebuilding our infrastructure.  The majority of folks by a wide margin think that we should be investing in education.  The majority of people by a wide margin think we should be investing in science and technology.  And the majority of people think by a wide margin that we should be maintaining programs like Social Security and Medicare to provide a basic safety net.

The majority of people by a significant margin think that the way we should close our deficit is a balance of cutting out those things that we don’t need, but also making sure that we’ve got a tax code that’s fair and everybody is paying their fair share.

President Obama concluded by saying, “that’s why your voices are going to be so important.” The President called on those who had joined the conversation to keep making their voices heard:

I want to hear from you directly, but I also want your voices heard in the halls of Congress.  I need everybody here to be speaking out on behalf of the things that you care about, and the values that made this country great, and to say to folks who you’ve elected — say to them, we expect you to act responsibly, and not act in terms of short-term political interest.  Act in terms of what’s going to be good for all of us over the long term.

Watch the full video from the Town Hall or use the  links below to jump to the questions you’re interested in:

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (577MB) | mp3 (55MB)


Remarks by the President in Town Hall with Linkedin


President Barack Obama answers a question during a Town Hall sponsored by LinkedIn

President Barack Obama answers an audience member’s question during a Town Hall meeting sponsored by LinkedIn at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, Sept. 26, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)


Computer History Museum
Mountain View, California

10:58 A.M. PDT

MR. WEINER: Good morning, everyone.


MR. WEINER: Oh, very nice. (Laughter.) Thank you so much for joining us here today for a very special town hall discussion on a subject we all know to be truly important, and that’s putting America back to work. In just a moment, I’m going to be introducing a very special guest, but before I do, just a few brief introductory remarks.

I think today’s venue, the Computer History Museum, here in Silicon Valley, is a very fitting one for our discussion. There’s a number of folks who’ve come to Silicon Valley not just for a job, or even a career path, but because they’re interested in changing the world. And that’s possible here because of the amazing technologies and companies that have been born in this area.

You think back to the semiconductor revolution, the age of computing, and of course, the Internet — and most recently, with regard to the Internet, the rise of social networks connecting hundreds of millions of people around the world in milliseconds. Perhaps more importantly are the behavioral changes taking place as a result. The way in which we go online, represent our identities; stay connected to friends, family and colleagues; and of course, share information, knowledge, ideas and opinions is fundamentally transforming the world — the way we live, the way we play, and the way we work.

And it’s that last dynamic, changing the way we work, which is where LinkedIn is focused. We connect hundreds of millions of people ultimately around the world by connecting talent with opportunity — today, 120 million members on a global basis, and that’s growing north of two members per second, the fastest rate of growth in our history.

When we talk about connecting talent with opportunity we’re not just referring to enabling people to find a job or their dream jobs. We’re also talking about enabling people to be great at the jobs that they’re already in. This is what we do, day in and day out. But our dream is even bigger than that. There are 153 million people in the American workforce; there are 3.3 billion people in the global workforce. Ultimately, our vision is to create economic opportunity for every one of them.

What’s somewhat unusual about this vision is it won’t simply be manifested by the employees of our company but by our members as well, because every individual that joins the LinkedIn network is in a position to, in turn, create economic opportunity for others. We’re very fortunate today to be joined by several of our members and we’re going to be hearing from them shortly.

Lastly, on the subject of economic opportunity, there seems to be one number on everybody’s minds these days — 9.1 percent, the unemployment rate in this country. Over 14 million Americans are unemployed, and that number grows to north of 25 million when you factor in those that are underemployed and marginally attached to the workforce.

There’s one number you may be less familiar with, and that’s 3.2 million, the number of available jobs in this country — 3.2 million. We have everything we need to begin to put this country back to work — the raw materials, the basic building blocks and, perhaps most importantly, the will of a nation. What we need is the way. With the American Jobs Act, our President is leading the way.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor and privilege to introduce the President of the United States. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Everybody, please have a seat. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. It’s a nice crowd. (Laughter.) And I have to say, Jeff, you warmed them up very well.

MR. WEINER: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much for your hospitality. And let me begin by just saying how excited I am to be here. Every time I come to Silicon Valley, every time that I come to this region, I am excited about America’s future. And no part of the country better represents, I think, the essence of America than here, because what you see is entrepreneurship and dynamism, a forward-orientation, an optimism, a belief that if you got a good idea and you’re willing to put in the sweat and blood and tears to make it happen, that not only can you succeed for yourself but you can grow the economy for everybody. And it’s that driving spirit that has made America an economic superpower.

But obviously we’re in a period of time right now where the economy is struggling, and a lot of folks all across the country are struggling. And so part of what I hope to do is to have a conversation with all of you about, how can we continue to spark the innovation that is going to ensure our economic success in the 21st century? How can we prepare our workforce to be able to plug in to this new economy? How do we recognize that, in this competitive environment, there are all kinds of opportunities that LinkedIn presents for interconnectedness and people being able to work together and spread ideas around the world and create value, but at the same time, understanding that there are some perils as well?

If our kids aren’t properly educated, if we don’t have an infrastructure that is world-class, if we are not investing in basic research in science — if we’re not doing all the things that made us great in the past, then we’re going to fall behind.

And we’ve got a short-term challenge, which is how do we put people back to work right now. And so, as you mentioned, I put forward a proposal, the American Jobs Act, that would put thousands of teachers back into the classrooms who have been laid off due to downturns in state and local budgets; that would make sure that we are rebuilding our infrastructure — taking extraordinary numbers of construction workers who have been laid off when the housing bubbles went bust and putting them to work rebuilding our roads and our airports and our schools, and laying broadband lines — all the things that help us make a success; and also make sure that we’re providing small businesses the kinds of tax incentives that will allow them to hire and allow them to succeed.

And I have said to Congress, I understand that there’s an election 14 months away and it’s tempting to say that we’re not going to do anything until November of 2012, but the American people cannot afford to wait. The American people need help right now. And all the proposals we’ve put forward in the American Jobs Act will not only help us now, but will also help us in the future — will lay the foundation for our long-term success.

Last point I’ll make — and then I want to get to questions — it’s all paid for. And it’s paid for in part by building on some very tough cuts in our budget to eliminate waste and things we don’t need — that we’ve already made a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. We’ve proposed an additional half a trillion dollars over the next 10 years of spending cuts and adjustments on programs that we want to keep intact but haven’t been reformed in too long.

But what I’ve also said is in order to pay for it and bring down the deficit at the same time, we’re going to have to reform our tax code in a way that’s fair and makes sure that everybody is doing their fair share. I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again: Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t be paying a lower tax rate than Warren Buffett. Somebody who’s making $50,000 a year as a teacher shouldn’t be paying a higher effective tax rate than somebody like myself or Jeff, who’ve been incredibly blessed — I don’t know what you make Jeff, but I’m just guessing (laughter) — who’ve been blessed by the incredible opportunities of this country.

And I say that because whenever America has moved forward, it’s because we’ve moved forward together. And we’re going to have to make sure that we are laying the foundation for the success of future generations, and that means that each of us are doing our part to make sure that we’re investing in our future.

So, with that, thank you so much for the terrific venue. I look forward to a bunch of great questions, both live and through whatever other linkages that we’ve got here. (Laughter.)

MR. WEINER: You’ve got it. So we’re going to be going back and forth between folks in the audience members and some previously generated questions from the LinkedIn group. So we’re going to start.

Our first question is from LinkedIn member Chuck Painter. And, Chuck we’re going to get you a mic —

Q Good morning, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.

Q I’m from Austin, Texas. I’ve been in sales in the plastics industry for 20 years. I lost my job in 2009 and fortunate enough to have found another position, become reemployed. My question is what can we do as American citizens to unite ourselves and help the economy?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, are you a native of Austin? Because that’s one of my favorite cities in the country.

Q Actually, I’m a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, but just relocated to Austin, and I love it there.

THE PRESIDENT: Austin is great. Charlotte is not bad. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you, thank you, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: That’s the reason why I’m having my convention in Charlotte, because I love North Carolina as well. But how long did it take you to find a new job after you had gotten laid off?

Q It took nine months.

THE PRESIDENT: It took nine months?

Q Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: And that’s one of the challenges that a lot of folks are seeing out there. You’ve got skilled people with experience in an industry. That industry changes, and you were fortunate enough to be able to move. Some folks, because of the decline in the housing industry, are having trouble with mobility in finding new jobs and relocating in pursuit of opportunity.

Q Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: The most important thing that we can do right now is to help jumpstart the economy, which has stalled, by putting people back to work. And so, not surprisingly, I think the most important thing we can do right now is pass this jobs bill.

Think about it. Independent economists have estimated that, if we pass the entire package, the American Jobs Act, we would increase GDP by close to 2 percent; we would increase employment by 1.9 million persons. And that is the kind of big, significant move in the economy that can have ripple effects and help a recovery take off.

There’s been a lot of dispute about the kind of impact that we had right after the financial crisis hit. But the fact is, the vast majority of economists who looked at it have said that the Recovery Act, by starting infrastructure projects around the country, by making sure that states had help on their budgets so they didn’t have to lay off teachers and firefighters and others, by providing tax cuts to small businesses — and by the way, we’ve cut taxes about 16 times since I’ve been in office for small businesses to give them more capital to work with and more incentives to hire — all those things made a big difference.

The American Jobs Act is specifically tailored to putting more of those folks back to work. It’s not going to solve all our problems. We’ve still got a housing situation in which too many homes are underwater. And one of the things that we’ve proposed as part of the American Jobs Act is, is that we’re going to help reduce the barriers to refinancing so that folks can get record-low rates. That will put more money into people’s pockets. It will provide tax cuts to not only small businesses, but almost every middle-class family. That means they’ve got more money in their pockets, and that means that they’re going to be able to spend it on products and services, which provide additional incentives for business to hire folks like you.

So it’s the right step to take right now. Long term, we’re going to have to pull together around making sure our education system is the best in the world, making sure our infrastructure is the best in the world, continuing to invest in science and technology. We’ve got to stabilize our finances, and we’ve got to continue to drive down health care costs, which are a drag on our whole economy. And we’ve got to continue to promote trade, but make sure that that trade is fair and that intellectual property protection, for example, is available when we’re doing business in other countries, like China.

So there are a lot of long-term agendas that we’ve got to pursue. Right now, though, the most important thing I can do for you, even if you already have a job, is to make sure that your neighbors and your friends also have jobs, because those are ultimately the customers for your products.

Q Yes, sir. Yes, thank you Mr. President.

MR. WEINER: All right. Thank you, Chuck.

We’d now like to take a question from the audience. So anyone interested?

THE PRESIDENT: This young lady right here.

MR. WEINER: Okay. Could we get a mic over there, please? Thank you.

Q Hi. I have a question actually from my mother, who is going to be 65 next March. And she lives in Ohio, which has a very high unemployment rate. She has a GED, and she’s always worked in food service. She’s currently unemployed, just got approved for Section 8 housing, gets Social Security and food stamps. And she wants to know, when can she get a job, and what’s going to happen to Social Security and Medicare?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, where does you mom live in Ohio?

Q Mentor.

THE PRESIDENT: Mentor — what part of Ohio is that?

Q It’s east side of Cleveland.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Well, tell mom hi. (Laughter.) You get points for being such a good daughter and using your question to tell me what’s on her mind.

Q Oh, you have no idea. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: My mother-in-law lives at home, and so I — in the White House — so I’ve got some idea. (Laughter.)

First of all, let me talk about Social Security and Medicare, because this has obviously been an issue that has been discussed a lot in the press lately as we think about our long-term finances. You can tell your mom that Medicare and Social Security will be there for her — guaranteed. There are no proposals out there that would affect folks that are about to get Social Security and Medicare, and she’ll be qualifying — she already is starting to qualify for Medicare, and she’ll be qualifying for Social Security fairly soon.

Social Security and Medicare, together, have lifted entire generations of seniors out of poverty. Our most important social safety net, and they have to be preserved. Now, both of them have some long-term challenges that we’ve got to deal with, but they’re different challenges.

Social Security is actually the easier one; it’s just a pure, simple math problem, and that is that right now the population is getting older, so more people are going on Social Security; you’ve got fewer workers supporting more retirees. And so if we don’t do anything, Social Security won’t go broke, but in a few years what will happen is that more money will be going out than coming in. And over time, people who are on Social Security would only be getting about 75 cents on every dollar that they thought they’d be getting.

And so the Social Security system is not the big driver of our deficits, but if we don’t want — if we want to make sure that Social Security is there for future generations then we’ve got to make some modest adjustments. And when I say modest, I mean, for example, right now Social Security contributions are capped at a little over $100,000 of earnings, and that means the vast majority of people pay Social Security taxes on everything they earn. But if you’re earning a million dollars, only one-tenth of your income is taxed for Social Security. We could make that modification; that would solve a big chunk of the problem.

Medicare is a bigger issue because not only is the population getting older and more people are using it, but health care costs have been going up way too fast. And that’s why part of my health care reform bill two years ago was let’s start changing how our health care system works to make it more efficient. For example, if your mom goes in for a test, she shouldn’t have to then, if she goes to another specialist, take the same test all over again and have Medicare pay for two tests. That first test should be emailed to the doctor who’s the specialist. But right now that’s not happening. So what we’ve said is let’s incentivize providers to do a more efficient job and, over time, we can start reducing those costs.

I’ve made some suggestions about how we can reform Medicare, but what I’m not going to do is what, frankly, the House Republicans proposed, which was to voucherize the Medicare system, which would mean your mom might pay an extra $6,000 every year for her Medicare.

Q Which she doesn’t have.

THE PRESIDENT: I’m assuming she doesn’t have it.

Q No.

THE PRESIDENT: So we are going to be pushing back against that kind of proposal. And that raises the point I made earlier. If people like myself aren’t paying a little more in taxes, then the only way you balance the budget is on the backs of folks like your mom, who end up paying a lot more in Medicare and they can’t afford it, whereas I can afford to pay a little more in taxes.

So that’s on Medicare and Social Security. In terms of her finding a job, the most important thing we can do right now is to pass the American Jobs Act, get people back to work. Because, think about it, if she’s been in the food service industry, that industry is dependent on people spending money on food, whether it’s at a restaurant, or a cafeteria, or buying more groceries. And if a construction worker and a teacher or a veteran have a job because of the programs that we proposed in the American Jobs Act, they’re going to be spending more money in food services, and that means that those businesses are going to have to hire more, and your mom is going to be more likely to be hired. All right?

Q Yes. And one of the other issues, though, is just a matter that there’s a big age gap between her and the other folks who are willing to come in and work for less money. They’ve got less experience.

THE PRESIDENT: That is a challenge. It is tough being unemployed if you’re in your 50s or early 60s, before retirement. That’s the toughest period of time to lose your job. Obviously, it’s never fun to lose your job, and it’s always hard in this kind of really deep recession, but it’s scariest for folks who are nearing retirement and may also be worrying about whether they’ve got enough saved up to ever retire.

So that’s part of the reason why one of the things that we’re also proposing, separate and apart from the jobs bill, is we’ve got to do a better job of retraining workers so that they, in their second or third or fourth careers, are able to go back to a community college, maybe take a short six-month course or a one-year course that trains them on the kinds of skills that are going to be needed for jobs that are actually hiring, or businesses that are actually hiring right now.

We’ve done some great work working with community colleges to try to make sure that businesses help design the training programs so that somebody who enrolls — like your mom, if she goes back to school, she knows that after six months she will be trained for the particular job that this business is looking for.
All right? Thanks so much.

Q Great.

THE PRESIDENT: Tell her I said hi.

Q Thank you. Okay.

MR. WEINER: We’re going to go to the group, the LinkedIn group. We had thousands of questions submitted, and here’s one of them from LinkedIn member Marla Hughes. Marla is from Gainesville, Florida. She is the owner of Meticulously Clean, home and apartment cleaning service, and her question is: As a small business owner, regulation and high taxes are my worst enemies when it comes to growing my business. What are you going to do to lessen the onerous regulations and taxation on small businesses?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s hard to say exactly what regulations or taxes she may be referring to, because obviously it differs in different businesses. But as I said, we’ve actually cut taxes for small business 16 times since I’ve been in office. So taxes for small businesses are lower now than they were when I came into office.

Small businesses are able to get tax breaks for hiring; they’re able to get tax breaks for investment in capital investments; they are able to get tax breaks for hiring veterans. They’re able to get tax breaks for a whole host of areas, including, by the way, a proposal we put forward that says there should be no capital gains tax on a start-up, to encourage more small businesses to go out there and create a business.

In terms of regulations, most of the regulations that we have been focused on are ones that affect large businesses, like utilities, for example. In terms of how they deal with safety issues, environmental issues, we have been putting forward some tough regulations with respect to the financial sector, because we can’t have a repeat of what happened in 2007.

And the fact of the matter is, is that if what happened on Wall Street ends up having a spillover effect to all of Main Street, it is our responsibility to make sure that we have a dynamic economy, we have a dynamic financial sector, but we don’t have a mortgage brokerage operation that ends up providing people loans that can never be repaid and end up having ramifications throughout the system.

So you’re going to hear from, I think, Republicans over the next year and a half that somehow if we just eliminated pollution controls, or if we just eliminated basic consumer protections, that somehow that, in and of itself, would be a spur to growth. I disagree with that. What I do agree with is that there’s some regulations that have outlived their usefulness. And so what I’ve done is I’ve said to all the agencies in the federal government, number one, you have to always take cost as well as benefits into account when you’re proposing new regulations. Number two, don’t just be satisfied with applying that analysis to new regulations, look back at the old regulations to see if there are some that we can start weeding out.

And we initiated the most aggressive — what we call look-back provisions — when it comes to regulations, where we say to every agency, go through all the regulations that you have on your books that flow through your agencies and see if some of them are still necessary. And it turns out that a lot of them are no longer necessary. Well, let’s get rid of them if they’ve outlived their usefulness.

I think that there were some regulations that had to do with the transportation sector, for example, that didn’t take into account that everybody operates on GPS now. Well, you’ve got to adjust and adapt to how the economy is changing and how technology has changed. And we’ve already identified about $10 billion worth of savings just in the initial review, and we anticipate that that’s only going to be a fraction of some of the paperwork and bureaucracy and red tape that we’re going to be able to eliminate.

But I will never apologize for making sure that we have regulations in place to ensure that your water is clean, that your food is safe to eat — that the peanut butter you feed your kids is not going to be contaminated; making sure that if you take out a credit card there’s some clarity about what it exactly is going to do and you’re not seeing a whole bunch of hidden fees and hidden charges that you didn’t anticipate. That’s always been part of what makes the marketplace work, is if you have smart regulations in place, that means the people who are providing good value, good products, good services, those businesses are going to succeed. We don’t want to be rewarding folks who are gaming the system or cheating consumers.

And I think that’s how most Americans feel about regulations as well. They don’t want more than is necessary, but they know that there’s some things that we’ve got to do to protect ourselves and our environment and our children.

MR. WEINER: Thank you for your question, Marla.

Now we’re going to take a question from LinkedIn member Esther Abeyja (phonetic). Esther is an IT analyst from Chicago, Illinois —

THE PRESIDENT: There you go. Chicago is all right, too. (Laughter.)

MR. WEINER: Esther, what is your question for the President?

Q Good morning, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.

Q As Jeff said, I’m from Chicago, recently unemployed, and my fear is that the longer I’m unemployed the harder it is going to be for me to get employed. It seems that nowadays employers are hiring people who are currently employed because they’re in touch with their skill set. What programs do you think should be in place for individuals such as myself to keep in touch with our skills, be in demand, marketable and eventually get hired?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, you obviously are thinking ahead about how to keep your skills up. And the most important thing you can do is to make sure that, whether it’s through classes or online training, or what have you, that you’re keeping your skill sets sharp.

We, as part of the American Jobs Act, are actually supporting legislation in Congress that says employers can’t discriminate against somebody just because they’re currently unemployed — because that doesn’t seem fair. That doesn’t make any sense. But the most important thing probably we can do for you is just make sure that the unemployment rate generally goes down, the labor market gets a little tighter so that employers start looking beyond just the people who are currently employed to folks who have terrific skills and just have been out of the market for a while.

So passing the American Jobs Act is going to be important. There’s legislation in there that says you can’t be discriminated against just because you don’t have a job. The one other thing that we can do is, during this interim, as you’re looking for a job, making it easier for you to be able to go back to school if you think there’s some skill sets that you need — making it economical for you to do it.

One of the things that we did during the last two and a half years — it used to be the student loan program was run through the banks. And even though the federal government guaranteed all these loans, so the banks weren’t taking any risks, they were taking about $60 billion out of the entire program, which meant that there was less money to actually go directly to students. We ended that. We cut out the middleman and we said let’s use that money to expand the availability of Pell Grants, to increase the amount that Pell Grants — each Pell Grant a student could get. And through that process, you’ve got millions of people all across the country who are able to actually go back to school without incurring the huge debt loads that they had in the past — although, obviously, the cost of a college education is still really high.

But if we can do more to make it easier for you to keep your skills up even when you’re not already hired, hopefully that will enhance your marketability to employers in the future. All right? Just looking at you I can tell you’re going to do great.

Q Thank you.


MR. WEINER: Thanks, Esther.

Our next question is from LinkedIn member Wayne Kulich (phonetic). Wayne is from Phoenix, Arizona. He spent 25 years flying aircraft for the U.S. Navy and is now program director for American Express. Wayne.

Q Good morning, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, sir.

Q I’m from Phoenix, Arizona, where I’m a program director, as Jeff had said. I retired in 2007. When I retired, networking was essentially how I got all my jobs after retirement. How do you envision the government’s role in integrating networking tools that aid veterans that are leaving the service and getting jobs?

THE PRESIDENT: It’s a great question. And first of all, let me thank you for your service to this country.

Q My honor.

THE PRESIDENT: We are very grateful to you for that. (Applause.) Thank you. But you were extraordinarily skilled, and even then it sounds like you had to rely on informal networks rather than a formal set of processes for veterans in order for you to find a job that used all your skills. We have not done as good of a job in the past in helping veterans transition out of the armed services as we should have.

I’ll give you an example. I actually had lunch with a group of veterans from the Iraq and Afghan wars up in Minnesota. And a young man I was talking to had just gone back to school. He was getting his nursing degree. He had worked in emergency medicine in Iraq, multiple deployments; had probably dealt with the most incredible kinds of medical challenges under the most extreme circumstances; had received years of training to do this. But when he went back to nursing school, he had to start as if he had never been involved in medicine at all. And so he had to take all the same classes and take the same debt burdens from taking those classes as if I had just walked in and could barely put a Band-Aid on myself. But he had to go through the same processes.
Well, that’s an example of a failure on the part of both DOD and the VA — the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration — to think proactively, how can we help him make the transition?

So what we’ve started to say is let’s have a sort of a reverse boot camp. As folks are thinking about retiring, as folks are thinking about being discharged, let’s work with them while they’re still in the military to say is there a way to credential them so that they can go directly into the job and work with state and local governments and employers, so that if they’ve got a skill set that we know is applicable to the private sector, let’s give them a certification, let’s give them a credential that helps them do that right away.

We’ve also then started to put together a network of business, and I actually asked for a pledge from the private sector, and we’ve got a commitment that 100,000 veterans will be hired over the next several years. And that creates a network — and maybe they’ll end up using Linkedin, I don’t know. But what we want to do is to make sure that, whether it’s the certification process, whether it’s the job search process, whether it’s resume preparation, whether it’s using electronic networking, that we’re using the huge capacity of the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense, and all the federal agencies, to link up together more effectively.

Because not only is the federal government obviously a big employer itself — and we’ve significantly increased the hiring of veterans within the federal government, including, by the way, disabled veterans and wounded warriors — but the federal government is also a big customer of a lot of businesses. And there’s nothing wrong with a big customer saying to a business, you know what, we’re not going to tell you who to hire, but here’s a list of extremely skilled veterans who are prepared to do a great job and have shown incredible leadership skills. Now, you think of these — you’ve got 23, 24, 25-year-olds who are leading men into battle, who are handling multimillion-dollar pieces of equipment, and they do so flawlessly. Those leadership skills, those technical skills should be able to translate directly into jobs.

The last thing I’ll say is, obviously, the American Jobs Act also would be helpful because it provides additional tax incentives for companies to hire our veterans.

Q Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. WEINER: Thank you, Wayne. And thank you again for your service.

Let’s turn to the audience now. A lot of hands going up. Mr. President, want to pick someone?

THE PRESIDENT: Well — (laughter) — you kind of put me on the spot here. That guy — the guy in the glasses right back in the — right in the back there. Why not?

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I don’t have a job, but that’s because I’ve been lucky enough to live in Silicon Valley for a while and work for a small startup down the street here that did quite well. So I’m unemployed by choice. My question is would you please raise my taxes? (Laughter and applause.) I would like very much to have the country to continue to invest in things like Pell Grants and infrastructure and job training programs that made it possible for me to get to where I am. And it kills me to see Congress not supporting the expiration of the tax cuts that have been benefiting so many of us for so long. I think that needs to change, and I hope that you will stay strong in doing that.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate it. What was the startup, by the way? You want to give me a little hint?

Q It’s a search engine. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Worked out pretty well, huh?

Q Yes. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, let me just talk about taxes for a second. I’ve made this point before, but I want to reiterate this. So often the tax debate gets framed as “class warfare.” And, look, as I said at the outset, America’s success is premised on individuals, entrepreneurs having a great idea, going out there and pursuing their dreams and making a whole lot of money in the process. And that’s great. That’s part of what makes America so successful.

But as you just pointed out, we’re successful because somebody invested in our education, somebody built schools, somebody created incredible universities. I went to school on scholarship. Michelle — her dad was what’s called a stationary engineer at the water reclamation district; never owned his own home, but he always paid his bills; had multiple sclerosis, struggled to get to work every day, but never missed a day on the job; never went to college, but he was able to send his daughter to Princeton and on to Harvard Law School. We benefited from somebody, somewhere making an investment in us. And I don’t care who you are, that’s true of all of us.

Look at this room. I mean, look at the diversity of the people here. A lot of us are — parents came from someplace else, or grandparents came from someplace else. They benefited from a public school system, or an incredible university network, or the infrastructure that allows us to move products and services around the globe, or the scientific research that — Silicon Valley is built on research that no individual company would have made on their own because you couldn’t necessarily capture the value of the nascent Internet.

So the question becomes: If we’re going to make those investments, how do we pay for it? Now, the income of folks at the top has gone up exponentially over the last couple of decades, whereas the incomes and wages of the middle class have flat-lined over the last 15 years. So this young lady’s mom, who’s been working in food services, she doesn’t have a lot of room to spare. Those of us who have been fortunate, we do. And we’re not talking about going to punitive rates that would somehow inhibit you from wanting to be part of a startup or work hard to be successful. We’re talking about going back to the rates that existed as recently as in the ‘90s, when, as I recall, Silicon Valley was doing pretty good, and well-to-do people were going pretty well. And it turns out, in fact, during that period, the rich got richer. The middle class expanded. People rose out of poverty, because everybody was doing well.

So this is not an issue of do we somehow try to punish those who have done well. That’s the last thing we want to do. It’s a question of how can we afford to continue to make the investments that are going to propel American forward.

If we don’t improve our education system, for example, we will all fall behind. We will all fall behind. That’s just — that’s a fact. And the truth is, is that on every indicator — from college graduation rates to math and science scores — we are slipping behind other developed countries. And that’s going to have an impact in terms of, if you’re a startup, are you going to be able to find enough engineers? It’s going to have an impact in terms of, is the infrastructure here good enough that you can move products to market? It’s going to have an impact on your ability to recruit top talent from around the world. And so we all have an investment in improving our education system.

Now, money is not going to solve the entire problem. That’s why we’ve initiated reforms like Race to the Top that says we’re going to have higher standards for everybody. We’re going to not just have kids taught to the test, but we’re going to make sure that we empower teachers, but we’re also going to hold them accountable, and improve how we train our principals and our teachers. So we’re willing to make a whole bunch of reforms, but, at some point, money makes a difference. If we don’t have enough science teachers in the classroom, we’re going to have problems. Somebody has got to pay for it.

And, right now, we’ve got the lowest tax rates we’ve had since the 1950s. And some of the Republican proposals would take it back — as a percentage of GDP — back to where we were back in the 1920s. You can’t have a modern industrial economy like that.

So I appreciate your sentiment. I appreciate the fact that you recognize we’re in this thing together. We’re not on our own. And those of us who’ve been successful, we’ve always got to remember that.

Q I know a lot of people in that same situation, and every one of them has said that they would support an increase in their taxes — so, please. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re going to get to work. Thank you.

MR. WEINER: Thank you. Thank you for your question.

Next question was submitted to the Linkedin group — it actually comes from a Linkedin employee named Theresa Sullivan. It’s a two-part question.

First, do you think our public education system and our unemployment rates are related? And second, what, if any, overhaul in education is necessary to get Americans ready for the jobs of tomorrow, rather than the jobs of 20 years ago?

THE PRESIDENT: There is no doubt that there is a connection, long term, between our economic success, our productivity, and our education system. That’s indisputable. When we were at our peak in terms of growth, back in the ’60s and the ’70s, in large part it was because we were doing a better job of training our workforce than anybody else in the world.

Now the rest of the world has caught up — or is catching up. They’re hungry. And as I said before, we are slipping behind a lot of developed countries. So our proportion of college graduates has not gone up, while everybody else’s has gone up. Our proportion of high school graduates has not gone up, while everybody else’s has gone up. And if you’ve got a billion Chinese and Indians and Eastern Europeans, all who are entering into a labor force and are becoming more skilled, and we are just sitting on the status quo, we’re going to have problems.

Now, what can we do? This is a decade-long project; it’s not a one-year project. And we’ve been pushing since we came into office to look at the evidence, to base reforms on what actually works. The single-most important ingredient in improving our schools is making sure we’ve got great teachers in front of the — in front of every classroom.

And so what we’ve said is let’s make sure that we’ve hired enough teachers; let’s train them effectively; lets pay them a good wage; let’s make sure that we’re putting a special emphasis on recruiting more math and science teachers — STEM education is an area where we’ve fallen significantly behind. Let’s make sure they’re accountable, but lets also give them flexibility in the classroom so that they don’t have to do a cookie-cutter, teach-to-the-test approach that squashes their creativity and prevents them from engaging students. But at the end of the year, let’s make sure that they’re doing a good job. And if there are teachers out there who are not doing a good job, let’s work to retrain them. And if they’re not able to be retrained, then we should probably find them a different line of work. We’ve got to have top-flight principals and leadership inside the schools. That makes a big difference.

We’ve also got to focus on — there are some schools that are just dropout factories where less than half of the kids end up graduating — a lot of them, the students are black and brown, but that’s also the demographic that’s growing the fastest in this country. So if we don’t fix those schools we’re going to have problems. So we’ve said to every state, you know what, focus on the lowest-performing schools and tell us what your game plan is to improve those schools’ performance.

And it may be that we’ve got to also, in some cases, rethink how we get students interested in learning. IBM is engaged in a really interesting experience in New York where they’re essentially setting up schools — similar to the concept I was talking about with community colleges — where they’re saying to kids pretty early on — I think as early as 8th grade — we’re going to design a program — IBM worked with the New York public schools to design a program — and this is not for the kids who are in the top 1 percent, this is for ordinary public school kids. You follow this program, you work hard, IBM will hire you at the end of this process. And it suddenly gives kids an incentive. They say, oh, the reason I’m studying math and science is there’s a practical outcome here. I will have a job. And there are practical applications to what I’m doing in the classroom.

And that’s true at high-end jobs, but it’s also true — we want to do more to train skilled workers even if they don’t have a four-year degree. It may be that the more the concept of apprenticeship and the concept of a rigorous vocational approach is incorporated in the high schools so the kids can actually see a direct connection to what they’re learning and a potential career, they’re less likely to drop out and we’re going to see more success.

So one last point I’ll make about this is George Bush actually was sincere I think in trying to improve the education system across the country through something called No Child Left Behind, that said we’re going to impose standards, there’s going to be accountability; if schools don’t meet those standards we’re going to label them as failures and they’re going to have to make significant changes. The intent was good. It wasn’t designed as well as it could have been. In some cases, states actually lowered their own standards to make sure that they weren’t labeled as failures. There wasn’t enough assistance given to these schools to meet the ambitious goals that had been set.

So what we’ve said is, look, we’ll provide states some waivers to get out from under No Child Left Behind if you can provide us with a plan to make sure that children are going to be college and career ready. And we’ll give you more flexibility but we’re still going to hold you accountable and we will provide you the tools and best practices that allow you to succeed.

So, last point I’ll make on this — there is also a cultural component to this, though. We, as a country, have to recognize that all of us are going to have to up our game and we, as parents, have to instill in our kids a sense of educational excellence. We’ve got to turn off the TV set. I know it’s dangerous to say in Silicon Valley, but put away the video games sometimes, and all the electronics, unless it’s school-related. And we’ve just got to get our kids more motivated and internalizing that sense of the importance of learning.

And if we don’t do that, we’re going to continue to slip behind, even if some of these school reform approaches that we’re taking are successful.

MR. WEINGER: Thank you, Theresa.

Our next question comes from LinkedIn member Robert Holly (phonetic) who is joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina. After a promising career in financial services, Robert was, unfortunately, recently laid off. Robert, what is your question?

Q Good morning, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.

Q As Jeff mentioned, I have a 22-year, very successful career in IT management, but I find myself displaced. And not only that, I look at the statistics of unemployment — 16.7 percent for African Americans. My question would be — and not just for the African Americans, but also for other groups that are also suffering — what would you be your statement of encouragement for those who are looking for work today?

THE PRESIDENT: What I would say is just, given your track record, given your history, seeing you stand here before this group, you’re going to be successful. You’ve got a leg up on a lot of folks. You’ve got skills, you’ve got experience, you’ve got a track record of success. Right now your challenge is not you, it’s the economy as a whole. And by the way, this is not just an American challenge; this is happening worldwide.

I hope everybody understands our biggest problem right now, part of the reason that this year, where at the beginning of the year, economists had estimated, and financial analysts had estimated that the economy was going to be growing at about 3.5 percent, and that has not happened, in part has to do with what happened in the Middle East and the Arab Spring, which disrupted energy prices and caused consumers to have to pull back because gas was getting so high; what’s happening in Europe, which they have not fully healed from the crisis back in 2007 and never fully dealt with all the challenges their banking system faced. It’s now being compounded by what’s happening in Greece. So they’re going through a financial crisis that is scaring the world. And they’re trying to take responsible actions, but those actions haven’t been quite as quick as they need to be.

So the point is, is that economies all around the world are not growing as fast as they need to. And since the world is really interconnected, that affects us as well. The encouraging thing for you is that when the economy gets back on track in the ways that it should, you are going to be prepared to be successful. The challenge is making sure that you hang in between now and then.

That’s why things like unemployment insurance, for example, are important. And part of our jobs act is to maintain unemployment insurance. It’s not a end all, be all, but it helps folks meet their basic challenges. And by the way, it also means that they’re spending that money and they’re re-circulating that into the economy so it’s good for businesses generally.

Some of the emergency measures that we’ve been taking and we’ve proposed to take help to bridge the gap to where the economy is more fully healed. And historically, after financial crises, recessions are deeper and they last longer than after the usual business cycle recessions.

So I guess the main message I have for you is the problem is not you; the problem is the economy as a whole. You are going to be well equipped to succeed and compete in this global economy once it’s growing again. My job is to work with everybody I can — from the business community to Congress, to not-for-profits, you name it — to see if we can speed up this process of healing and this process of recovery.

And in the meantime, we will make sure that things like unemployment insurance that are there to help people during tough times like this are going to continue to be available. And if there are — since you’re in IT, if there are areas where you need to be sharpening your skills, as the young lady here mentioned, we are going to make sure that the resource is available for you to be able to go back to school and do that.

Thank you.

MR. WEINER: Thank you. That was our last question. We’re going to begin to wrap it up, and before I turn it over to you for some concluding remarks, I just wanted to say thank you, and let you know how much we appreciate the work that you’re doing. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say I can’t think of anything more important than creating economic opportunity when it comes to profoundly and sustain-ably improving the quality of an individual’s life, the lives of their family members, the lives of the people that they in turn can create jobs for.

And in hard-hit American cities and developing countries around the world, these folks are creating role models for the next generation of entrepreneurs and professionals that didn’t know it was possible.

So on behalf of myself, on behalf of our visionary founder, Reid Hoffman, without whom none of this would have been possible, on behalf of our employees, of course our members, on behalf of our country, thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, let me just say these have been terrific questions and I so appreciate all of you taking the time to do this. I appreciate LinkedIn helping to host this. And for those of you who are viewing, not in this circle but around the country, maybe around the world, I appreciate the chance to share these ideas with you.

Look, we’re going through a very tough time. But the one thing I want to remind everybody is that we’ve gone through tougher times before. And the trajectory, the trend of not just this country but also the world economy is one that’s more open, one that’s more linked, one that offers greater opportunity, but also one that has some hazards. If we don’t prepare our people with the skills that they need to compete, we’re going to have problems. If we don’t make sure that we continue to have the best infrastructure in the world, we’re going to have problems. If we’re not continuing to invest in basic research, we’re going to have challenges. If we don’t get our fiscal house in order in a way that is fair and equitable so that everybody feels like they have responsibilities to not only themselves and their family but also the country that’s given them so much opportunity, we’re going to have problems.

And so I am extraordinarily confident about America’s long-term future. But we are going to have to make some decisions about how we move forward. And what’s striking to me is, when we’re out of Washington and I’m just talking to ordinary folks, I don’t care whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, people are just looking for common sense. The majority of people agree with the prescriptions I just offered. The majority of people by a wide margin think we should be rebuilding our infrastructure. The majority of folks by a wide margin think that we should be investing in education. The majority of people by a wide margin think we should be investing in science and technology. And the majority of people think by a wide margin that we should be maintaining programs like Social Security and Medicare to provide a basic safety net.

The majority of people by a significant margin think that the way we should close our deficit is a balance of cutting out those things that we don’t need, but also making sure that we’ve got a tax code that’s fair and everybody is paying their fair share.

So the problem is not outside of Washington. The problem is, is that things have gotten so ideologically driven and everybody is so focused on the next election and putting party ahead of country that we’re not able to solve our problems. And that’s got to change. And that’s why your voices are going to be so important.

The reason I do these kinds of events is I want you to hear from me directly. I want to hear from you directly, but I also want your voices heard in the halls of Congress. I need everybody here to be speaking out on behalf of the things that you care about, and the values that made this country great, and to say to folks who you’ve elected — say to them, we expect you to act responsibly, and not act in terms of short-term political interest. Act in terms of what’s going to be good for all of us over the long term.

If that spirit, which all of you represent, starts asserting itself all across the country, then I’m absolutely confident the 21st century is going to be the American century just like the 20th century way.

So thank you very much everybody. God bless you.

MR. WEINER: Thank you, everybody.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)

11:58 A.M. PDT

Political Highlights: President Obama Answers Questions @ Facebook Townhall


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


The President at a town hall meeting at Facebook HQ

White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 4/20/11


  • Obama and Facebook in Warm Embrace: He introduced himself as “the guy who got Mark Zuckerberg to wear a jacket and tie.” “I’m very proud of that,” President Obama quipped as he walked onto a stage at Facebook headquarters on Wednesday, and sat next to Mr. Zuckerberg. Both men then proceeded to take off their jackets. About an hour later, Mr. Obama, whose visit here forced Silicon Valley types to button down a bit, left with a far more casual item of clothing that has become de rigueur in some tech circles: a hoodie given to him by Mr. Zuckerberg. Of course, the Facebook logo was printed on it.
    In the interim, Mr. Obama conducted a town-hall-style meeting at Facebook, and on Facebook, in front of a largely friendly audience. He took questions from company employees in a cavernous room turned into auditorium and from Facebook users over the social networking service, with Mr. Zuckerberg acting as moderator.
    Mr. Obama delivered sharp attacks against Paul Ryan, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin who drafted a budget proposal heavy on spending cuts and tax cuts, and talked about the economy, health care, education and immigration reform. Throughout the largely staged event, Mr. Obama and Mr. Zuckerberg appeared almost chummy with each other…. – NYT, 4-20-11
  • Obama likes Facebook. Facebook likes Obama: President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg have updated their Facebook status: They are in a relationship.
    “Sorry, I’m kind of nervous,” the Facebook founder confessed to the crowd at the start of Wednesday’s town hall meeting his company arranged with the White House. “We have the president of the United States here!”….
    Obama’s appearance in Palo Alto lent the presidential seal to the company, a sign that, after its sensational rise, it is being embraced by Washington as a major corporate player. In return, Facebook’s imprimatur helps Obama restore his luster among young voters as he begins his reelection campaign.
    A Harvard University poll released last month found that 18- to 29-year-olds say they are more likely to vote for Obama than a Republican by 38 percent to 25 percent. That’s well short of 2008 levels, when he won the 18-29 demographic by 34 percentage points.
    The Facebook-inspired movie “The Social Network” was playing on Air Force One as Obama flew to California Wednesday. “As you all know, dating back to the president’s first campaign for the presidency there’s a great focus on social media,” White House press secretary Jay Carney reminded reporters aboard.
    One asked if the appearance at Facebook headquarters could “be construed as an effort to also promote Facebook.” “Absolutely not,” Carney said, in an answer that was itself something of a Facebook promotion. “I mean, Facebook has half a billion users. . . More people than you can possibly imagine.”
    Of those 500 million users, just under 45,000 were “attending” Obama’s town hall at the scheduled start time. Participation may have been suppressed by the requirement that you had to click the button saying you “like” the White House.
    “Did you know you have to ‘like’ the White House page to attend?” one user posted on the town hall page. “I have a big problem with liking anything from this White House never mind the fact that they would then have a record that we ‘liked’ them.”
    But at Facebook’s headquarters, there was no hesitation about liking Obama. “Since he’s one of the most popular people on Facebook with 19 million ‘likes,’ we feel like he’s coming home,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. “So, welcome home, Mr. President.” Sanberg added, playfully: “Even though it’s Facebook, no poking the president.”…. – WaPo, 4-20-11
  • Obama, Before Facebook Crowd, Presses G.O.P. on Budget: President Obama on Wednesday opened a Western front in his war against House Republicans’ budget, telling an appreciative audience at Facebook headquarters here that the plan is radical, short-sighted and would reduce annual federal deficits at the expense of the nation’s poor and powerless. In a town-hall-style forum with the 26-year-old Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, Mr. Obama seized on a question about the House-passed budget to mount a long, withering indictment. The questioner, an employee of the social networking company, noted that some news media accounts suggested that the sponsor of the Republican budget, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, is “bold and brave” for proposing the deep spending cuts.
    “The Republican budget that was put forward I would say is fairly radical,” Mr. Obama said. “And I wouldn’t call it particularly courageous.” He added: “I do think Mr. Ryan is sincere. I think he’s a patriot. I think he wants to solve a real problem, which is our long-term deficit. But I think that what he and the other Republicans in the House of Representatives also want to do is change our social compact in a pretty fundamental way.”
    “Nothing is easier,” Mr. Obama said, “than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor, or people who are powerless and don’t have lobbyists or don’t have clout.”… – NYT, 4-20-11
  • U.S. Finances Are ‘Unsustainable,’ Obama Says at Facebook Town Hall Event: President Barack Obama, on a cross- country trip to sell his deficit reduction plan, said yesterday that the nation’s finances are “unsustainable.” At a campaign-style town hall meeting at the headquarters of Facebook Inc., Obama described the House Republicans’ budget plan as “fairly radical” and said members of both political parties in Washington need to work together to start reducing the federal deficit in a “balanced way.” “We have an unsustainable situation,” he said. “We face a critical time where we are going to have to make some decisions — how do we bring down the debt in the short term, and how do we bring down the debt over the long term?”…. – Bloomberg, 4-20-11
  • President Obama talks tech, budget, deficit at Facebook: President Barack Obama expanded on his fiscal message Wednesday at a virtual town hall meeting at Facebook’s headquarters here. In what felt like a campaign stop, the one-hour event, which was streamed live on the White House’s Facebook page, Obama discussed the budget deficit, fiscal responsibility, investments in technology, health-care reform, the housing crisis and the power of social media.
    “If we don’t have a serious (plan) to attack the deficit, we will have an even bigger problem” of investors pulling back when the economy starts to perk up, Obama said. “We could slip back into a recession.”… – USA Today, 4-20-11
  • Obama pokes fun at Facebook’s Zuckerberg: President Obama began his “town hall” event at Facebook’s offices on Wednesday with an anecdote….. That kicked off a very cordial hour-long conversation and seemed to loosen up the sometimes chilly technology prodigy. Zuckerberg stumbled during his opening remarks. “Sorry, I’m kind of nervous,” he said after a flub in his introduction. For Obama, Wednesday was a chance to connect with both Silicon Valley influencers and young people in one poke. Throughout his answers, Obama related his typical talking points — federal deficit, education, healthcare and immigration — to those two groups…. – CNN, 4-20-11
  • Obama rips GOP budget plan at Facebook event: Hoping to rekindle excitement among younger voters, President Obama spoke at a town hall-style meeting hosted by Facebook on Wednesday and asked for help in beating back Republican budget proposals that he denigrated as “radical.”
    Obama sat on a stage next to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who served as moderator and funneled largely friendly questions to a president who makes extensive use of social media in reaching out to voters. Obama took credit for Zuckerberg’s attempt to clean up for the occasion. The 26-year-old billionaire swapped his signature hoodie for a jacket and tie. “My name is Barack Obama and I’m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie,” he said.
    Taking questions submitted through Facebook and from an audience of company employees, Obama advised listeners not to get “frustrated’’ by protracted debates in Washington. He conceded that some of his 2008 voters might be asking why progress on many issues hasn’t come sooner. But he urged them not to give up on his agenda. “I know that some of you who might have been involved in the campaign or been energized back in 2008, you’re frustrated that, gosh, it didn’t get done fast enough and it seems like everybody’s bickering all the time,” he said. “Just remember that we’ve been through tougher times before.”… – LAT, 4-20-11
  • Obama seeks friends for deficit-reduction plan at Facebook: President Obama on Wednesday ramped up his criticism of the Republican Party’s budget proposal, calling it “radical” and “not courageous” in a town hall meeting at the headquarters of Facebook. To a generally friendly audience at the social networking Web site’s sprawling corporate campus, the president outlined how his plan to reduce the deficit through spending cuts and raising taxes on the rich would be done without sacrificing what he described as key social safety nets.
    Obama shared the stage with Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who asked questions of his own before allowing a Facebook employee to pose one. Zuckerberg then read questions submitted by users of Facebook who watched the event through a live online stream. The president’s at-times combative answers contrasted with the jocular mood of the event. “Even though it’s Facebook, no poking the president,” chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg joked, referring to a Facebook feature. When Obama said wealthy taxpayers such as Zuckerberg and himself should pay their share, the youthful Facebook CEO quipped, “I’m cool with that,” to an outburst of laughter and applause from the audience of high-tech executives, Democratic politicians and Facebook employees… – LAT, 4-20-11
  • Facebook members find Obama event ‘not great’: Despite the promise that President Obama’s first Facebook town hall would open a new level of two-way communication with his constituents, social-networking technology didn’t add much to the conversation.
    Obama answered just eight questions during Wednesday’s hour-long session at Facebook’s secondary headquarters building in Palo Alto, an event that was streamed on the Facebook Live video page.
    But some of those questions came from Facebook employees who won a company lottery for the chance to sit in the live audience. That left hundreds of questions posted on the event’s Facebook wall unanswered…. – San Francisco Chronicle, 4-20-11


President Obama with a sweatshirt given to him by Mark Zuckerberg,
the founder of Facebook, at a townhall meeting in Palo Alto, Calif., on

Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times President Obama with a sweatshirt given to him by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, at a townhall meeting in Palo Alto, Calif., on Wednesday.

  • Obama at Facebook. Townhall transcript REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT A FACEBOOK TOWN HALL Facebook Headquarters Palo Alto, California 1:58 P.M. PDT: THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you so much, Facebook, for hosting this, first of all. (Applause.) My name is Barack Obama, and I’m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie. (Applause.) Thank you. (Laughter.) I’m very proud of that. (Laughter.)
    MR. ZUCKERBERG: Second time.
    THE PRESIDENT: I know. (Laughter.) I will say — and I hate to tell stories on Mark, but the first time we had dinner together and he wore this jacket and tie, I’d say halfway through dinner he’s starting to sweat a little bit. It’s really uncomfortable for him. So I helped him out of his jacket. (Laughter.) And in fact, if you’d like, Mark, we can take our jackets off. (Applause.)
    MR. ZUCKERBERG: That’s good.
    THE PRESIDENT: Woo, that’s better, isn’t it?
    MR. ZUCKERBERG: Yes, but you’re a lot better at this stuff than me. (Laughter.)
    THE PRESIDENT: So, first of all, I just want to say thank you to all of you for taking the time — not only people who are here in the audience, but also folks all over the country and some around the world who are watching this town hall.
    The main reason we wanted to do this is, first of all, because more and more people, especially young people, are getting their information through different media. And obviously what all of you have built together is helping to revolutionize how people get information, how they process information, how they’re connecting with each other.
    And historically, part of what makes for a healthy democracy, what is good politics, is when you’ve got citizens who are informed, who are engaged. And what Facebook allows us to do is make sure this isn’t just a one-way conversation; makes sure that not only am I speaking to you but you’re also speaking back and we’re in a conversation, were in a dialogue. So I love doing town hall meetings. This format and this company I think is an ideal means for us to be able to carry on this conversation.
    And as Mark mentioned, obviously we’re having a very serious debate right now about the future direction of our country. We are living through as tumultuous a time as certainly I’ve seen in my lifetime. Admittedly, my lifetime is a lot longer than most of yours so far. This is a pretty young crowd. But we’re seeing, domestically, a whole series of challenges, starting with the worst recession we’ve had since the Great Depression. We’re just now coming out of it. We’ve got all sorts of disruptions, technological disruptions that are taking place, most of which hold the promise of making our lives a lot better, but also mean that there are a lot of adjustments that people are having to make throughout the economy.
    We still have a very high unemployment rate that is starting to come down, but there are an awful lot of people who are being challenged out there, day in, day out, worrying about whether they can pay the bills, whether they can keep their home.
    Internationally, we’re seeing the sorts of changes that we haven’t seen in a generation. We’ve got certain challenges like energy and climate change that no one nation can solve but we’re going to have to solve together. And we don’t yet have all the institutions that are in place in order to do that.
    But what makes me incredibly optimistic — and that’s why being here at Facebook is so exciting for me — is that at every juncture in our history, whenever we face challenges like this, whether it’s been the shift from a agricultural age to a industrial age, or whether it was facing the challenges of the Cold War, or trying to figure out how we make this country more fair and more inclusive, at every juncture we’ve always been able to adapt. We’ve been able to change and we’ve been able to get ahead of the curve. And that’s true today as well, and you guys are at the cutting edge of what’s happening.
    And so I’m going to be interested in talking to all of you about why this debate that we’re having around debt and our deficits is so important, because it’s going to help determine whether we can invest in our future and basic research and innovation and infrastructure that will allow us to compete in the 21st century and still preserve a safety net for the most vulnerable among us.
    But I’m also going to want to share ideas with you about how we can make our democracy work better and our politics work better — because I don’t think there’s a problem out there that we can’t solve if we decide that we’re going to solve it together.
    And for that, I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to you. And instead of just giving a lot of long speeches I want to make sure that we’ve got time for as many questions as possible.
    So, Mark, I understand you got the first one…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 4-20-11
  • Notable quotes from President Obama’s Facebook visit: “My name is Barack Obama, and I’m the first guy to get Mark Zuckerberg to wear a jacket and tie.”
    “What makes me incredible optimistic is that at every juncture in our history, we’ve always been able to adapt.”
    “The housing market is the biggest drag on the economy.”
    “If we don’t have a serious (plan) to attack the deficit, we will have an even bigger problem” of investors pulling back when the economy starts to perk up.
    “Immigration in this country has always been complicated. We are a nation of immigrants and laws. And sometimes the laws are unfair.”
    “If we bring high-skilled immigants to come here, why wouldn’t we want them to stay? They are job generators. We don’t want them starting an Intel in China or France. We want them starting them here.”
    “Our education system has to do a better job of math and science education for women, Hispanics and blacks.”
    “I want people to think of the next big Internet breakthrough as the next moon launch.”
    “We have to lift our game up for the Internet, math and science.”…. – USA Today, 4-20-11
  • The President’s Facebook Town Hall: Budgets, Values, Engagement: And historically, part of what makes for a healthy democracy, what is good politics, is when you’ve got citizens who are informed, who are engaged. And what Facebook allows us to do is make sure this isn’t just a one-way conversation; makes sure that not only am I speaking to you but you’re also speaking back and we’re in a conversation, we’re in a dialogue.
    Q Hi, Mr. President. Thank you so much for joining us today. I am originally from Detroit, Michigan, and now I’m out here working at Facebook. So my question for you kind of builds on some of the things we were just talking about. At the beginning of your term you spent a lot of time talking about job creation and the road to economic recovery, and one of the ways to do that would be substantially increasing federal investments in various areas as a way to fill the void left from consumer spending. Since then, we’ve seen the conversation shift from that of job creation and economic recovery to that of spending cuts and the deficit. So I would love to know your thoughts on how you’re going to balance these two going forward, or even potentially shift the conversation back.
    THE PRESIDENT: Well, you’re exactly right that when I first came into office our number-one job was preventing us from getting into another Great Depression. And that was what the Recovery Act was all about. So we helped states make sure that they could minimize some of the layoffs and some of the difficult budget choices that they faced. We made sure that we had infrastructure spending all around the country. And, in fact, we made the biggest investment in infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System.
    We made the largest investment in history in clean energy research, and it’s really paying off. For example, when I came into office, we had about 2 percent of the advanced battery manufacturing here in America. And as everybody here knows, what’s really holding us back from my goal of a million electric vehicles on the road is that battery technology is still tough. It’s clunky; it’s heavy; it’s expensive. And if we can make significant improvements in battery technology then I think the opportunities for electric vehicles, alternative vehicles that are much cheaper — our opportunities are limitless.
    So those were all investments that we made in the first two years. Now, the economy is now growing. It’s not growing quite as fast as we would like, because after a financial crisis, typically there’s a bigger drag on the economy for a longer period of time. But it is growing. And over the last year and a half we’ve seen almost 2 million jobs created in the private sector.
    Because this recession came at a time when we were already deeply in debt and it made the debt worse, if we don’t have a serious plan to tackle the debt and the deficit, that could actually end up being a bigger drag on the economy than anything else. If the markets start feeling that we’re not serious about the problem, and if you start seeing investors feel uncertain about the future, then they could pull back right at the time when the economy is taking off.
    So you’re right that it’s tricky. Folks around here are used to the hills in San Francisco, and you’ve driven — I don’t know if they still have clutch cars around here. Anybody every driven a clutch car? (Laughter.) I mean, you got to sort of tap and — well, that’s sort of what we faced in terms of the economy, right? We got to hit the accelerator, but we’ve got to also make sure that we don’t gun it; we can’t let the car slip backwards. And so what we’re trying to do then is put together a debt and deficit plan that doesn’t slash spending so drastically that we can’t still make investments in education, that we can’t still make investments in infrastructure — all of which would help the economy grow.
    In December, we passed a targeted tax cut for business investment, as well as the payroll tax that has a stimulus effect that helps to grow the economy. We can do those things and still grow the economy while having a plan in place to reduce the deficit, first by 2015, and then over the long term. So I think we can do both, but it does require the balanced approach that I was talking about.
    If all we’re doing is spending cuts and we’re not discriminating about it, if we’re using a machete instead of a scalpel and we’re cutting out things that create jobs, then the deficit could actually get worse because we could slip back into another recession.
    And obviously for folks in Detroit, where you’re from, they know that our investments can make a difference because we essentially saved the U.S. auto industry. We now have three auto companies here in America that are all turning a profit. G.M. just announced that it’s hiring back all of the workers that it was planning to lay off. And we did so, by the way, at the same time as we were able to increase fuel efficiency standards on cars for the first time in 30 years. So it can be done, but it takes a balanced approach. (Applause.)… – WH, 4-20-11

Phones Out at Facebook Town Hall

Members of the audience take pictures as President Barack Obama participates in a town hall meeting moderated by CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. April 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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