The following is a Pool Report on Pres. Barack Obama's visit to the Bay Area by reporter Josh Richman of Bay Area News Group.
Air Force One landed at 5:50 p.m. Pacific Time at Moffett Field in Mountain View. POTUS was greeted on the tarmac by Dr. S. Pete Worden, director of the NASA Ames Research Center; Lewis Braxton III, NASA Ames’ deputy director; Col. Steve Butow, USAF Air National Guard, commander of the 129th Rescue Wing; Mountain View Mayor John Inks; and Sunnyvale Mayor Tony Spitaleri.
The motorcade left at 6:01 p.m., heading north on Highway 101 to the University Avenue exit in Palo Alto, then winding into town to the home of Flipboard CEO Mike McCue and his wife Marci. Tickets for this reception to benefit the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee started at $2,500 per head and ranged up to $12,000 per person or $15,000 per couple. A long line of well-heeled guests wended through the garden and into the side door of the photo for photos with the president.
The McCue and the president strode out the home’s back door and to a podium on the back patio at 6:38 p.m.
McCue said Obama “absolutely understands what’s happening in Silicon Valley” and has “a holistic approach to the economy,” understanding that the economy and society are intertwined.
“It is good to be back in California, especially when the weather is this good,” the president said, thanking the McCues and acknowledging the presence of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., chairman of the DSCC.
Obama said he visited a school earlier Thursday in Mooresville, N.C., where the superintendent decided a few years ago to get rid of textbooks and replace them with a laptop for every student, starting in third grade. That and having teachers rethink the whole curriculum has made it a low-spending but high-performing district now.
“You could see these kids just excited about learning and wanting to keep learning well after the school day was done,” he said.
And so the new initiative is that in five years, all schools will have high-speed connections to all students can take advantage of these technologies. “One of the best things about this is, we don’t need a vote through Congress,” he said, drawing cheers from the crowd.
The economy is coming back, jobs are being created every month, the auto industry has recovered and financial markets are stabilizing, and so America is poised to make the 21st century its own, Obama said.
Whether it’s education, infrastructure, fiscal policies, “on all these issues, there’s a range of common-sense solutions available to us right now, and if we implement them, we’re going to leave an America behind for our kids and grandkids that is stronger and more prosperous than ever before,” he said. “We’ve got what we need in order to succeed.”
But “too often government is getting in the way of this process,” Obama said, though government must help play a role no matter how robust the private sector is. “There are some things we do better together... Often the private sector cannot or will not make those investments.”
“The reason that Washington is a problem is that right now, it’s broken – it’s not working the way it needs to,” he said.
Democrats “don’t have a monopoly on wisdom” but “we’re just not getting a lot of cooperation from the other side,” he said. There are some “glimmers of functionality,” like Bennet working with the Gang of 8 on immigration reform, but many other issues remain stymied.
Democrats believe in “a light touch” of regulations and taking care not to over-tax, but government must play its part nonetheless, he said. No other advanced nation lacks universal health care, he said, and so this must be made to happen here. And roadblocks like budget sequestration are freezing funds for important research that could move the economy forward. “We have a role to play.”
Climate change will be the most important choice this generation makes, and “we’re going to have to make some collective decisions about this,” he said. In the face of science that’s “irrefutable,” we have to balance clean energy and other means of carbon reduction with economic growth.
“Here’s the bottom line: I have never been more optimistic about America than I am right now,” Obama said, noting that people have remarked upon his gray hair and the difficulties of his job. Despite tough economic times, “we’re more inclusive, we’re more prosperous, we are less violent now than just about any time in human history, and that should give us hope.”
“But we’ve got to get this right, and the only way I’m going to be able to do that is if I’ve got people in Congress who share my optimism and share the sense that there are solutions out there and that compromise is not a dirty word,” he said, exhorting the crowd to be optimistic and stay engaged. “Ultimately our government represents us, and if we neglect it, it doesn’t work.”
POTUS finished speaking at 6:56 p.m. He worked the rope line briefly before returning to the car; motorcade departed for the fundraising dinner in Portola Valley at 7:08 p.m.
From the Palo Alto event, POTUS’ motorcade made its way back out to Highway 101 South, to Oregon Expressway, to Page Mill Road, to Interstate 280 North, to Alpine Road, to Los Trancos Road. Finally, it proceeded up the vineyard-lined private drive to the palatial home of venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, a cofounder of Sun Microsystems, and his wife, Neeru. POTUS arrived at 7:32 p.m. Pacific Time.
Reporters were ushered into the house at 7:54 p.m. as Khosla addressed the crowd of only a few dozen who’d paid $32,400 each for this DSCC fundraising dinner. Khosla said he met Obama while he was a senator and found him “amazingly adept” at energy issues. POTUS took the microphone at 7:56 p.m.
POTUS thanked the Khoslas “and these beasts” – their large, shaggy dogs – for hosting the event. “These two could eat Bo,” he said, gesturing toward the canines. He acknowledged the presence of DSCC Chairman Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Obama again described his visit this morning to the Mooresville, N.C., middle school which has vastly improved its performance by moving to a laptop-based, high-tech teaching system. “The passion that young people now have for learning… because of that, the school has transformed itself.” The administration’s new goal is that within five years, all schools will have broadband and wireless access to transform the nation’s educational system “and save money in the process,” he said.
Silicon Valley knows of this transformation better than anywhere else, he said, and now the question is how to engage the rest of the nation, how to make sure everyone has access to the resources for success.
After an extraordinary economic crisis, things are getting better, he said. Referencing his meeting Friday with the president of China, “when you look at the challenges they face and the challenges we face, I’ll take our challenges any day of the week,” but we have to make our government work again.
Government has an important role to play from education to regulatory structure that encourages clean energy and protection of intellectual property, and if we get that part of it right, nothing can stop us, the president said.
“From my perspective, that’s what it means to be a Democrat… that’s what leads us to believe in this democratic ideal,” he said. “So in order for us to accomplish that, we’re going to need to have a Democratic Senate.”
Democrats have no monopoly on wisdom, he reiterated, and he’ll continue to reach out across the aisle in search of Republican cooperation. “But on too much of the big stuff, what we see coming out of the other party is an interest in winning elections or in obstruction, not enough interest in solving problems. Too often what we see is the notion that compromise is a dirty word. And sometimes what we see is the denial of science, around climate change for example.”
He remains optimistic, he said, because of the kids he saw in North Carolina and the businesses he sees in Silicon Valley. “But I’m going to need your help to make that happen… and if you’re willing to engage and be involved and stay committed… then I think we’ll succeed.”
POTUS finished speaking at 8:07 p.m. Reporters were ushered out before he started taking questions from the crowd.
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POTUS departed the Portola Valley event at 9:01 p.m. The motorcade had an uneventful trip down I-280 to downtown San Jose, arriving at the Fairmont Hotel at 9:33 p.m. as onlookers thronged the streets.