Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg – renowned for his casual approach to dressing as a CEO – cleaned up and donned a rarely seen jacket and tie for his Wednesday question and answer with President Barack Obama.
Zuckerberg, hundreds of Facebook employees and roughly 36,000 online attendees participated in a live town hall with the president at Facebook headquarters Wednesday afternoon in Palo Alto. Amid surging valuations for Bay Area tech companies such asFacebook, the president said local tech companies are on the “cutting edge” of America's change toward an information economy.
Click on the photo to the right to see photos of Barack Obama's trip.
“What all of you built together is revolutionizing how people get information, how they process it, and connect with one another,” he told the ebullient crowd.
Dozens of news vehicles gathered outside Facebook's campus by 11 a.m., as lines of casually dressed twentysomething Facebook staff tapped on their mobile devices and awaited screening by Secret Service. About 500 staff fit in campus Building 3.
Zuckerberg appeared nervous at 2 p.m. wearing sneakers, jeans, a white collared shirt, tie and jacket, which generated a visible reaction from staff, many of whom were clad in hooded sweatshirts. The first sitting President to visit Facebook HQ, Obama was flanked by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Rep. John Garamendi, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Congressman Mike Honda and an array of Silicon Valley leaders like the CEOs of Yelp and Meebo.
The president introduced himself as “the guy who got Mark Zuckerberg to wear a jacket and tie. I'm very proud of that. It's really uncomfortable for him.”
Both men quickly took off their coats in the warm warehouse and dug into an hour-long discussion about the deficit, energy, immigration and the environment.
Titled “Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity,” the administration crafted the event to highlight the President's plan to bring down the soaring national deficit. The town hall preceded a public event at the Nob Hill Masonic Theater, and a high-priced dinner at the residence of Salesforce.com owner Marc Benioff. Thursday morning, the president will appear at a breakfast fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel, then departs for Los Angeles and Nevada.
California pollster Ben Tulchin at Tulchin Research said Obama's California trip is about raising money for his 2012 re-election campaign, shoring up his base and re-energizing the youth vote.
Tulchin said Obama won't need to raise a $1 billion war chest like some media have reported, and he's not likely to get or need that much because he will not face a primary challenger.
Still with a $30,000-plus-per-ticket ticket private event Wednesday night, it's clear “California is always an ATM machine for the political world. Always has been, always will be.”
Far-left progressives, and medical marijuana activists plan to protest Obama policies at rallies in San Francisco Wednesday and Thursday, but Tulchin said the center left is disillusioned as well.
“It's not the far left I'd be worried about. Obama has to worry about the center left, the mainstream progressives who aren't happy with him,” he said. “I don't think they'll vote for Donald Trump over Obama, but for him to get them writing checks, telling neighbors, knocking on doors, that kind of energy in 2008, he's going to have to show them something.”