Obama LinkedIn to Jobs – On Scene with Bill Wilson

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and President Obama
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2011

The LinkedIn event was held in the Hahn Auditorium, where audience members were seated in rows of folding chairs about 5 deep on three sides of the room, with a row of television cameras on the fourth side. Obama was introduced by Linkedin CEO Jeff Weiner, and the pair, both dressed in dark suits and wearing ties, sat on stools, facing the cameras. Deep blue curtains featuring the Linkedin logo were hung around the room.

Jeff Weiner, CEO LinkedIn
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

Weiner told the audience there are 153 million Americans in the work force and 3.3 billion worldwide. He said everyone is thinking about the 9.1 unemployment rate but another number is 3.2 million, which he said was the number of available jobs in the country. “We have to do everything we need
Obama took questions from audience members, some of whom had been pre-selected by Weiner and others who the president called on from his stool. Weiner also read questions that had been sent in from Linkedin members online.

President Obama
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

The questions focused on the economy and jobs, with several audience members saying they had lost their jobs or their relatives had. One woman said her mother, recently unemployed, was trying to figure out how to get back to work and about the future of Social Security and Medicare.

Midway through the hour-long session, Obama called on a man wearing glasses, who was seated in one of the back rows. The man stood up and explained that he was unemployed “by choice” after having worked at a start-up company down the road in Silicon Valley. He had been successful enough that he was able to retire and live comfortably, even though he looked to be in his 40s.

The questioner who wanted his taxes raised
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

“My question is: Would you please raise my taxes?” the man asked. “I’d like very much to have a country that continues to invest in things like Pell grants, infrastructure and job training programs that made it possible for me to get to where I am. Obama went on to tell him: “So often the tax debate is framed as class warfare. As I said at the outset, American success is premised on individuals who have a great idea, going out there and pursuing their dreams and making a whole lot of money in the process. That’s great. It’s part of what makes America so successful. As you just pointed out we’re successful because somebody invested in our education, somebody built our schools, somebody created incredible universities. I went to school on scholarship. Michelle [Obama], her dad was a stationary engineer in a water reclamation district. He never owned his own home, but he paid his bills, he had Multiple sclerosis but never missed a day of work, never went to college but sent Michelle to college. We benefit from someobdy somewhere making investments in us. I do not care who you are. That’s true of all of us.”

President Obama responding to question
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

Obama continued that his proposal to raise taxes on those making more than $1 million a year is not “talking about punatative rates that will stop you from working at a startup and being successful. Were talking about going back to the rates of the 90s when, as I recall, Silicon Valley was doing pretty good. During that period, the rich got richer. The middle class expanded. Everybody was doing well. We’re not punishing those doing well. That’s the last thing I want to do. The question is how can we afford to continue making the investments that can propel America forward?”

He added that: “At some point, money makes a difference. If we do not have enough science teachers in classrooms we have a problem. Somebody’s got to pay for it. Now we have lowest tax rates since the 1950s. Some Repubulican proposals would take it back to where we were in the 1920s. We can’t have a modern industrial economy like that.”

President Obama
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

President Obama
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

To the man who had asked the question, Obama said finally: “I appreciate the fact that you recognize we are in this thing together. We’re not on our own. Those of us who have been successful have to remember that.”

The man then responded that he knows “a lot of people” in his own situation “and everyone told me that they would support raising our taxes, so please…” The crowd applauded.

President Obama shakes hands with audience members
on his way out of the town hall meeting
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

At the end of the event, Obama said: “People are just looking for common sense… The problem is not outside of Washington but the problem is everything has become so ideological and everyone is just focused on the next election and putting party before country that we’re not able to solve our problems.”

President Obama pauses to listen to an audience member
before leaving the LinkedIn town hall meeting
Photo By Bill Wilson © 2011

White House Pool information by David Nakamura Washington Post Staff Writer.

See Related On Scene with Bill Wilson Archive

Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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