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Inside Obama’s Silicon Valley visit

By Josh Richman
Thursday, May 8th, 2014 at 8:32 pm in Barack Obama, Obama presidency.

Our story has been updated periodically throughout the day and evening, but here’s an amalgamation of the pool reports I filed to the White House while traveling with the motorcade today:

Air Force 1 arrived at Moffett Field in Mountain View, CA at 4:11 PM Pacific. POTUS was greeted on the tarmac by NASA Ames Research Center Director Pete Worden; Col. Steven Butow, commander of the 129th Rescue Wing; Mountain View Mayor Christopher Clark; and Sunnyvale Mayor Jim Griffith. POTUS then worked the rope line for a few minutes before the motorcade departed for Los Altos home of 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki, site of first Silicon Valley fundraiser.

Press couldn’t see or hear POTUS at any point during the stop at Wojcicki’s home. In the holding area, chicken wraps were spicy and talk quickly turned to the NFL draft. Motorcade departed at 6:15 p.m. en route to the Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Jose, site of the second, larger DNC fundraiser of the evening; tickets for this one cost from $1,000 to $32,400. Uneventful drive, some well-wishers and onlookers on local streets in Los Altos; small crowd including some protesters (anti-Walmart, Keystone XL, etc.) in Cesar Chavez Park facing the hotel. Arrived at hotel at 6:38 p.m.

At the Fairmont, about 250 guests mingled and sipped wine or beer until Y Combinator President Sam Altman and Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer took the stage at 7:48 p.m. to introduce President Obama. Obama arrived at the podium at 7:50 p.m. to cheers and applause.

“It is good to be back in San Jose,” he said, thanking the two co-hosts and acknowledging Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, and DNC Finance Chair Henry Munoz.

“A lot of you worked on the campaign and on OFA,” he said, offering “a little update about where we are.”

“We came into office at a time when America was in dire straits and we have made enormous progress over the last five something years,” he said, citing the recovery of the auto industry, reduction of oil imports, college attendance up and high school dropouts down, and the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. “But for all that we’ve done, for the war in Iraq that we’ve ended ad the war in Afghanistan that we’re bringing to an honorable close,” for progress on climate change, “we know that we’ve got more work to do.”

Lots more, after the jump…

People are still struggling, still in poverty, “still working in the shadows of a broken immigration system,” the president said.

“That’s why November is so important,” he said – Republicans “have said no to every proposal that we know could make a difference in the lives of hard-working Americans.”

Obama said Republicans oppose equal pay for equal work, increasing minimum wage, helping kids afford college and more; they even shut down the government to try to get their own way.

“What they do preserve are tax breaks for folks that don’t need them” he said, adding that Republicans love their country but are “operating on a theory that time and again has been proven to be wrong … a theory that discounts the possibility of common action.”

“And so when I think about what’s at stake in this election, it’s not just a matter of a seat here or a seat there – it’s about competing visions of how America moves forward,” Obama said. “And I believe America moves forward when we realize we’re all in it together.”

“And so the question is what are we going to do about it in this midterm? The choices couldn’t be more clear,” he said. He and Democrats stand for increasing the minimum wage, investing in early childhood education, making college more affordable for all and other efforts to lift families out of poverty and into brighter futures.

“The Democratic Party is not perfect – I know that’s crazy to say at a DNC event,” he said, yet some make mistakes or don’t show the courage of their convictions. “But on the big issues… we’re on the right side.”

“On climate change, we believe in science… and if we invest in clean energy we can create jobs right here in the United States” while assuring a safer future for generations to come, he said.

We’re gridlocked now because “we’ve got another party that has been captured by folks on the wrong side of these issues,” he said – a long way from Republicans like Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. If we’re serious about attacking the big issues, “then we’ve got to fix Congress, and the way we’re going to fix Congress is not to get cynical” but to elect Democrats who can make progress.

Republicans take dozens of votes to repeal Obamacare, yet “millions of people across the country are better off – I meet them every day,” he said. “If that’s all they’ve got, then they shouldn’t be running either chamber – they shouldn’t be running the House and they shouldn’t be running the Senate, and they shouldn’t be making appointments to the Supreme Court and they shouldn’t be blocking mine.”

“The majority of the American public is on our side” on issues like minimum wage, equal pay, investment in education, rebuilding infrastructure, clean energy and immigration reform. “So what’s the problem? … They’re not voting.”

Democrats have a “congenital defect” of voting in presidential years but staying home for midterms, the President said. “But in this midterm, with the stakes as high as they are… we’re going to have to make sure that we are coming out with the same urgency and the same enthusiasm that we typically show during presidential years.”

Obama urged people to talk to their family and friends about the importance of voting this year, even as the DNC fields an army of volunteers to carry that message everywhere. “We live in a time when cynicism too often passes off as wisdom, and this country has been through a lot over these past five years,” he said, but as he travels the world, he sees “the assessment outside the United States is that we still have the best cards” of education, innovation and vibrancy – the sort that’s so visible in Silicon Valley.

“There’s no other country that looks like us – it’s a huge gift,” he said. “The problem is, we’ll waste that gift if we don’t make the right choices.”

“Our future is bright if people shake off whatever is holding them back and go to the polls, our future is bright if people understand the stakes involved,” Obama said. “I don’t have patience for cynicism right now, I think it’s too easy, I think it’s an excuse. The future is there for us to seize.”

At this point, someone in the crowd began shouting something unintelligible about freedom. “You kind of screwed up my ending,” said the President, who’d clearly been about to close. (The man later handed out copies of a letter he’d written to the president about freedom in Ethiopia, signed by Abebe Gellaw; he identified himself in the letter as an “exiled journalist and freedom activist trying to raise the voices of the oppressed people of Ethiopia.”)

Obama good-naturedly got back on track with a fired-up-and-ready-to-go ending, and finished at 8:13 p.m.

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