Pool report from President Obama at Stanford

Here are the pool reports I’ve filed today from President Obama’s visit to Stanford University for the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection. Click here for our main story on the overall summit.

Stanford University President John L. Hennessy began speaking at11:31 a.m. to introduce the President. Hennessy said Obama understands the challenges of cybersecurity, as “an avid Blackberry user” and the first president to be electronically connected, he had to give that up upon taking office.

President Obama came to the podium at 11:33 a.m. to a standing ovation, with students in the balcony roaring.

“Yes we can,” he echoed a particularly enthusiastic audience member’s call.

The President praised the Stanford campus’ beauty. “I’ve got to admit, I kind of want to go here – I was trying to figure out why a really nice place like this is wasted on young people who don’t fully appreciate what you’ve got.” He also thanked the university for hosting this summit, and noted that members of his administration including Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice, Penny Pritzker and others are Stanford alumni who “bleed Cardinal red.”

“This is the place that made nerd cool,” he said. “I was thinking of wearing some black-rimmed glasses with some tape in the middle, but I guess that’s not what you do anymore.”

“But, I’m not just here to enjoy myself.”

The President said the economy continues to recover, with an unprecedented streak of job creation and middle-class earnings starting to rise. “More than any other nation on earth, the United States is positioned to lead in the 21st century,” he said, and that means leading in technological innovation.

The President noted Stanford and its environs were the birthplace of Hewlett-Packard, the mouse, and the internet itself, “innovations for cloud computing, student projects here became Yahoo! and Google. Those were pretty good student projects.”
He said if all companies traceable back to Stanford formed their own nation, “you’d have one of the largest economies in the world, and a pretty good football team as well.”

“Just as we’re all connected like never before, we have to work together like never before, both to seize opportunities and to meet the challenges of this information age,” he said.

LOTS more, after the jump…

“These cyberthreats are a challenge to our national security,” as much of our critical infrastructure, financial systems, health systems and more run on linked networks, he said, citing the possibility of air-traffic control failures or widespread blackouts as examples of what could happen as a result of malicious hacking.

American companies are being targeted, their trade secrets stolen, their intellectual property “ripped off,” he said, citing the Sony Pictures data breach. And Americans do more business online than ever before.

“I want more Americans succeeding in our digital world, I want young people like you to unleash the next wave of innovation,” he said, as connectivity is expanded all across the nation. “That’s why we’re working to connect 99% of America’s students to high-speed internet… We can’t afford any digital divides.”

And small businesses across the nation need the same competitive advantages as those here in Silicon Valley, he said. That’s why he favors net neutrality.

But when people are hacked, their data stolen and their identities compromised, “a direct threat to the economic security of American families.”

The President said he has made cybersecurity a priority of his administration from the start.

“Government cannot do this alone,” as much of the infrastructure and data resides in the private sector, he said. The only way to protect it all is to have “government and industry working together, sharing information as true partners.”

The private sector doesn’t always have the resources and situational awareness to react during a cyberattack, he said.
“We’re going to have to constantly evolve,” he said, as hackers and enemies find new ways to penetrate defenses. “These attacks are getting more and more sophisticated every day,” so we have to be nimble and flexible in responding.

All this must be balanced with protecting Americans’ civil liberties and privacy, he said. “The private sector wrestles with this as well,” he said. “When people go online, we shouldn’t have to forfeit the basic privacy we’re entitled to as Americans.”

“Defending against cyberthreats… is one more reason we’re calling on Congress not to engage in partisan politics… but to make sure we’re safeguarded and that the Department of Homeland Security is fully funded,” he said.

The President said the administration will advance a consumer privacy bill of rights; has proposed the Student Digital Privacy Act; and has taken new steps to promote cybersecurity, including liability protections for companies that share information with the government on cyberthreats.

He noted the desk next to the podium, at which he said he’ll sign today’s new executive order on cybersecurity to promote information sharing and other improvements. Many companies already are on board with the new reforms, he said, while more companies are signing onto the BuySecure initiative his administration rolled out earlier.

“This summit is an example of what we need more of – all of us working together to achieve what none of us can do alone,” he said.

“Grappling with how government protects the American people from adverse events, while at the same time making sure government itself is not abusing its capabilities, is hard,” he said, calling the cyber-world “the wild, wild West” in which government is seen both as the sheriff and as a potential intruder. “And it constantly evolves because the technology so often outstrips whatever rules and structures and standards have been put in place.”

“We’re all here today because we know we’re going to have to break through some of these barriers that are holding us back if we’re going to continue to thrive,” he said, not just here in America but internationally. That’s hard because some nations don’t share our commitment to openness.

Again, this isn’t a partisan issue. “Everybody is online, and everybody is vulnerable,” the President said, calling for this and future events to generate ideas and best practices that will be useful for years to come.

“We’re only 26 years into this internet age, we’ve only just scratched the surface,” he said, and we can’t imagine the innovations coming in the next few decades.

Technological process is like building a cathedral, he said; everyone builds upon earlier work, “everything is tied to everything else.” When future historians ask who built this information age, the answer will be, “we all did, as Americans,” he said.

“That cathedral will not just be about technology, it will be about the values we’ve embedded in the architecture of this system” – privacy, community, connection, he said. “What a magnificent cathedral you have all helped to build. We want to be a part of that.”

The President moved from podium to signing desk at 12:02 p.m., using several pens to sign the executive order. “I have to do this so that everybody gets a pen – I don’t mean everybody in the audience.”

POTUS strode offstage at 12:03 p.m.


After holding outside in a courtyard for a short time, pool at 12:30 p.m. was escorted into a room where the President is having a roundtable lunch with prominent business leaders; spray lasted only about a minute before we were escorted out again.

Seated immediately to the President’s right were Renee James of Intel Corp., and beyond her, Bernard J. Tyson of Kaiser Permanente. Immediately to the President’s left were Stanford President John Hennessy, and beyond him, Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Also in the room: Ajay Banga, MasterCard; Kenneth Chenault, American Express; Richard Davis, U.S. Bancorp; Anthony Earley, PG&E Corporation; Mike George, QVC; Alexander Gourlay, Walgreens; Peter Hancock, American International Group; Aaron Levie, Box; Mark McLaughlin, Palo Alto Networks; Charles Scharf, Visa; Dan Schulman, PayPal; and Michelle Zatlyn, CloudFlare.

Also at the lunch, from the administration: Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson; Comerce Secretary Penny Pritzker; SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet; Ambassador Susan Rice; Valerie Jarrett; Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco; and National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients.

We’re now holding in the courtyard again.


At about 2:25 p.m., the pool once again was walked across the empty auditorium’s stage to a back room in which President Obama was having a roundtable with 12-15 Stanford students; reporters and photographers were admitted only for a one-minute photo spray. Sitting immediately to the President’s left were students Vicki Niu, and beyond her, Rollins Stallworth. Sitting immediately to the President’s right was Taylor Grossman.

After that, WH traveling pool headed out, presumably heading for landing zone to catch choppers back to San Francisco; your local pooler is over and out.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • JohnW

    I watched the TV coverage of Obama and his entourage leaving AF One after it landed here. That included Eric Swalwell — who, less than three years ago, was a half-term Dublin city councilor. Talk about a fantasy come true!

  • Elwood

    Poor boy is so tired out from Presidenting and shoveling all that money from useful idiots into Air Force One that he needs to relax by playing lots of golf in Palm Springs.