President Barack Obama took to the new media stage at LinkedIn in Silicon Valley this afternoon (Sept. 26) to speak to a studio and online audience about his $450 billion jobs proposal, signaling yet again the president’s knack for harnessing social media to take his message directly to the America public.
The electronic town hall was broadcast live via the White House while also being featured on LinkedIn’s website, along with a discussion thread called “Putting America Back to Work 2011,” hosted on LinkedIn’s website.
The LinkedIn town hall followed similar electronic forums hosted by social media giants Facebook and Twitter. The 30-minute session followed a by-now familiar format where President Obama responded to preselected questions from the studio audience of about 300 people and LinkedIn’s 120 million members worldwide. The questions were fed to him by the LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner. The event was staged at the Computer History Museum, near LinkedIn’s Mountain View, Calif headquarters in California, where Obama was traveling as part of a fund raising tour for himself and other Democrats.
Obama encountered a variety of questions, including one from a former veteran, speaking about the difficulty veterans have making use of their experience, to one from an unemployed Silicon Valley executive who acknowledged he was unemployed by choice, having made a significant fortune working for a start up in the search business.
Regarding veterans, Obama responded by recalling the story of nurse serving in Iraq, working under the most diverse and high pressure circumstances. “But when he went back to nursing school, he had to start over, taking all the same classes and the same debt burdens as if I had walked in,” Obama said.
“That’s an example of a failure on the part of DOD and VA to think proactively to (do more to help veterans) make the transition,” he said, suggesting there ought to be “a way to credential them so they can go directly into a job,” without having to start over.
He also noted the government is a big customer for the skills veterans have but that government and the private sector need to commit to hiring more veterans and wounded warriors.
Obama also used the town hall to raise his position on taxes when an retired Silicon Valley executive suggested to the president, “Would you please raise my taxes?”
The president responded “So often the tax debate gets framed as class warfare. But America’s success is premised on entrepreneurs pursing their dreams,” he said.
He stressed the importance of investing in education in America, especially as America’s position on a variety of measures continues to slip in global rankings. “We’re successful because somebody invested in our education,” he said.
He used the point to make his case that allowing tax levels to rise among the wealthy to levels that existed in the 1990s was a reasonable way to close the $1.5 trillion deficit reduction plan the president has been advocating, without “punishing the rich.”