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Obama presses Americans to win the innovation race and support the next Steve Jobs

Tuesday, January 24, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kristina Moy
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By John Cook, GeekWire

Ingenuity, innovation and entrepreneurship are cornerstones of the American experience, attributes that the United States should support, encourage and bankroll as the country emerges from a long and hard economic morass.

That was one of the key messages delivered tonight by President Barack Obama during his state of the union address, a message highlighted by the appearance of luminaries such as Steve Jobs’ wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Instagram founder Mike Krieger.

In fact, Obama referenced the late Apple co-founder during one of the high-water marks of the speech, which was titled "An America Built to Last.”

Obama said:

You see, an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country. That means women should earn equal pay for equal work. It means we should support everyone who’s willing to work; and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs.

The remarks about Jobs came on a day that Apple posted record financial results, selling a mind-numbing37 million iPhones and tallying $46 billion in revenue during the fourth quarter.

Interestingly, a few minutes prior to the reference to the legendary Apple co-founder, Obama discussed ways to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.

"Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.”

It was an interesting juxtaposition given the in-depth report in The New York Times this past weekend on why Apple moved nearly all of its iPhone, iPad and Mac manufacturing to contractors in Asia. (According to the report, Jobs bluntly told Obama that "those jobs aren’t coming back.”)

After reading the report in The New York Times and listening to Obama, one has to wonder if the American innovation economy can really lead to large-scale job creation in manufacturing and the rebirth of the middle class. Obama says it can, citing the American automobile industry, pointing to the opportunities in clean technology and referencing how Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is now running at full capacity.

At times during the speech tonight, Obama sounded more like a venture capitalist than the president of the United States.

Take for instance this part of Obama’s speech, remarks that I’ve heard echoed dozens of times by venture capitalists from Seattle to Silicon Valley.

Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally-financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don’t gut these investments in our budget. Don’t let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.

It will be fascinating to watch how this argument unfolds, especially if Obama has to take on a private equity guy (not a venture capitalist) in Mitt Romney. Both Obama and Romney, if the former Massachusetts governor gets the nod by the Republicans, will likely battle over a similar message to the one laid out tonight.

After all, touting ingenuity, innovation and entrepreneurship is a message of hope.

Read the full article with the State of Union transcription

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