Honestly I haven’t decided how I feel about the D candidates – as long as one of them wins it’ll be an improvement – but seeing Hillary is always so inspiring, simply because she is just so smart and articulate. When I saw her here a few years ago I was struck by her answers to audience questions; She constructed complex yet easy to follow answers that demonstrated a deep understanding of issues and ability to synthesize and communicate. Compared to many politicians it’s amazingly refreshing to see someone think like that on her feet. You don’t get to experience that very much in this age of sound-bite politics. Plus, she’s a lot more passionate than the media makes her out to be and it’s nice to feel that in person. Afterwards she stopped and talked to people for at least 15 minutes and I just stood about five feet from her and listened to her and looked at her face and soaked in her humanness. It was pretty cool.
I took notes the entire time she spoke – here they are in pretty raw form. In some places I captured the gist of what she was saying with phrases that were hers but glue that is mine so THESE ARE NOT DIRECT QUOTES.
I am underlining the parts that I found particularly poignant.
- Thanks: Thanked Brad Smith, VP of MSFT LCA (Legal and Corporate Affairs). I have enjoyed my working relationship with MSFT both on the business and philanthropic side. Thanked Wellesley alums (there was a section saved for them and they cheered) – we are a small but enthusiastic group. Later today the Women’s Leadership and Development Conference begins and I wish I could be there for that (Stacey told me she filmed a video for it though!) There’s lots of great activity happening on MSFT campus.
- Agenda: I’d like to express a few thematic approaches to what the election is about and hope it is about, then to have conversation with you.
- Microsoft and innovation: I’m impressed whenever come here to Seattle and visit with those that are creating the future. America is an innovation nation. We are a country that pushes boundaries, creating new ways of thinking, doing, providing for our own people and for world. Hallmark of how this company and country has developed and grown but also as a reflection of how many of us growing up took for granted about America. But no country remains great because we expect to. Quality of life and standard of living don’t continue upward without constantly asking hard questions and meeting challenges. We aren’t doing that. We need to build on our assets and intellectual capital to build our future . We have to have the mind set to seize the mantle of innovation for 21st century. It’s important for our country, which is an engine for ideas and change. Our open inquiry and sense of possibility contributed to the most extraordinary success in human history.
Four big overriding themes of what she wants to achieve as president:
- Restore America’s leadership in the world
- Rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class, which is our ladder to success
- Reform government so it’s competent and goal/results oriented
- Reclaim the future
Sputnik launching into space was a defining moment in my childhood. I say that to some people and they go, "Sputnik? What?" We won WWII, we were on move, we were the undisputed superpower and then this little piece of junk goes up in the sky. How could they have beaten us into space? The president, a Republican, called in his science advisor and *listened*. He took a lot of actions including creating NASA. He created a sense of engagement.
I remember my fourth grade teacher Ms. Krause saying, "The president wants you to learn math and science." I thought President Eisenhower called Ms. Krause and told her himself!
Now, the defining issue in the world is Iraq. To restore leadership we have to bring our troops home as quickly and responsibly (wild cheering). There is no military solution. If Bush won’t end the war I will.
Our economic position is eroding, our innovation is eroding, our strategic position is eroding. We are not well prepared for a future of leadership. I will begin to restore bipartisan balance to approach foreign policy issues. The first thing I will do when I am elected President, before I’m even inaugurated, is to enlist distinguished leaders to travel around the world on my behalf with a message: "The era of cowboy diplomacy is over." (wild clapping and goosebumps all around)
We can’t handle it on our own. We have to find common ground. We will stand our grown as a last resort. We have to restore our moral authority.
Not only will that make world safer but also allow us to take advantage of opportunities we have to rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class. The Bush economy worked well for some of us but not most of us. The middle class annual earnings dropped $1k in the last 6 years but price of everything gone up. People are struggling to maintain their standard of living. They feel as though they are invisible to their government. Many are standing on a trap door: one pink slip, one medical diagnosis away from losing everything. Strengthening the middle class is how we can meet new global competition and create pillars of our economy.
A new source of jobs is an aggressive clean energy agenda. We need to take the lead in renewable alternative energy. It’s triply important or we will cripple our economy, our security and the environment if don’t address this. We import more foreign oil post 9-11 than before 9-11.
I’m proud of Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize after 30 years trying to convince people this needs to be addressed. It’s also an opportunity that will create millions of new jobs.
Sen. Jay Inslee who represents some of you has a terrific new book called Apollo Fire. As president I’ll work with Jay to create a strategic energy fund. We should take the tax subsidies given to oil companies and put it toward a strategic energy fund on behalf of alternative energies. We have to work more on efficiency, and these are hard problems but problems that can be solved.
Health care is another important issue and I have experience in how hard it is (audience chuckles). I believe there is a consensus – that the American people don’t want the health insurance to wag the American economy. I introduced a plan called American Health Choices Plan. Offers everyone who is uninsured or underinsured to choose between the congressional plan congress has for itself and federal employees, or you can choose from private plans, and there is a public plan option or health care tax credit if can’t afford it.
We also have to change the way health care is delivered. I’m offering insurance companies a new business model. (Lots of applause and chuckles) They have made a lot of money not insuring people – 50 billion last year – by refusing to cover people for preexisting conditions, etc.
We need to build a coalition of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, hospitals and families and we are all saying same thing. We have to change the way you (insurance companies) do business.
We have to modernize our health care system. I’m very pleased about what MSFT is doing in health care. Sen Bill Frist is working on electronic medical records. Everything else you do you do online but your medical records are pen and paper. Your medical information should be available and it should belong to you. I shadowed nurse in a Las Vegas Hospital for 3 hours and we spent a half an hour trying to decipher a doctor’s handwriting on a prescription. That’s not a commentary on the bad handwriting of doctors – it’s a reflection of how absurd the system is.
One of the great casualties of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was that millions of pages of medical records were destroyed. It’s time for us to do this. We need a framework so your records are in a system that is private, confidential and secure, and readily accessible.
Another thing we need to do in health care is to pay for prevention. Insurance companies don’t want to do this because you could switch companies next year. We need to level the playing field.
We need to do more on education. That system is second only to health care in it’s antiquated state. Our classrooms are a relic of the past. everything has changed – our houses, banks, the workplace, but not our schools.
I admire the work Bill and Melinda Gates are doing to reimagine education.
We need universal Pre-K programs. Kids need more learning before school starts. They start K behind and don’t catch up.
We also need to teach parents that families are children’s first school and parents are their first teacher.
College needs to be more affordable. The average graduate has more 20k in debt for 4 year undergrad degree, 200k for medical school.
When I was in school, I borrowed at 2% interest from federal programs – but now we are cutting off qualified kids. It’s harder to afford to go to college. 75% of college undergrads are from top 25% of income and only 3% from bottom 25% of income. I can tell you I was not in the 25% of income. We are creating a 2 class society.
We need to improve our infrastructure. Not just roads and tunnels and bridges before they collapse. We need high speed Internet access. We used to be one on the list of wired countries and now we are twenty-something depending on which study you read. We need a plan to connect America (clapping).
One of our drivers of eco growth is science. Bush’s war on science has to end (lots of clapping). He has chilled free inquiry, musseled scientists.
I want to double funding of basic science. The second thing I do when I enter office is issue an executive order that says do not interfere with scientific process and lift ban on ethical stem cell research (wild clapping).
Reform government so it’s competent and goal/results oriented
In order to do any of this we have to reform government. We aren’t even sure how much damage has been done during Bush. Like all of you I was embarrassed at our government’s response to Katrina – I saw the footage of devastation, people stranded on rooftops, bodies floating down the street, and I couldn’t believe this was America. The incompetence, indifference, insensitivity was breathtaking (she was very passionate and we all had goosebumps). We need to put qualified people into positions in the US government and end cronyism (wild applause).
We are a young country – some societies are in the grip of things that happened 500 or 1000 years ago. I remember once as the first lady I was on a trip to visit dignitaries in another country and to break the ice I asked their first lady, "How are things going?" and she started talking about the Crusades. I was like, "Okay…" (this was funny and people laughed). We can’t be mired in history.
I am thrilled at the prospect of being the first woman president! It’s exiting and humbling (lots of wild applause). I’m not running because I’m a woman, I’m running because I’m the most experienced and best qualified to hit the ground running. I bring a unique perspective. We have a clear idea that change is called for but it’s not easy to do. Change is just a word if you don’t have the strength and experience to bring it about.
I will reach out. All of this partisan politics has worked for the current administration because it’s easier to divide and conquer than unite and lift up.
I am an expert at personal attacks (chuckles). I’ve been a recipient of incoming fire for 15 years. But it’s not going got educate a kid. If we don’t allow ourselves to be diverted and the electoral process trivialized we can have an election about the future.
There are two kinds of people that come up to me when I travel the country – I used to think it was a fluke but now I see that it’s a trend. The first are women in their 90s. They come up to me and say, "I was born before women could vote and I’m going to live to see a woman in the White House." (wild applause and goosebumps). Look at the progress we made in a lifetime!
Then there are parents who whisper in a daughters ear, "See honey, in this country you can be anything you want to be."
Question 1: You talked a lot about moral authority. How can we have that when American arms companies are the biggest producers and dealers of arms in the world? What would you do to reduce flow of arms and would you shut down Guantanamo?
On the second issue, yes I would (applause). When the Bush admin came in we were in midst of negotiating a sale of arms treaty that had the promise of trying to create some kind of limits on arms trading around the word. Then the Bush administration torpedoed it. And not just because they were pressured by arms manufacturers, but because of an ideological belief that treaties and multilateral institutions have no value.
It’s better to move towards some kind of international law than reject it. We need to limit sale and purchase with international norms. There will be outliers, of course but we should be part of it. The world is awash with arms, in some countries arms easily outnumber people. We need to set an example and create a framework.
Question 2: An Indian woman asked about legal immigration. The current immigration process has gone decades without reform.
My hope is to get back to looking at comprehensive immigration reform. I regret so much what has happened in this debate. The way it has been demagogued. We need to tighten borders and get more personnel. We know what happened in New York – hijackers overstayed visas. We’ve got to improve our information.
There’s got to be some way to reign in employers who seek out and employ undocumented workers. People wouldn’t come here if the companies didn’t profit so much from it and didn’t think there would be a constant supply so even if they were raided there will be more on the way.
Give more to local communities to bear cost of immigration laws, more to the south.
Legal immigrants – increase the number of visas (applause). We’ve shut the door to America harder than any time in the recent past. After 911 we tighten up but we’ve overdone it. We need to open the pipeline and increase H1B visas. got to be better way to create connection between skills needed and jobs that can be filled by immigrants
And for the undocumented, we need to bring the 12 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. The need to be registered, pay a fine, pay back taxes, and hopefully learn English, and get them on a path to legalization.
We need to take stock. Why is this such a hot political subject? People are looking around and saying, "I’m not getting ahead. Who am I going to blame?" In the 90s we didn’t hear immigrant bashing. People were too busy working than to blame and point fingers at other people.
Immigration is a part of America’s history. We are a nation of immigrants. But we are scared, insecure, nervous and this is the easiest target.
Question 3: In middle America we didn’t come across and Bush did. How can we win this time?
The 2004 election was battled out in Midwest and West. The deciding factors for those swing voters were security and terrorism.
When I campaigned as senator, I was representing the entire state. I went farm to farm. I knew if I could break through with them I could win support in red New York. That’s what Democrats didn’t do in 2004. They built huge crowds in urban centers. But you can map out where the Republicans went – rural Nevada not Las Vegas. I will not make that mistake. If you are going to run for president as a Democrat you have to reach out and let people understand you know the trial and tribulations of their suffering like the people you spend your time with.
Question 4: Will you simplify the tax code?
Everybody has plans that are always great – there’s a pent up desire to do it. So much of it is complex, counter productive, and costly. Let’s think about this together.
Europe is consumption based taxation. Is that something Americans would want or accept? The jury’s out. Flat tax? How do we structure to be fair to those in the lower bracket or middle? Some say don’t touch home mortgage deduction – it’s one of the pillars of American dreams.
We need to move back to fiscal responsibility. It’s a big mistake for us to have squandered our balanced budget and surplus of 6 years ago. We undermined our position. We need a strong budget that reflects our values.
How to avoid what’s happening down the road – the weakening dollar is jeopardizing our status as currency and all the consequences of that. This should be seen in the larger context of paying for what the government does. We gave tax cuts to the wealthy and put the Iraq war on our imaginary credit card. Now we owe money to Mexico! I talk to people in New York on Wall Street and they say that’s fine. Well it’s not fine. Let’s say China decides doesn’t want to deal with Taiwan anymore and they mass on the border. When that happened in the 90s we put pressure and they were like ok ok.
What if the President says that in the future? Japan says you do that and we’ll dump dollars. How do you explain to the country why interest rates have skyrocketed?
Do we still want to be the preeminent strategic power or not? We don’t have to be – it’s easy to decide not to – we’ll have a good time and do whatever we do to have fun (lots of chuckles) but that’s not good for us or the world.