Paul Sakuma, Associated Press
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — President Barack Obama said Monday that the optimism and forward-looking attitudes in Silicon Valley are what can help steer the American economy away from recession and get people back to work.
Obama took questions on health care, Social Security, job-training programs, taxes and business regulations during an hour-long, town-hall-style meeting hosted by LinkedIn, the career-oriented social networking site.
Looking out over the enthusiastic, high-tech crowd at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Obama said, "what you see is ... a belief that if you have a good idea, and you want to put in the sweat and blood and tears to make it happen, that not only can you succeed for yourself but grow the economy for everybody."
"It's that driving spirit that has made America an economic superpower," Obama said.
His appearance at the LinkedIn event followed a series of fundraisers Sunday on the West Coast and more deeply entrenched him among the high tech movers and shakers of the area. He did a town hall at Facebook earlier this year and sent his first tweet from the White House over the summer.
Obama praised the innovators and championed the startup philosophy.
"America's success is based on individuals," he said. "Entrepreneurs going out there and making a whole lot of money, and that's great. That's what makes America so successful.
Members of the Republican leadership also stopped by Silicon Valley, appearing at a town hall at Facebook to discuss jobs.
The visits not only spotlight how important social media is in the run up to the 2012 election, but they reflect an attitude shared by many business leaders here that pragmatism matters more than partisanship when it comes to fixing the ailing economy.
"The Valley is open to the best ideas, whether they come from Democrats or Republicans," said Dean Garfield, president and chief executive of the Information Technology Industry Council, which lobbies for Apple Inc., Google Inc. and other tech companies.
The LinkedIn town hall addressed many of the concerns specific to residents and workers here — tax reform, education and immigration — but Obama also tried to reach voters across the country.
Questions came from LinkedIn members in the crucial voting states of Ohio and Florida. The first question came from a man who works in Texas, home to Gov. Rick Perry, who's running for the GOP presidential nomination.
Obama urged passage of his $447 billion jobs plan during almost every answer.
"The most important thing right now is to pass American jobs act," the president said after one woman asked how to get her mother, in her 60s, back to work.
He also tried to encourage the jobless. "The problem is not you, the problem is the economy on a whole," he said.
And he had the opportunity to press for tax reform, when a former Google executive, Doug Edwards, stood up and asked the president to "please raise my taxes" to pay for things like job training, infrastructure and education.
"I appreciate the fact that you recognize that we're in this thing together. We're not our own," Obama said. "Those of who have been successful have always got to remember that."
Edwards left Google in 2005, shortly after the Internet giant went public, turning him and other company employees into multimillionaires.
At Facebook, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, of Bakersfield, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, sounded common GOP themes on taxes and spending cuts and job creation while taking questions from the audience and online members.
The discussion was moderated by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer and a member of Obama's job council.
The congressmen chatted about the ways social media has changed politics in Washington.
"You've empowered the common voice to a much stronger place," McCarthy told Sandberg.
While a majority of Silicon Valley's voters supported Obama in 2008, Garfield said there is some disappointment in the region over the president's effectiveness and "a lot of openness and curiosity" about how the Republican agenda aligns with the tech sector.
"Silicon Valley does not walk in lock step with one point of view," said Carl Guardino, president and chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. "The president will have vigorous and strong support and the Republican leadership will have vigorous and strong support. People are looking for solutions."
Associated Press writer Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco contributed to this report.
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