Remarks at the GES Welcoming Reception

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Arrillaga Alumni Center, Stanford University
Palo Alto, California
June 22, 2016

Greg, thank you very much. Thank you for – I don’t know where you’ve gone off to. But thank you for your extraordinary personal leadership. Greg has been the head of a bank – the Silicon Valley Bank, that is the only bank dedicated to technology, to innovation, and to entrepreneurs. And it has racked up a remarkable record over the years, and we are very, very grateful to you for being a sponsor, and to the other sponsors who are here.

This is a partnership between the private sector, the public sector, academia – everybody coming together. And as you know, this is the seventh iteration. I was with President Obama just literally a few hours ago – I just arrived – and he is looking forward to being out here to talk to all of you and to really wrap up those many years now that he has been putting into this effort to commit the Obama Administration to entrepreneurial activity. And I want you to know how very, very grateful we are to all of the sponsors and everybody for bringing together – and I’m not flattering you – some of the smartest, savviest, most entrepreneurial people in the world.

There were 5,000 applicants to come here, and every one of you is here because you were selected. There are some 700-plus entrepreneurs, there are 300-plus investors, maybe 1,500 people total – it’s a remarkable gathering, and I’m delighted that you have come here to share experiences, to learn, to talk about how we’re going to define the future.

You’re going to hear more from me tomorrow. I have the privilege of opening tomorrow morning, so I’m not going to go into all of the substance and thoughts that I want to share with you about the world that I see and the opportunities that I know are there. I was in Kuala Lumpur at a major entrepreneurial effort there. There were about 5,000 young people all excited about entrepreneurial activity. And it was like a rock concert. I’d never seen so much energy and excitement, sense of possibility. And I think today I just want to be very brief and literally welcome you here. But this is exciting.

The youngest participant here is 11 years old. (Applause.) And the oldest looks very distinguished – perhaps a little like Gandalf – (laughter) – or me – but there’s a huge range of folks here. And this event really has already begun, because today, Under Secretary Rick Stengel and Ambassador Cathy Russel organized a terrific day for the Global Entrepreneurial Summit Plus, which are young folks and women particularly. And I think everybody here understands that there is no person too young to have a great idea that can’t be applied in some way and often commercialized and brought to scale, and everybody understands that no country is going to make it, no country can move in the modern world, with up to 50 percent of its population on the sidelines because there is discrimination against women. So it is critical – (applause) – critical to understand that.

I want to just build on what Greg said, and Rick Stengel said, in the sense that I can’t emphasize enough to you how much we need you and we need your willingness to change the status quo and to try to go out there and make a difference in one way or the other. Every one of you I know – because that’s why you’re here – is prepared to break down barriers. You’re prepared to not take no for an answer. You’re prepared to take an idea and make it a reality, which is the essence of being an entrepreneur. And it’s risky, and it’s tough. And not everybody does crash through. But you’re also, I know, driven by more than just the idea of creating something and discovering something, making something. I know that every single one of you here wants to have an impact on your community. You want to make the world safer. You want to make the world better. And we desperately need that at this stage of our history, where there are more failed and failing states than I’ve seen in any time that I’ve been in public life.

So we face enormous challenges, and I’ll chat a little bit about a few of them tomorrow. But what I do know is that whether it’s climate change or poverty or disease or transportation, there are so many opportunities out there with so many people who still are desperately waiting for an opportunity to have a job and to be able to live as they see other people leaving because of – living because of modern technology.

So we all know – I had the privilege of representing the state of Massachusetts for 28 years – almost 29 years. And that meant that I got to interact with a lot of exciting institutions. We have about 136 colleges and universities – including Boston University, Boston College, Harvard, MIT, and many others. And we have been a place of innovation all of that time. So I like to think that this is in my blood, too, and I understand it. And I know that most jobs don’t come from Fortune 500 companies. Jobs come from somebody who’s got an idea, and they work in their garage or out of their car, or in a basement, and they make things happen and they build it from one people, two people, three, and onwards.

And by the way, every one of the great names here – whether you’re talking about Google or Cisco or any of those companies here that are the signature companies of this valley, you will understand began in those very ways, just as any startup does.

So it is critical that we make the most out of these two days now coming at us. And I know you will. We’re going to see some $10 billion announced over the next two days in capital investment in various projects. We’re going to have research efforts announced. We’re going to see networking take place before our eyes, and out of that I am convinced will come maybe a life-changing initiative with respect to either health or safety, or community, or communications – you name it.

I know that there is a tiny irony, perhaps, in having a summit in a valley. But we can get over that, because this valley is literally synonymous with entrepreneurship. So I invite you to take every advantage that is available to you with the investors who are here, with the folks who are here to counsel, to mentor, to teach, and to share ideas. And I am confident that we will look back on these two days as the startup of one or two or ten or a hundred different efforts that will become known entities in the near term.

So God bless you all, thanks for being part of this effort. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow morning. Enjoy the wine and the evening, the weather, and we’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks very, very much. Thank you. (Applause.)