Obama Highlights American Dream with Steve Jobs

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[Editor’s Note: The following story is largely about U.S. politics, and is an example of how politics and technology often intersect. It’s also an example of the stature that both Apple and its CEO, Steve Jobs, have achieved in the mainstream world. If reading about politics on a Mac site bothers you, don’t read it. - Editor]

In a press conference Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama picked Apple CEO Steve Jobs to illustrate the importance of the “American Dream.” The president was speaking to the importance of protecting the middle class and providing opportunities to all Americans, and he used Steve Jobs as an example of the benefits of doing so.

Steve Jobs and President Barack Obama

Steve Jobs and President Barack Obama

The comment came when reporter Mark Knoller from CBS News asked the president if there is a divide between the middle class and wealthy Americans. As part of his reply, President Obama decried the accumulation of wealth into the hands of fewer Americans as an issue that affects the middle class.

“What is also a fact,” he said, according to a transcript of the press conference published by the White House, “is that people in the top 1 percent, people in the top 1/10th of 1 percent, or 1/100th of 1 percent have a larger share of income and wealth than any time since the 1920s. Those are just facts. That’s not a feeling on the part of Democrats. Those are facts.”

He said that America’s middle class has always been the greatest strength of the country, and that he believed it important for everyone in the country to, “have a shot at the American Dream.”

He added, “That should be what we’re focused on. How are we creating opportunity for everybody? So that we celebrate wealth. We celebrate somebody like a Steve Jobs, who has created two or three different revolutionary products. We expect that person to be rich, and that’s a good thing. We want that incentive. That’s part of the free market.”

The question was framed by the recent extension of the Bush tax cuts (which is what started the questioning from Mr. Knoller) that included tax cuts for the wealthiest tiers of Americans. Mr. Obama’s support for extending the full range of tax cuts angered many Democrats, while the president defended the measure as a compromise with Republicans that was the best way to ensure that the economy continues to grow going forward.

In October, President Obama met with Steve Jobs. According to the White House at that time, Mr. Obama was, “eager to talk to [Mr. Jobs] about the economy, innovation and technology, education.”

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also said, “They discussed American competitiveness and education, especially reforms such as the president’s Race to the Top initiative. They then talked about energy independence and ways to increase job creation.”

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42 Comments Leave Your Own

Bryan Chaffin

A note to TMO members and any visitors we might have to keep the discussion civil.

Rather than arguing the merits of tax cuts or even the class divide Mr. Obama was asked about, I think a much more interesting topic is the idea of Steve Jobs being used as an example of success and the American Dream.

Who would have thought that would be the case in 1997 when Mr. Jobs first came back to Apple, or that the president of the U.S.A. would be talking about revolutionary Apple products?

Lee Dronick

I think a much more interesting topic is the idea of Steve Jobs being used as an example of success and the American Dream.

He came from relatively humble beginnings and became a success, and a visionary. Yes, he is one of the people I admire.

Greg

It’s an interesting note on the concept of creating value.  Jobs has very obviously created value for his company and its customers through personal effort. Revolutionary products and just as importantly a revolutionary and creative set of tactics for marketing those products have allowed him to accumulate vast personal wealth as a result of his provision of value to his customers.

Contrast this with, say, Carol Bartz of Yahoo & Autodesk infamy.  She royally messed up Autodesk’s reputation by releasing faulty software and has done little to improve prospects at the former leader in online search.  Yet she still commands more personal wealth than most of us will ever dream of.

What we are seeing is equal reward for unequal results (yeah, I know Steve makes more than Carol, but compared to you and me they make the same amount: Way More). My perception of the American Dream is that if you work hard and make wise decisions you will be rewarded.  When we see evidence of the contrary it understandably upsets us.

But are we focusing too much on the extreme? Most of us know a Wally at work who doesn’t do much but still gets that raise or that promotion that they didn’t deserve.  We aren’t superheros ourselves, but we try hard and do our jobs reasonably well.  And for that we are rewarded with relative financial security, the means to provide for our families, and a reasonable lifestyle which remains the envy of most of the world’s population.

Perhaps instead of fuming over the giants, we ought to be a bit more thankful that things aren’t a whole lot worse.  Merry Christmas!

Michal Sulek

That’s nice…
But, ain’t it Barack Obama…

I’m not American, but can see a misspelled name wink

Merry X-Mas from Slovakia

..::M:::...

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

It would be smart to read up on class mobility and income mobility before starting an uncivil debate. For example, the “top 10%” of income earners for each year since 2000 comprises about 30% of income earners. When you figure out how that could possibly be the case, you’re qualified to debate the issue with the civility Bryan requests grin.

Bryan Chaffin

I?m not American, but can see a misspelled name

Egads! Thanks for catching that. I read right over it many times after misspelling it. It’s corrected now. smile

wildcatherder

I’m pretty sure this isn’t what people were expecting when they asked for “more Jobs”.  Not to denigrate Steve Jobs accomplishments, but he was definitely in the right place at the right time.  He is more of an example of how our current economic system allows one to parlay a good situation into fantastic wealth (which comes from other people, by the way) than an example of the American Dream.

wab95

Who would have thought that would be the case in 1997 when Mr. Jobs first came back to Apple, or that the president of the U.S.A. would be talking about revolutionary Apple products?


I think that this is exactly right.

I believe that a key lesson from Steve Jobs’ story for youth everywhere is the importance of daring to be different, holding to one’s convictions, and not allowing the disbelief, ridicule or censure of others to dissuade one from the pursuit of a dream, a goal or a project.

Youth need, and respond to, examples of belief in oneself and prevailing against the odds, to which the endless list of ‘coming of age’ movies amply attests, but nothing beats a living example.

Dan M.

How about the fact that he’s a college dropout? That’s the real American Dream. You can follow your own path, and there’s nothing to limit what you can accomplish, so long as you are willing to work for it.

magnusalpha

Michal Sulek said:I?m not American, but can see a misspelled name
Egads! Thanks for catching that. I read right over it many times after misspelling it. It?s corrected now.

Still misspelled.

Great little article though, poses some interesting thoughts.

Bryan Chaffin

All fixed.  I forgot about the captions when I did my corrections.

HansJurgen

Hello, I made a pointless post since I had nothing of value to add to the conversation. Really, all I wanted to do was disrupt the discussion, but Bryan has edited it, leaving my name so that all may know it was necessary for me to be treated like a child.

[Edited by Bryan]

paddy

Reading Mr. Obama’s remarks makes you wonder what it was that you thought, two years ago, set this man’s intellect apart from others. So much of what he says makes so little sense. Only Mr. Obama could juggle The American Dream on one hand and demonize “the rich” on the other. “The rich,” as Mr. Obama defines it, are people making $200,000 or more. Of course there are millionaires and billionaires out there. They’re truly rich, though so what? But the vast majority of the people Mr. Obama calls “rich” are making $200,000, $250,000, $300,000—in that neighborhood. These are not people who inherited wealth. These are people from humble beginnings who went to school, applied themselves, studied hard, went on to college, got degrees, landed excellent jobs, excelled at them and gradually made their way to $200,000, and more. That’s the real American dream. But they’re not rich, nor should they be made the butt of Mr. Obama’s class warfare because of their success. It’s just insane. I’m certainly not rich, but I don’t understand why you’re a bad human being if you are rich. Well, OK, I do understand. It’s politics, isn’t it. Rich = Republican = bad person. Poor or middle class = Democrat = good person. Not even Richard Nixon poisoned the society in which we live as much as Mr. Obama. He has been, quite frankly, a disgrace to the presidency.

carpe

Jobs? American dream? He’s the guy who runs a company that can’t seem to decide what apps they want to run.

On top of that, said app won’t run on the device YOU bought unless apple says so. What kind of american dream is that?

Konobu

Really, Steve Jobs is my American Dream? No wonder we still end up with 10% unemployment rate. I can’t think of any piece of Apple hardware that is not made in China. I guess you really want me to be competitive to setup a third world production line paying $2 a day for a cheap labor then bring it back to US & sell them back to our fellow Americans for a fortune. We already seen the auto industry completely moved from Detroit. Do we still want another production move out in the future? President Obama, please do help the American this time!!!

Millicent P

The “American Dream” is a myth, a fable, a legend, and a dishonesty aimed to create the illusion that wealth is the reward of hard work. Wealth and enterprise often comes at the exploitation of others and/or the environment.  Mr. Jobs is lucky, reared in a middle class family, he skipped or avoided many adolescent pitfalls that others just as creative were harmed by. Our President who I voted for appears to be totally unaware of what it really takes in America to achieve one’s personal dreams without harming self, family, friends and others.  Think about it, suppose Steve had geared his genius into cancer or HIV research, I would rather have a cure for leukemia, breast cancer or HIV than a new high tech iPod or iPad device.

Lee Dronick

Well it was nice while it lasted.

Podesta

I have thought of the similarities between Steve Jobs and Barack Obama before.  Both are the sons of college students from foreign countries.  Both of their mothers faced the troubles attendant to being involved with non-white men.  One kept her child and struggled economically, while the other was forced to give hers up for adoption.  President Obama followed a typical route in his education, but not in his jobs, preferring to retain an unusual level of autonomy.  Steve Jobs also went his own way, eschewing an expensive college education, but respecting learning.  Both men are extraordinary successes.

There is much to learn about our complex culture and problems many people face, but sometimes overcome, in both their stories.

Lee Dronick

True that Podesta.

I am thinking that Steve’s trip to India was a large influence on how he is today. Travel can broaden the mind.

hiscross

Barry met with Steve in October and then went on to lose 60+ seats in the House / Senate. He should have listen closely when Steve tried to tell his BB sucked, like his policies.

cestmoi

Sad to see that no matter how often and nicely asked the haters will not shut up. 
With that said, however,  Jobs is a brilliant and demanding chief who has added many jobs to the economy.  As to Made in China, most products wind up being put together there from parts sourced worldwide.  Manufacturing has not been and will not be the large business it was in the US for lots of reasons, though we do make excellent cars here in American, Japanese and Korean owned plants.  While I am sad that those jobs are gone forever, I look to us to create new jobs in other sectors.
Obama will be seen as a very good president.  He has been a disappointment to those who thought he would bring the heavenly city in the first two years of his administration.  People with absurd expectations will always be disappointed.  But his list of achievements in the face of an opposition that has kept its word to say NO, to see him fail, are many.

stirfry

Hello, my post was summarily edited by Bryan, who left my name here so that others may know of my shame.

[Edited by Bryan]

Peabody_II

Based on my experience as a computer tech serving mostly middle-class, end-users, they cannot *afford* Apple hardware.  This is mostly because Apple invests so much in being an “elistist” environment—in both the hardware and software markets.

Obama fails again—due to complete ignorance of the real world of the middle class—very much to my disappointment.

ibuck

Again, I see twisting of facts, substituting unsupported opinion for facts, making assumptions, character assassination (hating?) and so on in some of these posts. These tactics do not persuade me, and are poor substitutes for reasoned arguments. They make me less likely to even listen to these folks (HansJurgen, paddy, hiscross), and so the other side carries the day.

Well done!

MacHead

Hmmm, let’s see. BIOS, binary, bias.

Well, one of these don’t belong on a Mac site. I guess two out of three aren’t bad.

tomcool889

random note - LOVE how there’s an ad for the Nexus S at the bottom of this page. smile

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Sad to see that no matter how often and nicely asked the haters will not shut up.?

Yeah, anyone who disagrees with you is a hater, right?

David

American dream= work until you loose your liver and other body parts, look like a ghost and then spend all your money recovering.

Chris

It would be excellent for USA to develop renewable energy, Wind, Wave, Hydro and Solar Power to the fullest extent.

The Federal government can learn many good lessons from a technological success like Apple, Inc.

Every street light in every state in the USA should be self powered by it’s own solar panel, not wasting coal, oil, and nuclear energy that is better used elsewhere.

A clean power revolution in the USA would create jobs and improve air quality and reduce health care costs and reduce air pollution illness and death.

The government can lead the way with incentives to create affordable green power, and provide tax breaks to Americans investing in America - such as buying the Car of The Year - the Chevrolet VOLT, or converting their home to solar power.

One Planet, One People, One Future.

New Technology can help America succeed.

Elijah F.

Mr. Obama calls ?rich? are making $200,000, $250,000, $300,000?in that neighborhood.

Those people are still considered part of LOWER UPPER CLASS.  Also he CLEARLY says that people who are at the TOP of the wealth bracket.  Your argument not only lacks logic, but also presents a poor use of incorrect facts.

Also, why should people who make $200,000+ a year pay less proportionally in taxes then the person who makes $50,000?

When has he ever demonized the rich? He is rich himself.  The biggest difference between Democrats and republicans on the economic front is how they want to split up taxes.  Republicans adhere to the trickle down theory, which is cut taxes for the rich and they will let the saved money “trickle down” to the less wealthy who work for them.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t work and never has.  That’s why companies are currently making the largest profits ever recorded in history, and yet we’re in a recession and the unemployment rate is so high.  Why not use the EXTRA MONEY FROM TAXES TO CREATE JOBS. Because it doesn’t work.
Democrats believe that if you cut taxes for the largest group of americans (the under $250,000 a year range) then they will in turn buy and invest more, creating a greater need for goods and services, causing an increase in the need for people to manufacture those goods and work for those services creating more wealth for everyone involved.

I would LOVE to debate with you sometime, but I don’t think you can even respond to logic and rational debate.

Elijah F.

I can?t think of any piece of Apple hardware that is not made in China.

That’s because the Republican party denied a bill that would give tax cuts to companies who stopped outsourcing.

CdC

Lovely editorial caveat. Seriously.

Next time just tell people That Nothing Is Clearly Upper Lower Class and shut down the comments so Disney will put them on the lemming roundtable.

CdC

Sorry second remark - should the discussion about the American Dream presume that to be a defined concept? I can provide my Edward Scissorhands angle on it and say that I like my new Big Brother.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Every street light in every state in the USA should be self powered by it?s own solar panel, not wasting coal, oil, and nuclear energy that is better used elsewhere.

Colossally stupid idea. I see a political career in your future.

MacHead

Bryan,

I have been reading the Mac Observer for years. I have valued MO as a great source of Mac news and of reader’s opinions. I myself have posted comments but a handful of times on this site.

But now that I see that people’s posts and opinions are censored or deleted (yes, understand the terms of use), I see no point in expressing my views here and see little point in reading this publication when it APPEARS to me that the views of the readers are of little value to the publisher.

CdC

I doubt that was meant to say that Google becoming the nexus intermediary for information was a stupid idea, because the discussion revolves around how well we’ve done using knee jerk reactions to arbitrary reports from politico.

I may be wrong, but I don’t see that your vision has panned out well.

CdC

I consider posts from contributors with a poor grasp of the English language criticizing an editor essential to evaluating the thought and mind involved, and an open forum has no other credentials by which to consider a source.

I do not value the opinion of a post in English authored by someone who finds the plural/possessive distinction relevant

Period

kinetix

This may be the American Dream…to rise from humble beginnings to running one of the most successful companies int he world.

I love Apple products and innovation, but I’m tired of seeing our own companies help erode the middle class. Many companies and leaders may not think this is what we are doing, but when many companies only make 3-8% over there operating costs and companies bringing in 30 - 40% move manufacturing outside of America. This shift causes America to shift to an importer and investing most money outside of America. So where are those humble and middle class jobs that help people go for that Dream.

John D. Rockefeller -  He grew great companies/industries, was a philanthropist and encouraged giving your time or money to worthy causes.

Dave R

I find the most interesting thing about Jobs is that he has fair policies in his company. One can also say that President Obama has a fair minded administration. I think both men are heroes in my book. I would think their success has also brought a great deal of jealousy. Both men have a high degree of concentrated power too. I would like to see Jobs bring on some mentored folk to fill a vacuum he might leave.When I think of the American Dream I think of home ownership which has become wanting a huge house that most can’t afford. THere is a tend toward less home size ownership which I think is better for our country. And it makes the dream more likely.

Dave R

You would think the haters would have something better to do than crap in some obscure forum. Where is the Christmas spirit? Apparently, lost on some.. get a life and crap in your own forum.

Lee Dronick

I would like to see Jobs bring on some mentored folk to fill a vacuum he might leave.

Hopefully that has already happened, or is an ongoing thing. State of health aside, any one of us could be gone in a second should there be an accident.

Vincent Victor

The past decade has been a remarkably successful decade for Apple and it has already overtook Microsoft.

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