The Cable

Obama: Why hold a summit on entrepreneurship? Because you told us to!

President Obama and a slew of cabinet and high ranking administration officials will drop in over the next two days on the Muslim community entrepreneurship conference going on in Washington, DC. Downtown at the Ronald Reagan building, 250 "entrepreneurs" from five continents are meeting Monday and Tuesday for what the White House is calling the ...

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President Obama and a slew of cabinet and high ranking administration officials will drop in over the next two days on the Muslim community entrepreneurship conference going on in Washington, DC.

Downtown at the Ronald Reagan building, 250 "entrepreneurs" from five continents are meeting Monday and Tuesday for what the White House is calling the "Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship," and billing as a fulfillment of one of the promises Obama made last April during his landmark speech on U.S.-Muslim relations in Cairo.

Obama himself addressed the summit Monday evening, and answered the question many had apparently been asking him.

"Given all the security, political and social challenges that we face, why a summit on entrepreneurship? Well, the answer is simple," Obama said, "Because you told us that this is an area where we can learn from each other."

That wasn’t the only reason. Obama went on to say that "throughout history, the market has been the most powerful force the world has ever known for creating opportunity and lifting people out of poverty," and, "because it’s in our mutual economic interest." Ok, anything else? One more.

"Because, as I learned as a community organizer in Chicago, real change comes from the bottom up, from the grassroots, starting with the dreams and passion of a single individual serving their community."

Obama then gave a shout out to some top tech execs who made the trip, including Yahoo’s Jerry Yang and Facebook’s Chris Hughes, as well as some of the entrepreneurs that he met at the event.

No foreign government officials are attending the conference, which is being run jointly by the State Department and the Commerce Department, but several U.S. officials are making speeches. Today the conference heard from Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and of course, Obama himself.

National Economic Council Director Larry Summers will start the festivities Tuesday, followed by Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills, Pradeep Ramamurthy, a senior director for global engagement at the White House, and others. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will give the closing remarks.

USAID’s Shah led a panel on "access to capital" and unveiled a new USAID initiative on that front.

"Through partnerships with the World Bank and with Babson College, we will work with willing governments and their business communities and universities to identify and facilitate needed reforms," he said, "We look forward to partnering with 15 reform-minded countries to introduce streamlined, low-cost and customer-focused business regulation reforms."

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