U.S. President Barack Obama will return to Stanford this June to host the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES). The announcement was made by Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel, who was at Stanford for a panel discussion on Monday.
Since the first GES was held in Washington, D.C. in 2010, the annual summit has convened a diverse group of entrepreneurs from around the world in an array of countries, most recently Kenya. Last November, the President announced that the 2016 summit would take place in what he called “the birthplace of modern innovation”: Silicon Valley.
“Stanford and this area is really a cradle of entrepreneurship in the 21st century,” Stengel said at the panel after announcing the more specific location. “It’s the most positive thing about the U.S. brand around the world.”
“President Obama is really delighted because… he likes coming out here,” Stengel added.
Stengel described Silicon Valley, and more broadly the U.S., as entrepreneurial “beacon[s]” for the 700 young leaders — 100 each from six different regions of world, plus 100 more from the U.S. — who will gather in June.
However, Stengel emphasized that the summit does not seek to teach ideas of entrepreneurship, but rather to connect entrepreneurs with each other as they practice a particularly social-minded brand of innovation.
“The young men and women who come from around the world… they’re social entrepreneurs,” he said. “I’d say the great majority of them are coming up with ideas that benefit their societies.”
Stengel recalled last year’s Nairobi summit, saying he was inspired by participants’ commitment to improving their communities.
“That’s their idea of entrepreneurship,” he said. “It isn’t necessarily to become a Silicon Valley billionaire. It’s that old American idea that Benjamin Franklin first came up with in the 18th century, doing well by doing good.”
Stengel made his comments during the panel “Empowering the World: Entrepreneurship and the Future of Foreign Policy,” which featured Stengel in conversation with Michael McFaul ’86, professor of political science and director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
McFaul noted that one has to go back some 70 years in history to find a president that has visited Stanford twice while in office.
“Shows [Obama’s] a smart guy, in my opinion,” he quipped.
After Stengel’s announcement, Graduate School of Business professor Jesper Sørensen gave remarks on behalf of Stanford as well as the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED), which he directs.
Sørensen expressed excitement for the University to contribute not just infrastructural support but also “Stanford’s intellectual capacity” to the summit.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for our faculty, it’s an exciting opportunity for our students, it’s an exciting opportunity for everyone here at Stanford to really engage,” he said.
Stanford’s administration also reacted positively to the announcement.
“We are honored that President Obama has chosen to convene the summit at a university where we share his dedication to finding solutions to global challenges,” Stanford president John Hennessy said to Stanford Report. “We are proud that Stanford will be a partner and serve as the venue for this important global event.”
Registration to participate in the summit is now closed, after drawing approximately 4,500 applicants. However, the summit will seek volunteers to help around the Stanford campus during the event, which will take place at the Knight Management Center and Gunn-SIEPR Building.
Contact Hannah Knowles at hknowles ‘at’ stanford.edu.