President Obama dines with the Silicon Valley elite in Woodside

President Barack Obama came to Silicon Valley today to dine with the the region’s technology leaders to talk about how to create more jobs and improve education.

The crowd reportedly included Steve Jobs, the Apple chief executive, who made time for the President despite having taken a leave of absence for medical reasons. It also included a who’s who of the digerati. In Silicon Valley, you could say that it doesn’t get any bigger than this, unless pop star Katy Perry was also in attendance.

Despite the geographic distance, the mashup of East Coast and West Coast nerd star power made total sense. The trip was something of a spiritual homecoming for President Obama, who cited Google as an inspiration for his campaign organization and who used Silicon Valley-born tools to organize his run for president.

Reports say that crowds lined the streets of Woodside as the presidential motorcade rolled by on the way to the estate John Doerr and his wife Ann, who are among the country’s biggest political donors. Doerr is the billionaire investor who is a partner at well-known venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

The dinner lasted about two hours and it included Jobs; Carol Bartz, president and CEO of Yahoo; Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers; Twitter CEO Dick Costolo; Oracle CEO Larry Ellison; Netflix CEO Reed Hastings; Stanford University President John Hennessy; Genentech chairman and former CEO Art Levinson; Google CEO Eric Schmidt; venture capitalist Steve Westly, a former state controller and political player; and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The fact that Jobs attended is considered a positive sign for Apple watchers, since reports surfaced this week that he’d been spotted leaving a local cancer clinic, prompting some to speculate he might not have long to live.

The visit was reportedly not a fundraising trip. But many of the guests were big donors to Obama and Democratic candidates for political office. All of the guests, except for Twitter’s Costolo, are members of TechNet, a high-tech advocacy group. That group has lobbied numerous administrations to promote “tax policy, free trade, broadband and Internet policy, basic research, patent litigation reform, and health IT.” Zuckerberg, however, has not donated to political campaigns, according to MAPlight.org.

I can’t imagine that Obama has figured out a way to pump a lot more money into innovation and education, given the big deficit. But with this visit, he’s at least using the power of the presidency to put a spotlight on technology.

[image credit: ABC News]

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