On one of the most tumultuous days for world markets and amid news that the United Kingdom will exit the European Union, President Barack Obama delivered a message of hope and unity on Friday at the 2016 White House Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), which is being held at Stanford University.
He started by addressing the British people's decision to leave the European Union (EU), saying that a few hours prior, he had spoken with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
"Based on our conversation I'm confident that the UK is committed to an orderly transition out of the EU. We agreed that our economic and financial teams will make close contact as we stay focused on ensuring economic growth and financial stability," he said. "I then spoke to Chancellor Merkel of Germany and we agreed that the United States and our European allies will work closely together in the weeks and months ahead."
Obama continued to say, "I do think that yesterday's vote speaks to the ongoing challenges of globalization, but while the UK's relationship withe the EU will change, one thing that will not change is the special relationship between our two nations. That will endure."
"The EU will remain one of our indispensable partners; our NATO alliance will remain the cornerstone of global security," he said.
Obama acknowledged that the social-media and technology revolutions that started in Silicon Valley have changed the world permanently, and those changes have brought great progress but also conflict as cultures clash and some people fear the changes are disruptive to their way of life. But the entrepreneurs in Memorial Auditorium, who represent nations from around the globe, "are the bridge" to prosperity and growth, which will help stabilize the world. Entrepreneurs, he said, will create solutions to problems such as poverty, hunger, disease and the environment.
"The world has shrunk; it is interconnected. All of you represent that interconnection. ... It promises to bring extraordinary benefits, but it also has challenges and it also invokes concerns, and fears, and so part of why this Global Entrepreneurship Summit has been so close to my heart ... is because I believe all of you represent all the ... optimism and hope of an interconnected world," he said.
In today's world, Obama said, where economies undergo tremendous shifts, entrepreneurship remains the engine of growth and has the ability to turn an idea into reality.
"It puts rising economies on the path of prosperity and empowers people to tackle our most pressing global problems," Obama said.
When people can start their own businesses, it helps individuals and families succeed, he added. It can make whole communities more prosperous and secure, and it offers a positive path for young people seeking to make something of their lives and can empower people who were previously locked out of the existing prosperity, including women, minorities and others who aren't part of the old boys' network, he said.
Underscoring a sentiment made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during his Thursday summit speech, Obama noted the pressing need to combat extremism by bringing a future of education, hope and prosperity to younger people, who will also inherit the world's problems such as global warming, the lack of clean water and food production.
"We live in a time when 50 percent of the world's population is under the age of 30. That means we've got to make sure that all of our young people around the world have the tools they need to start new ventures ... and to help lift up the entire population," Obama said.
Traveling the world, he said he has seen enormous creativity waiting to be tapped. A goal of the summit is to put more tools and resources into the hands of people who are changing the world. The White House first hosted the summit in 2010; this is the second time the U.S. hosted it. Since then the summits have helped build entrepreneurship in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. All told, summit programs have helped more than 17,000 entrepreneurs to connect with each other, access capital and start their businesses, he said.
Obama also spoke of the normalization of relations with Cuba under his administration, noting the presence of 11 Cubans at the summit -- the first time that country has been represented at any summit, and he asked them to stand up, to great applause.
Obama also hosted panel discussion with three entrepreneurs from Egypt, Rwanda and Peru along with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Earlier in the plenary session, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker noted that the Global Entrepreneurship Summit will continue after Obama's administration.
Obama signed executive orders to institutionalize the summit and the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) program, a collaboration between celebrated American entrepreneurs, the White House, Department of Commerce and other agencies to harness the entrepreneurs' ideas and experience to help the next generation of entrepreneurs at home and overseas.
This was Obama's second time at Stanford. In February 2015, Obama delivered a speech regarding cybersecurity and technology during the Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford. At the summit, the president signed an executive order encouraging the private sector to share cybersecurity-threat information with other companies and the U.S. government.