Perspectives 09: A day of controversial views
It was a day of speeches, but it was anything but dull. At the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s Perspectives 2009 event, no topic was too controversial. Really. One of the speakers even quoted Chairman Mao Tse-Tung.
Five heavy-hitters in a variety of fields, including Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, took the stage at the Sacramento Convention Center Friday and delivered speeches that were decidedly energetic and provocative.
The high-profile speakers spoke to about 2,000 people during the chamber’s event, which was titled “An American Experience.” Rice shared the spotlight with entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki, finance expert Jane Bryant Quinn, author James Bradley and creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson.
Rice praised the private-sector, saying it should lead economic growth. The private sector is “creative, innovative and risk-taking,” she said. By contrast, Washington, D.C., cannot be described with those three words, she said.
Private sector-led growth is crucial to global economic growth, she said, adding that if the U.S. “does not stand for free trade, no one will stand for free trade.”
Quinn’s speech provided a sharp contrast to Rice’s remarks. Quinn said the nation’s recession is coming to a close “almost entirely” because of the billions of dollars President Barack Obama’s administration put into the economy. “Sometimes the government is the solution, not the problem,” she said.
Kawasaki turned the typical power-point presentation upside down with plenty of controversial statements. He promoted the concept of revolution as he gave pointers to the audience on producing innovative work. When you’re creating something new and different, you’re allowed to have a first version that’s simultaneously revolutionary and flawed, he said. “Don’t worry, be crappy,” he advised.
In another example, he urged innovators to not get hung up on marketing to one particular audience. He quoted Mao to illustrate his point: “Let 100 flowers blossom.” You don’t know which kinds of people are going to embrace your product, he said, so don’t think about your market narrowly.
Also on Friday morning, about eight demonstrators gathered outside the convention center, holding signs opposing Rice’s policies. One sign referred to Rice as a “Bloody War Monger.”
Asked to comment on the presence of protesters, Metro Chamber President Matt Mahood said: “It’s great. It’s what freedom of speech is all about.”
Inside the building, audience members chatted with each other during lunch. Tiffany Stokes, a student ambassador for Cosumnes River College, attended the event with other student leaders in the Los Rios Community College system. She said she found Kawasaki’s presentation helpful and plans to use his points in a presentation to fellow students.
Kawasaki was also popular with attendee Mike Motroni, the chief financial officer of Nor-Cal Beverage Company. Motroni described Kawasaki’s presentation as “dynamic” and “enjoyable,” and also said he was looking forward to hearing Rice’s perspectives on international affairs.
The aim of Perspectives is to “bring world-class figures to Sacramento, so business and civic leaders can hear their points of view,” Hal Silliman, communications director of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, said. Another goal is to familiarize the leaders with Sacramento, he said.
The event also provides attendees with an opportunity to network and host customers and clients, Mahood said.
Businesses, civic leaders and elected officials attend Perspectives, Mahood said, describing the attendees as the “who’s who in the business community.”
Metro Chamber officials said the poor economy affected this year’s turnout. Silliman estimated about 2,000 people turned out for Friday’s event. About 2,400 people attended the event last year, said Mahood, noting that the best year for Perspectives was 2006 with an attendance of 3,500 people.
Mahood declined to release figures for the amount of revenue the event generated through ticket sales this year. He noted that the chamber’s budget is about $5 million per year.
The revenue from the event goes toward the chamber’s work and advocacy throughout the year, he said, adding that the group’s work includes policy advocacy, economic development efforts and promotion of the Sacramento region.
Photos by Kati Garner.
Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Sacramento Press contributor Kati Garner contributed to this report.