From: Lee, Carol
Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2016 11:41 AM
To: Goodman, Meghan K. EOP/OVP
Subject: VPOTUS pool report #1
January 20, 2016
Vice President Biden led a roundtable discussion about equality in the workplace for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees. The roundtable was with the Human Rights Campaign inside a conference room at the Microsoft “café” at the World Economic Forum.
Mr. Biden entered the room at 10:17am to applause from the attendees. He immediately went around the table and shook each person’s hand. “You taking care of my niece?” he asked Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent. “My niece works for him," he told the group.
Mr. Biden was seated between HRC President Chad Griffin and Microsoft President Brad Smith. (Full list of participants below). There were some comments that might give the White House some heartburn about how Mr. Biden was the one who led the way on gay marriage by speaking out in support of it first.
Mr. Smith spoke first and said when it comes to LGBT issues “we’re at the end of the beginning.”
Anthony Scaramucci, founder of SkyBridge Capital, spoke next. “The vice president will be known throughout history as really the man that had the touchstone to make this movement a reality for all of us,” he said.
Mr. Griffin spoke next. He described Mr. Biden as “A man who has never shied away – no one has ever accused him of being shy – a man who has never shied away from speaking up for LGBT people.” He credited Mr. Biden with helping weave LGBT rights into the White House's foreign policy agenda, calling it the "most pro-equality White House in our history.” And of course will never forget just how boldly he voiced his support for marriage equality at that critical moment in 2012," Mr. Griffin said.
Mr. Biden spoke next. “When the president asked me to join him almost 8 years ago now as vice president. He said, ‘Do you have any conditions?’ I facetiously said, ‘I have two. I said I won’t wear any funny hats, and I’m not going to change my brand.’ When I spoke out on Meet the Press he [the president] said, ‘Well you told me you weren’t going to change your brand.’”
He said he's traveled 1,200,000 miles over the course of his career, and the world still looks to America for leadership not just vis a vis traditional power "but they look to us for the power of our example," such as on women's rights and LGBT rights.
He said when it comes to LGBT rights the world looks to corporations, too, even more so than the Supreme Court or the Obama White House. When the private sector speaks up, he said, it can change public opinion.
“The fact is that when you speak up you change the terms of the debate," he told the executives.
“You know, a lot of people give me a lot more credit than I deserve for speaking out. I’ve never known how not to speak out. No one’s ever doubted I mean what I say, the problem is I sometimes say all that I mean… I was given a disproportionate amount of credit for sort of breaking the ice."
He said LGBT activists have freed straight people from having to act a certain way culturally toward LGBT community. “So many straight folks have been freed from this straight jacket of what they were expected – what they thought they were expected to support. And that’s why we’ve had this existential move on this issue," he said.
He said the point he wanted to make is: “We still have a long way to go." Both in states, 30 of them, "where you can get married in the morning and fired at noon," and abroad where 75 countries where LGBT is banned.
Mr. Biden said he, and POTUS, raise LGBT rights in every bilateral meeting with leaders of countries that are hostile to the issue.
He slammed the argument that such discrimination in these countries is defensible because it's a cultural norm. Culture never justifies discrimination or violations of human rights, Mr. Biden said, pounding the table. “There's no cultural justification. None. None. None," he said, jabbing his pointer finger in the air after each word. He criticized countries who "hide behind 'this is our culture.'"
“We would not allow culture to justify that you persecute someone just because they’re black in their country," and refuse to do business with them," he said.
So, he said, companies should "put the world on notice" that they're not going to discriminate against LGBT. Initially, companies may take a hit, but it'll ultimately gain, particularly the loyalty of their employees. He urged CEOs who haven't signed the HRC pledge to global workplace fairness.
"At the end of the day, the rest of the world knows the one country where you have the best chance of being afforded dignity ... is here in the United States," he said.
Human Right Campaign roundtable participants, per VP’s office:
- Anthony Scaramucci, Founder, SkyBridge Capital
- Chad Griffin, President, Human Rights Campaign
- Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft
- Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO, The Coca Cola Company
- Beth Brooke-Marciniak, Global Vice Chair, Public Policy, Y
- Susan Hauser, Corporate Vice President, Business and Corporate Responsibility, Microsoft
- Nathan Blecharczyk, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, AirBNB
- Ray Nolte, Chief Information Officer, SkyBridge Capital
- Andrew Liveris, President, Chairman, and CEO, Dow Chemical
- David Abney, CEO, UPS
- Sander van Noordende, Group CEO-Products, Accenture
- Shamina Sing, Executive Director, MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth
- David Drummond, Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, Google
- Annie Dickerson, Director, Paul E. Singer Family office
- Michael Lopez, Director, Global Inclusion and Diversity, Aloca,
- Michelle Brooke-Marciniak, Co-CEO,
The Wall Street Journal