“Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States.”
I’d heard those words before, watching many United States presidents deliver their annual State of the Union Address on television since I was a child. My mom and dad always felt that our duty was to be informed citizens, so even before I was old enough to vote, I was encouraged (read as “required”) to watch the State of the Union address.
Hearing that introduction in person a few weeks ago in the House of Representatives sent chills down my spine. The gathered legislators, ambassadors, Supreme Court justices, members of the president’s cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and their guests stood and applauded as President Obama entered the House chamber to deliver his final State of the Union address.
Without any qualification, I can say the experience was more than I could have ever imagined. Political persuasions aside, there is simply nothing more powerful than watching a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” play out before your eyes.
Earlier this month I attended another event – the Innovation Policy Roundtable at Stanford University, hosted by Bay Area members of Congress. Participating in both events was an honor. I not only represented Intuit. My attendance represented every one of you and I thought it would be neat to share my State of the Union experience with you.
The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the president’s address was unexpected, resulting from a recent visit to Intuit by Rep. Anna Eshoo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. Their trip to our Mountain View campus was a mark of respect for our company, our people, our mission and our thought leadership in the tech community. Following that visit, Rep. Eshoo invited me to Washington as her guest to attend the State of the Union. I could not have been more surprised personally, or more honored.
Most of us experience government from a distance. We learn about campaigns, new laws and Supreme Court decisions through news reports on TV, on our phones or through our computers. But nothing compares to witnessing it in person.
I’m no stranger to government or politics. My dad was mayor of the small town where I grew up in West Virginia, so I’ve seen how the process works at the local level. But over the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to see and participate in our federal government from an up-close-and-personal perspective.
Since 2014, I’ve served on the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans. Over the past year, Intuit has also played an active and leading role in the Internal Revenue Service’s Security Summit, requiring me to make multiple visits to meet with the IRS commissioner, as well as engage with revenue commissioners from across the United States.
Government relations has never been more important to Intuit, and we’re fortunate to have a team led by Bernie McKay to be the gold standard in government affairs. The relationships they have forged over these many years led to Intuit's invitation to attend the State of the Union.
What you don’t see on television is as remarkable as the president’s address itself. The audience is a veritable who’s who of our nation’s government. All major dignitaries introduced before the president’s arrival. It’s the one time each year that these national leaders are all assembled under one roof. They’re joined by international diplomats, national heroes and average citizens from all walks of life, representing the strength, diversity and tapestry of our nation.
The atmosphere is electric when the president arrives. The crowd rises and applauds as he is introduced to the chamber by the sergeant at arms and makes his way to the speaker’s rostrum. No matter which side of the political aisle you sit on, it’s a moment you’ll always remember. Trust me, as frustrated or cynical as one can become when government doesn’t seem to be functioning at its best, it all falls to the wayside when you attend one of these events.
My own patriotism shot through the roof. I was proud to be there. I was proud to be a citizen with a voice and a vote. And I was proud to represent Intuit.
Over the next year, the United States will choose a successor to President Obama. No matter where your political beliefs lie, I encourage all our United States employees to pay attention and take part in the process. Your voice helps shape our collective future. It's too important to be left to chance.