The White House

Office of the Vice President

Remarks by Vice President Joseph Biden at the Entrepreneurship Summit

Istanbul, Turkey

11:45 A.M. (local)

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Good morning.  To my fellow speakers at this conference, particularly with the economic minister of the UAE, thank you for recognizing President Obama’s purpose in suggesting such a conference.  I am not going to spend any time today talking to you about the U.S. economy, but I am going to suggest that we, all nations, are in this together.  The fact that our economy is three and a half times as large as the next largest economy and larger than the next four combined does not make us immune from what’s happening around the world.

And I’m here today to speak to you entrepreneurs.  I’m here today to speak to all of those of you who we look to and will be looking to in each of our countries to assure that we continue to grow and we continue to be open.  So I say hello to everyone here and thank you for being here.  (Applause.)

But before I get to my main topic and the focus of this conference, let me just say that I know we all wish the Prime Minister could join us today.  And I look forward to personally visiting with him after this meeting to wish him a speedy recovery on behalf of President Obama and our entire administration.  (Applause.)

I would also say to our host, particularly to the speaker, that I’ve had a great couple of days here in Turkey.  And I want to thank the Turkish people, and their leaders, for their hospitality.

I’ve had very productive meetings so far.  Yesterday, I met with my old friend, President Gul, as well as the Speaker, who is here today and will be speaking next.  And I want to thank him for arranging a breakfast that he arranged for me yesterday with members of the Parliament.  I hope he found it as useful as I did.

My discussions this week here in Turkey have covered many topics of mutual concern to both our countries.  Our close collaboration in NATO, Afghanistan and Iraq; our joint efforts against the PKK, which continues to launch appalling attacks that claim innocent lives; regional issues from the brutal repression in Syria where Turkey -- where we stand with Turkey and a growing chorus of nations in calling for President Asad to step aside.  And I welcomed the Human Rights Council’s condemnation yesterday of the regime’s violence.

And the constitutional reforms we discussed that are taking place here in Turkey, which we hope and I know all in Turkey hope, will strengthen Turkey’s already strong democracy and respect for human rights.  And President Gul and I discussed my hope that Turkey and Israel, two steadfast American allies, can find opportunities to strengthen their own relationship.

So, ladies and gentlemen, the United States and Turkey have been NATO allies since 1952 and I am pleased to say that today our economic relationship is flourishing as well as our long-term military relationship.  Trade between our nations grew by 45 percent this year alone.  And I think it’s both to the benefit -- I know it’s to the benefit of the American people and I feel certain it’s also to the benefit of the people of Turkey.  And that’s why President Obama was so pleased that Prime Minister Erdogan agreed to host this meeting here in this magnificent city.

And I also want to thank -- as I’ve already done personally -- the United Arab Emirates, which has agreed to host next year’s summit.  As I said to the Sultan, I hope -- I plan on being there assuming I am re-elected.  (Applause.)  And I hope we represent -- but I’m confident whomever is leading my country will be there with the minister of economic affairs.

In June of 2009 in a speech that’s already been referenced given by President Obama in Cairo, the President announced our intent to deepen ties between American entrepreneurs and their counterparts from countries around the world with significant Muslim populations.  And 10 months later, the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit brought to Washington innovators -- many of you are here today -- from 50 nations in five continents.

President Obama said then, and I quote, “We’ve come together today because of what we share, a belief that we are all bound together by certain common aspirations -- to live in dignity, to get an education, to live healthy lives and maybe start a business without having to pay tribute or a bribe to anyone, to speak freely and have a say in how we are governed, to live in peace and security and to give our children a better future.”

So the question might be asked, how does entrepreneurship have anything to do with those larger aspirations?  There was no way at the time the President made that speech that several months later many of these same principles, those aspirational notions about the desire for dignity and freedom of speech and good governance and the chance for a better life would begin to transform the Middle East and North Africa.

I suspect that many of you assembled here in this magnificent hall today, whether or not you’ve ever been politically active, felt some of the same affinity that many of us felt for those in the streets who were seeking to build something far larger than just something for themselves.  That’s because democratic revolutions like the ones in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya -- and the ones still unfolding in Syria and Yemen --are imbued, literally imbued with entrepreneurial spirit, a spirit that requires risk and initiative, steadfast determination, and a unifying idea.

They aim to do more than merely change the government which is in power, but also to end practices like authoritarianism, corruption, the stifling of free expression -- practices that make political and economic freedom impossible.  And they take advantage and have taken advantage of the technologies of their time, whether it was 30 years ago with radio waves that penetrated the Iron Curtain during the Cold War or Twitter feeds that spread the details of Libyan troop movements in an attempt to prevent attacks on civilians.

The revolution that gave birth to my own country was inspired by the same desire for freedom and ensured that from its earliest days America has been hard-wired for innovation.  Back then, it was pamphleteers like Thomas Paine.  Today, it’s modern new technologies that connect us in an instant.

A political system founded on the rule of law and the protection of basic liberties, including the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion provide the truest shield against sectarian strife that too often has afflicted this region and in previous centuries western Europe; an educational system that trains students not merely to learn and accept established orthodoxy, but to be skeptical, to challenge and improve on the ideas that are being presented to them; an economic system that not only encourages fair competition, but richly rewards those who excel.  The foundation -- this foundation has enabled generations of Americans and others to give life to world-changing ideas, in our country ideas from the cotton gin to the airplane to the microchip to the Internet -- world-leading companies like General Electric, Ford Motor Company, Microsoft, Apple, Google and I could go on and list many others.

And breakthroughs in medicine and medical technologies that may not have originally had a profit motive but that held the promise to benefit all of mankind, from the polio vaccine to the human genome project and many others which were started by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health in my country or the mobile phone apps recently developed by a team of graduate students in Florida that can help diagnose malaria anywhere in the world.

America’s experience -- and that of many other nations, including many of yours -- teaches that fostering entrepreneurship is not just about crafting the right economic policy or developing the best educational curriculum.  It’s about creating a free political climate in which ideas and innovation can flourish.

Simply put, governments that protect liberties, embrace transparency allow for vibrant civil societies.  Give women equal opportunity.  They are the ones that pave the way for thriving cultures and entrepreneurs.  (Applause.)  It cannot happen without that.  

Meanwhile, countries that try to have it both ways, for example, making the Internet closed to free expression but open for business, those countries will find that approach is a dead end not because of anything the United States says or any other country, because they are totally inconsistent.  They may try to build walls between these different activities, but there isn’t a separate economic Internet, a political Internet and a social Internet.  There is simply an Internet and it must remain free and open.  (Applause.)  That is your conduit.  That is the conduit of all you brilliant, young minds who I’m looking at now.  That is the conduit through which entrepreneurship will flourish.  

We’re all here because we believe in the power of entrepreneurship to transform lives and lift up entire communities and nations.  It is no coincidence, ladies and gentlemen, that 19 of the top 20 most prosperous countries in the world are also the most entrepreneurial countries in the world, according to leading international indexes.

That’s why it’s so fitting that we meet here in Turkey today.  My old friend, the former foreign minister and now the economic minister spoke to Turkey’s great progress as did the economic minister.  A remarkable economic success story where the economy has tripled in size over the past decade, exports have quadrupled and per capita income has grown dramatically, allowing families to build better lives for themselves and for their children, and a better promise for their grandchildren. 

I understand that our ambassador, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, said not too long ago that the next Steve Jobs may be a Turk.  Well, that’s a worthy goal.  (Applause.)  He also may be in the UAE.  He or she may be anywhere in the world.  Already, Turkey is cultivating its own brand of homegrown talents, some of whom are here today.  

In 2007, Mr. Ozturk founded a company called 41-29, named for Istanbul -- the coordinates of the city of Istanbul.  It quickly became Turkey’s leading digital marketing agency specializing in advergames, virtual videos, social media.  And it made Facebook’s exclusive list of 40 “preferred developers.”

Ms. Hulya opened Turkey’s -- the first Turkish chain of women’s workout facilities in 2006.  Already this entrepreneur has opened 45 gyms nationwide, all of them I might add run by female franchisees.

Turkey is now the 17th largest economy in the world.  And, as you heard today, it aspires to be more, one of the world’s top ten economies by 2023, the 100th anniversary I might add of the founding of the Turkish Republic.  With what I know about Turkey’s people and its leaders over the past 35 years and what I’ve seen in the last decade, and what I’ve seen this week, I’d say that’s a pretty good bet.  (Applause.)

To secure the sort of future we all seek, each of us here must do our part -- not just our nations, each of us individually must do our part.  Aspiring entrepreneurs must do what comes naturally to them -- dream, take chances, and in the memorable phrase coined by Steve Jobs -- “think different.”  (Applause.)  For those who think the same do not hold the promise of progress.

Established entrepreneurs and chambers of commerce must mentor the next generation -- as this conference is all about -- share the wisdom gained by their successes and their failures and perhaps just as importantly help them learn from your mistakes.  Universities and corporations must work together through research and internships to nurture and develop entrepreneurial skills of students before they graduate, because the single, most valuable resource on the planet is not what’s in the ground, but what’s in our minds.  That is the most valuable resource that we possess in the minds of individuals, which we all have to work to cultivate.

Investors must occasionally be willing to take a chance on an unknown talent and an unknown and unproven dream.   And governments must unlock the marketplace of ideas, because it’s hard to think different if you’re not free to think and openly express what you’re thinking.  And governments must unlock the commercial marketplace by facilitating access to capital, removing cumbersome regulations and ending corrupt practices like bribes, all of which stifle competition.  Countries that take this path will find ready partners in other nations with thriving entrepreneurial cultures, including my own.

Let me give you a few important examples of how the United States is delivering on the commitments President Obama made in Cairo and at the first entrepreneurial summit, because as was mentioned earlier by the minister, just as in his country, in my country a promise made is a promise kept.

In Egypt, our Overseas Private Investment Corporation is providing financing of up to $1 billion to support public-private partnerships in energy, health, waste-water treatment, as well as facilities for small and medium-sized entrepreneurs for lending and housing and consumer financing.  In Tunisia, we are providing job placement, business entrepreneurial and social entrepreneurship programs for up to 800 youth.

In Iraq, where I just left, 45 percent more college students studied in the United States than the last year.  We are working with the government of Iraq to ensure those numbers will increase.  In Baghdad, the government is wisely funding 10,000 scholarships for its students to study abroad.  And America’s goal is to attract 30 percent of those students -- 3,000 of them -- at America’s universities.

In eight different countries and territories, including Turkey, we have launched a program called Partnership for a New Beginning, which brings together government, private sector and civil society leaders to build and deepen engagement in areas of economic opportunity, science & technology, education and exchange.  Among its diverse programs are life skills training programs for Indonesia’s undergraduates, safe gathering space for Egyptian activists to discuss reform and tele-medicine training for Pakistani health workers.

We’re also promoting and protecting intellectual property rights not just because so much of our intellectual policy -- property is stolen worldwide.  Tens of billions of dollars is stolen every year.  But that’s not the major reason we’re promoting this.  Because without protection of international property in every country, the country that does not protect it, the society that tolerates the theft of innovation will never develop its own indigenous capacity to create, whether in music or film, software or pharmaceuticals.

For you young entrepreneurs, why would you take the risk of your intellectual property being stolen in your own country?  And what incentive is there for a country to develop their own entrepreneurship, their own new ideas if all they have to do is go and steal them.  It’s a self-defeating proposition for the country that does not protect intellectual property.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, it will not surprise you, but we are particularly focused on encouraging women entrepreneurs because societies that deny women basic rights are squandering half of their intellectual capital.  The most valuable asset any country has, as I said, are the minds of their people, all of their people.  And in case you haven’t figured it out, women are just as bright as any man.  (Applause.)  

Study after study has shown that those nations that refuse to empower women to participate in economic affairs will be and have been left behind.  Their societies have not developed.  Already, in the developing world, almost half of the businesses, half of the new businesses are women-owned.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, we launched The African Women's Entrepreneurship Program,  which brings businesswomen to the United States for training related to trade and advocacy, and opportunities to meet U.S. political and business leaders, industrial associations and non-profit organizations.  Almost two-fifths of the participants who came have reported already that their businesses expanded upon their return, including a Tanzanian textile producer who signed a deal with a major American fashion designer Rachel Roy, assuring that she will make a great deal of money and employ a lot of her own people.

We’re also fulfilling a pledge President Obama made in Cairo to build networks of entrepreneurs and expand exchanges in education and to foster cooperation in science and technology.  We have led delegations of businesspeople and investors to Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Indonesia, Morocco, and Algeria.

And lest you misunderstand me, we also understand in these exchanges we stand -- we, the United States stands -- to learn something.  We stand to benefit, because we are fully aware that the seed of innovation, change, technology and science does not rest in the United States alone.  And starting next year, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit will partner with the Kauffman Foundation and Global Entrepreneurship Week, the world’s largest celebration of business innovation will participate in 123 countries to expand the reach of this summit in the years to come, because we believe in you.  We believe in your capacity.  (Applause.) 

Ladies and gentlemen, as the great inventor Thomas Edison said, “To have a great idea, you need to have a lot of ideas."  And he was right.  This is the premise on which the Global Entrepreneurship Summit is based.  Once, the wealth of a nation was primarily measured by the abundance of its natural resources, the expanse of its landmass, the size of its population and the power of its armies.

Today, the true wealth of a nation is found in the creative minds of its people and their freedom and ability to bring those ideas to life -- to develop not only new products, but the technologies that will create entirely new industries, entire new markets, entire new opportunities.  We cannot prosper in the 21st century built on the industries of the 20th century.  But let me state it again, none of this can happen without governments that guarantee the right to “think different,” as Steve Jobs said.  Our presence at this Summit is a testament to our shared belief in this notion.

Despite these difficult economic times, when I look out at the talent assembled here in this great hall, I’m optimistic.  And I really mean this, I am optimistic about the future more than I have ever been in my entire 39-year career.  The spirit and the drive that brought all of you here today are the engines that will help build a better tomorrow for our families, for your families, for our neighbors, for your fellow citizens.

Therein lies the U.S. objective in sponsoring this.  We benefit when nations grow.  We benefit when you are secure.  We benefit when people can provide for themselves.  We benefit when democracies flourish.  And democracies flourish when entrepreneurs are part of the engine of that democratic instinct one idea at a time.  One idea at a time is what is going to build the 20th century -- the 21st century in a better and more coherent and less conflictual state than the 20th century.

Let me conclude by thanking all of you for being here. Thank you for your skill.  (Applause.)  Thank you for your passion, your passion and your self confidence to believe in yourselves and the hard work it takes to bring an idea to life.  I’m inspired to be here among you and I look forward to seeing how you reshape this world of ours.  The promise is amazing.  The promise is amazing.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a quote I often use -- and if you excuse me for quoting an Irish poet.  I quoted this to the speaker when we had breakfast.  It was an Irish poet named William Butler Yeats who describing the transition taking place in his Ireland in 1916 wrote a poem that had the following line in it, a line that was intended to describe his Ireland at the moment.  But I would respectfully suggest it describes the Middle East and the world today even better than it described his country at the moment.  And here’s the line from that poem.  He said, “All has changed, changed utterly.  A terrible beauty has been born.”

All has changed not only in the Middle East in the last 20 years, but in the world at large.  We are at a inflection point in world history, a point at which my physics professor used to say, an inflection point is when you sit behind the wheel of an automobile that is going 60 miles an hour and abruptly you turn it five degrees in one direction.  It means you will never be back on the path you once were.  It is impossible to return to that path.

We are at one of those inflection points in world history.  But the good news is the reason for my optimism is you, you entrepreneurs.  You’re the ones that have your hand on the wheel.  And you have a chance like no other generation of entrepreneurs to direct the world, to steer it, to bend the curve in the direction of progress, openness, humanity.

So we’re relying on you more than just for your business acumen.  We’re relying on you for your passion and your understanding that only through a free exchange of ideas, the ability to think different, can the world be made better.  God bless you all.  (Applause.)

END           
12:16 P.M. (local)

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