Modelry - A Random Walk through Internet Real Estate: President Barack Obama in Bellevue, WA February 17, 2012: Long Live the ARPA-E!

President Barack Obama in Bellevue, WA February 17, 2012: Long Live the ARPA-E!

President Barack Obama in Bellevue, WA, February 17, 2012: Long Live the ARPA-E

Today was a really exciting day for me.  I was invited to a lunch with President Barack Obama at the Bellevue Westin, in Bellevue, WA outside of Seattle, WA.  There were only about  400 people present.

Barack Obama in Bellevue

 I used to be CEO of cleantech company named Bio Architecture Lab (BAL).  BAL is a spin out from the University of Washington that has developed technology to convert seaweed or macroalgae into low cost biofuels and renewable chemicals.  In 2009, BAL was selected for a prestigious ARPA-E grant with DuPont from the Department of Energy.  The ARPA-E stands for the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy and is geared at funding game-changing risky energy projects.  It is led by Arun Majumdar who is the former Associate Laboratory Director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories.  We received the largest grant in the country to convert seaweed into bio-butanol.  It was a big deal for our company and for DuPont as well which was cool to see.

A friend of mine from Harvard Business School shot be an email a couple of weeks ago, letting me know that President Obama was coming to Bellevue to raise money for his reelection campaign.  Though I am financially conservative, I grew up in blue collar Massachusetts and I am about as liberal and liberal can be.  I figured this was a once in lifetime chance to be the same room as the first black President of the United States.  After getting the okay from my CFO my wife, I responded happily that I would be there with bells on.  

Today February 17, 2012, I arrived at the Bellevue Westin about 30 minutes before the doors opened to wait in line for my chance to see President Barack Obama.   There was an interesting mix of supporters and protesters outside.  Majority of the protesters were from Occupy Wall Street movement.  Majority of the supporters were promoting Planned Parenthood or Equal Rights for All.  There were a number of petitions asking for further campaign finance reform to take corporations out of the election process.  Probably a good idea.

Protests in Bellevue when President Obama is in town Protests in Bellevue when President Obama is in townWestin Bellevue WA

It took us about an hour to get into the Westin.  We were seated by 1:30pm.  I am not sure what I did to deserve special treatment (Thank You Steve & Autumn!) but I was in the front row right as the President would enter the room near the stage.  I swear I was like 20 feet away from the President or at least where the President would be.  I also got the privilege of sitting next to three GREAT families - the Griffin's, Ringnesses, and the Gerberding's.  The Griffin's were a large family with four children.  Ed Ringness was a Harvard grad and an early employee at Microsoft and Bill Gerberding was the former President of the University of Washington.  I soon learned that Bill was the longest serving President at the University of Washington in history having served 16 years.    

The Head and the Heart started playing at about 2pm.  What a GREAT show!  Unfortunately, the President ran about 3 hours late :(  Luckily we had great conversations.  When the President did arrive, he first took pictures with the largest donors first prior to speaking.  I think that took another hour.  

FINALLY, the owner of Elliot Bay Book Store Peter Aaron introduced President Barack Obama.  It was an interesting choice in that Peter is relatively unknown in Seattle, but Peter spoke of the economic hardships of running a small business with 30 employees and being unable to get a loan in 2008.  The Elliot Bay Book Store is a cornerstone here in Seattle from a city flavor perspective.

President Barack Obama came on the stage right after.  I hope the video does justice to how close I was to the President.  It was amazing.  No matter what you think about his effectiveness or his politics, he is an amazing speaker and an inspirational person.   His speech was all about building an America "Built to Last" and investing in the people of America.  He held Detroit and the car industry as a great example of the revival of American industry.  GM has returned to its stature as the world's largest car company.  He talked about the need to invest in education, training and clean energy (my heart grew a couple of sizes larger).  He spoke passionately about the need to raise taxes on the rich, because it is the right thing to do, touting the Buffett Law where the boss should not pay a lower tax rate than the secretary.  

The President actually admitted that he has not been as effective as he would have liked.  He told us that change is hard, but he is committed to representing that American people to do the right thing.  I can related to the change being hard part and that nothing happens as quickly as you want.

President Barack Obama actually complimented the Republican Party starting with Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt for making the investments into the people and infrastructure of the country (clever tactic President Obama).  He did come back to politics attributing the gird lock in Washington Dc to the Republican Party.

Like a good President, he challenged us in the audience to do what we can to rebuild and retrain America into greatness.  A great call to action for all of us.

Prior, I asked the Secret Service where I should go to get the best chance of shaking President Obama's hand post speech.  After hemming and hawing for some time, the Secret Service told me to get to the middle.  Luckily a friend of mine named Adam Tratt was also in the audience at the table right next to me in the front.  

As Obama finished his speech and started to move toward the rope line, we moved rushed to the middle.  Adam took my iPhone and I took his and he tried to take pictures of the hand shake.  All day, I had been sweating over what I would say if I got an opportunity to say something to the President.  

Here was my opportunity.  The President was moving down the rope line, closer and closer.  I totally forgot to take a good picture of Adam.  Then it was my turn to shake the President's hand.  He put out his left hand toward my right hand and then I yelled, "Long live the ARPA-E!"

The President looked startled, like he was thinking, "Why would anyone in his right mind say that?"

The President replied, "That's a great program."

I replied, "Hell yeah it is." (or something like that).

Why did I say that? I have no idea.  But it is kind of funny in retrospect.

We made our way down to the parking garage and then out into the Seattle rain and Bellevue Traffic.

What a cool day.

 President Barack ObamaPresident Barack ObamaNikesh Parekh Shaking Barack Obama's Hand

Nikesh Parekh

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Comment balloon 40 commentsNikesh Parekh • February 17 2012 11:44PM


Nikesh, I read your entire blog here... Long live the ARPA-E! Love it! A definite journal and Dear AR day! I always like a good challenge myself and feel I contribute to the people/ homeowners, future homeowners, educating potential buyers and giving back to my community and involved in philanthropy. Some of us believe we know one another, but may not realize how much more some of us give back and do. What a great day for you! Nice to get to know what you did before AR and doing your part for a better America.

BTW~ My husband is a UW Grad~ and of course has a Siberian Husky as his pet. ;) A True HUSKY! ;)

Another Note- Talk to Kate Y. and ask her what happened to me recently. She said she would discuss with you... THX~

Posted by CA COASTAL ESTATES Lauren Selinsky Perez CRS, "Your Real Estate Broker" #oclauren (California Coastal Estates) almost 9 years ago

Thanks Lauren.  I already spoke with Kate about it and I am sorry that happened.  

I am going to be away from the Internet for a bit, so I won't be responding to comments like I normally would :)  

Call it rehab!

Posted by Nikesh Parekh, Technology Entrepreneur, Executive, & Investor (Suplari, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Very Cool, "Long live the ARPA-E!",  you can't make that stuff up.  Do you suppose he called Michelle and said "you won't believe what some guy told me."

carry on,



Posted by David Hanzel almost 9 years ago

Good morning, Nikesh. While I cannot share your zeal and enthusiasm for our current "Commander-in-Chief", I do respect the office he holds. But then, our differing opinions, viewpoints and political beliefs is what makes this Nation great. Thank God, we are free to express those without reprisal...  

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Nikki, no matter your political leanings it is wonderful to meet the President but do not forget that we are still so overspending with programs and costs that this country has to have change from states to federal least we are able to make our choices in America.

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

Ditto Michael * Although I would like to watch Newt argue that Obama is the FIRST black president, those of us who have read our EARLY American history know the story of John Hanson of Maryland!

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) almost 9 years ago

Hi Nikki,

Pretty cool to listen to, and be close to, a sitting president of the US.

This one has failed miserably, but I am glad to hear he is still a good talker!

I used to get teary eyed with his speeches a long time ago. Not any more...


Posted by Phil Leng, Phil Leng - Retired (Retired) almost 9 years ago

Nikesh.....that is so cool!  I would not known what to say either.  I had no idea you grew up here in Massachusetts.  From what you write in your blog, sounds like we have a few things in common....although I had no idea what ARPA-E was, LOL.

Posted by Christine Smith, Exclusive Buyer Agent & Attorney, Canton, MA (Buyers Brokers Only LLC - almost 9 years ago

I really like President Obama.  How exciting for you.  I have no intention of reading the comments because I'm sure your good time will be spoiled by people who dont' support him.  I hope they are good sports and just say "how nice"!  I'm glad you had a good time.

Posted by Susan Mangigian, Chester & Delaware County Homes, Delaware and Ches (RE/MAX Preferred, West Chester, PA, RS152252A) almost 9 years ago

Nikesh~~ I enjoyed reading the entire post here. I know what its like to have that " star struck" feeling though. You had every right to feel honored and proud to be there! It should not matter anyone's political mindset, as he is still the President of the United States.

As far as choosing what to say... well, it was spontaneous, and although you may have stunned him, maybe he will remember you. I was fortunate many years ago to attend the inauguration ball of Jimmy Carter, and i too was just a few feet away from the President. I had no idea that i even should have said anything! ( young i guess and just in the moment)

My daughter now lives and works in DC, but a few years ago she interned on Capitol Hill and was able to meet the not yet President Obama. She has a photo with him! Very cool..

Even for those whose politics differ, this is still the United States and he is still our President. Congratulations on getting to go to this event, and it sounds like you had a great time.

Posted by Janis Borgueta, LIC RE Salesperson (Key Properties of the Hudson Valley ) almost 9 years ago

Congratulations on meeting POTUS.  Being in one of the industries that has been hurt badly by his policies, I might of thought twice about participating in one of his fundraising appearances. 

Posted by Gene Donohue, Flat Fee Service...Exceptional Results! (Only Way Realty / almost 9 years ago

It sounds like you had a great time, Nikesh.  I appreciate your enthusisam.  I wish I could share the same.

Posted by Mike Cooper, Broker VA,WV, MD, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) almost 9 years ago

I had such high hopes for this president although I did not vote for him.  I appreciate your enthusiasm and enjoyed reading your post.

Posted by Marvin Beninson almost 9 years ago

Nikesh, I feel you excitement and awe. I'm glad you had this up-close-and-personal opportunity to meet and hear such an inspirational person.

Posted by Lottie Kendall, Helping make your real estate dreams a reality (Compass) almost 9 years ago

Buffett's secretary is likely paid a $200k-$500k salary, while Buffett likely takes a $100k-$200k salary.

Dividend, interest, and capital gains income is taxed differently due to the risk involved vs salary income.  I don't support penalizing success and reinforcing failure with redistribution of wealth.    

I'm feeling much better about cancelling my rainmaker status last week.  Thanks for the confirmation.   

Posted by Joshua Vensel (VENVISIO - Real Estate Photography - Atlanta, GA) almost 9 years ago

My bus pulled over to the side last night as Obama's motorcade rode past us.  Pretty cool to be even that close to him.  Glad you had a good time, see you when you get back!

Posted by Kerrie La Guardia, Let it Rain! (ActiveRain, Community Manager) almost 9 years ago

Nikesh - it was so great to see you there yesterday, what an amazing event.  still can't believe we got to be there for it. 


See you soon,

Jeff & Karina

Posted by Jeff Kunins almost 9 years ago

Nikesh:  I apologize for those class-less folks who have made negative comments on this post about President Obama.  Why they just couldn't either bite their tongues, or just not comment at all is beyond me.

Guys... this is NOT a political post.  It is Niki sharing his joy with all of us about meeting the President of The United States... face to face.  Have you no class whatsoever ?  Can you not allow Niki to simply show the joy that he felt ?

And Susan... these folks couldn't possibly be "good sports" and share Niki's joy.  They enjoy trashing President Obama so much that they just lose sight of common decency.

Again... to the "trashers"... why couldn't you save your nonsense for your political posts ?  Just this once ?

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) almost 9 years ago

What a great opportunity!  You live in such a "green" state.  It's also amazing that Seattle is one of the top 10 states for green initiatives.  I wrote a blog about it a while back.  Congrats on being present at that moment in time that I'm sure you'll remember for a lifetime - no matter which politicial avenue is your preference!

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) almost 9 years ago

Hi Nikesh. You can say you actually have some up front and personal pictures of OUR Commander in Chief, President Obama!  Anyone can see how excited you were, especially to be invited, and got an opportunity to shake his hand.  You did good.

Posted by Cheryl Thomson REALTOR Army Ret, Associate Broker in Northern Virginia ( United Real Estate (703.216.5635) almost 9 years ago

I was tempted to say, "My, you had a long wait," but your tremendous excitement at meeting the President came through in your writing so I'm sure you'd say it was worth every minute.

Your anecdote of what to say to the President reminded me of an episode I once saw on The Golden Girls a long time ago. Bea Arthur is supposed to meet Pres. Clinton (if I remember correctly) and she can't wait to give him a piece of her mind. She has it all rehearsed - everything she's going to tell him about what he's doing wrong in running the country. But as he walks through the door, she's so starstruck, all she can do is stutter something like "a pleasure to meet you." I guess you had to see it to find it funny.

Posted by Jill Sackler, LI South Shore Real Estate - Broker Associate (Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. 516-575-7500) almost 9 years ago

Niki, I am glad you had a good time.   I will leave it at that.

Posted by Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate, Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker (Fred Griffin Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

I'm sure it's exciting being so close to a US president.
What empty promises did the silver tongued devil spew this time?

Posted by David Myre (VIP Realty) almost 9 years ago

How nice.

Posted by Yolanda Hoversten, Broker - O Fallon, IL Real Estate (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties) almost 9 years ago

How exciting for you!!!!  I know what you mean about what comes out of your mouth. I got to shake Hillary Clinton's hand one time, and I said, "I'm so sorry about the idiots we send from Oklahoma."  :))

Posted by Lori Cain, Midtown Tulsa Real Estate Top Producer (eXp Realty) almost 9 years ago

Thanks for sharing! I wish I could have been there as well to meet our President! Fantastic!!!!! Thanks for sharing!

Posted by Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor (Charles Rutenberg Realty) almost 9 years ago

Hi Nikesh. I am not a fan of Obama at all. After he gave billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars to big banks via TARP2 then further devalued the American dollar through quantitative easing making our work so much more challenging. We are talking about a major devaluation of the American dollar due in part to his leadership and policies which in turn has plundered OUR compensation.  A record high 41.5 million Americans are now on food stamps.

Just recently he cut funding to the Bishop Museum in Hawai'i so now some much-needed librarians who take care of their archives have been laid off. He also signed the payroll tax extension which will add an additional albeit hidden tax to homebuyers as well as those who refinance in the next 10 years. He even misappropriated "I'm from Hawai'i" so now some people mistakenly think that those of us who are really from Hawai'i are callous, uncaring, and selfish. He has done alot of damage to the honor of those of us who are REALLY from Hawai'i. He is not someone some of us celebrate. Some of us are not impressed by or with him AT ALL.

However I am a huge fan of YOUR leadership and of Active Rain. I like how excited you are to have been near him. I especially like the caption "My hand." Very amusing LOL

Posted by Lana Robbins Realtor ® Licensed Real Estate Broker, Licensed in Florida, Washington, and Hawai'i (Aloha Kai Real Estate) almost 9 years ago
Awesome blog, Nik! I agree with you completely. Obama is an inspirational leader and change takes time despite the best of intentions. I am so happy that you were able to meet him. This was such an amazing opportunity!
Posted by Ali Singh almost 9 years ago

Niki -- it is an exciting thing to get to be in the audience when a national leader (esp. the President) is in attendance.  Glad you got this opportunity to see/hear/and shake hands with him.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 9 years ago

Niki... What a very cool story. Thanks for sharing this. Indeed change is a challenge. I've often thought about Obama this year and the challenges he faces. Thanks too for the photo's and the video!

Posted by Rene Fabre, Marketing in the Digital Age (First American Title) almost 9 years ago

Such a small group!  That must have been exciting to be that close to the President!  Regardless of politics, it's still a great experience...I've never been that close to anyone like that before! 

Posted by Ron Tarvin, Broker, Katy, Houston, Cypress 77450,77494,77095 (Residential, Investment properties, rehab projects, property management, luxury homes, new construction!) almost 9 years ago

I'm glad you had an enjoyable luncheon.  No matter who the President is - it is special to be in the same room with him.

I'd love to be able to meet Bill and Hillary Clinton.  Maybe some day.

Posted by Bonnie Vaughan, CNE SFR - Buyers/Sellers - Lackawanna & Surroundin almost 9 years ago

I don't share your enthusiasm for meeting this President who has thrown our profession under the Obama campaign bus by his regulations and policies, having said that I met President Reagan in New York at Wall Street and it was very exciting for me. President Reagan really changed America for good and brought hope and change back for real, not just the rhetoric that we have heard for the past four years.

I can't see how any real estate broker, mortgage broker, developer or contractor  - or anybody in the real estate industry can enjoy meeting a person who has put hindrances and roadblock after roadblock in the recovery of real estate. 

 No one respects the office of the Presdency more than I, but one of the reasons people voted for Obama is that he promised to help people with short sales, foreclosures and loan modifications - and it has gotten dramatically worse since he took office - more regulations and nothing Obama has done to help has worked. HAFA has failed completely - can anyone deny this?

Gas prices have doubled since Obama has taken office- realtors drive people all around the nation and use more gas than we can possibly explain before we even get paid - so our overall costs are skyrocketing.

People are getting out of real estate because they cannot afford to drive people around anymore - 

As a broker the path has been met with more and more difficulty in explaining the benefits of the real estate industry with such hindrances.

Enough said

Posted by Broker Nick, Broker Nick Relocation Broker Service (South Florida Real Estate & Development, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Nick:  It just continues to amaze me that so many people like YOU cannot simply share in Niki's excitement.  How hard would that be?

I know that there are quite a few who have commented on this post who share many of your political ideas... but look at what they have done, here.  They have put that aside, and simply shared in Niki's joy.  But you ?

No... you've just got to get out your shovel, dip it into your bag of you-know-what that you seem to carry with you and hold close to your heart... and heap it onto Niki and what is NOT a political post.

Do you just enjoy being miserable ?

Your last sentence (before you came back and picked up your shovel again) in your comment says it all.  Your problem is that you just "can't see."  Sorry.  My thought is that there are none so blind as those who "will not see."

And this time... you ended with "Enough said."  Is that a promise ?

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) almost 9 years ago

Karen Anne - You are the last person who should be saying anything about opinions because you cannot keep your mouth shut as long as I have known you. Mind your own business and stop trying to apologize for anyone who has differing opinions from yours.

Meeting the President is exciting whomever it is - but this is a real estate site and we who actually sell real estate and practice the profession of real estate today have issues with this President.

And they need to be addressed for the good of our clients and customers who are in deep trouble, period.

So get off your high horse and keep your comments to yourself or address what you want to and don't make this personal as your a famous for.


Posted by Broker Nick, Broker Nick Relocation Broker Service (South Florida Real Estate & Development, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Nick:  The point I am trying to make here... is that this is not a political post.  If you were back at your group "Silent Majority," or if you yourself had written this post... of course you could make it as political as you wished.  And occasional, when you yourself write a political post on Silent Majority, I DO join you in light-hearted debate.

But this is not a political post.  Nor is this YOUR post.  I am in no way trying to "quiet" you from stating your religious beliefs.  I am simply trying to say that THIS post... is not the place. 

As far as being on a "high horse..." I at one time earlier in my life owned a Tennessee Walker.  He was very "high."  Eighteen hands high, as I remember.  I have been told by "horse people" that 18 hands is pretty high. 

So... if anyone should be "allowed" by you (LOL)... to be on their "high horse"... I would suspect it would be someone who actually OWNED a "high horse."

You have a lovely day, my friend.  And oh... you are quite welcome.

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) almost 9 years ago

Hi Everyone,

Just back from vacation!  My only point with this blog was this:

I just had an INCREDIBLE person experience of meeting the President, which will likely not happen again in my life time.

AND the thing I wanted to do immediately afterwards was share it with the community on ActiveRain!

That's all.   I am coming up on a year with ActiveRain.  I guess I have made some progress.

Thanks for the spirited discussion!  


Posted by Nikesh Parekh, Technology Entrepreneur, Executive, & Investor (Suplari, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Niki - That is really cool. It is an honor to meet any President and it is one of the experiences which we we ponder for the rest of our lives. I just enjoy the banter and obviously want to express what is happening in real estate.

Posted by Broker Nick, Broker Nick Relocation Broker Service (South Florida Real Estate & Development, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

Karen Anne - Always enjoy the discussion no matter where and when, but you made it personal. It doesn't have to be - all is good. Love those Tennessee Walkers - rode them myself and I prefer the Quarter Horse / Thoroughbred for jumping.

Posted by Broker Nick, Broker Nick Relocation Broker Service (South Florida Real Estate & Development, Inc.) almost 9 years ago

I think I was washing my hair that day, sorry I missed him!    :)

Posted by Virginia Cheezum (F. C. Tucker Company) almost 9 years ago