In 2015, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff stepped into the political spotlight big time.
It began in Indiana, where Mike Pence was governor. Salesforce is a major employer in the state. Pence signed a law that allowed businesses to cite religious beliefs when refusing to serve people, such as gay people.
Benioff, flanked by other business leaders, went to war against the law and got the law changed. He then went on to fight against similar laws in other states, and to tackle other issues, such as equal pay for women, and to just plain encourage CEO social activism.
It’s now been a week since the presidential election that will send Donald Trump to the White House, along with Benioff’s former foe Pence as vice president. People who were put off by president-elect Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric, as well as his policies, remain worried about a Trump administration as he makes one controversial decision after another during this transition time.
Positivity and action
Like many Silicon Valley executives, Benioff publicly backed Hillary Clinton and knew President Obama personally. He even hosted Obama at his home for fund raisers and discussions.
Benioff talked at length about his views on the new president to Recode’s Kara Swisher on stage at the Code Enterprise event in San Francisco on Monday.
And it all comes down to this. Wait-and-see what Trump actually does, keep an open mind and remain positive.
Benioff said (emphasis ours)
We have to pull together. And we have to have an open mind. I listened to the President [Obama’s] news conference and I agree with him. We have a new president elect, we need to give him our support and give him the benefit of the doubt and let’s see what can happen.
I’ve said this before, I believe in all things you have to have a beginner’s mind. … I think we have to have a beginner’s mind, a reset. Let go of our fears and project positivity, project action.
On “60 Minutes” I heard we’re not going to have a wall, we’re going to have a fence now.
With the Affordable Care Act, I heard there are things that are good, including folks with pre-existing conditions will be able to get health care which is great.
I think there’s a narrative, a rhetoric of a campaign and now all of a sudden there’s an adjustment.”
That pragmatic and cautiously optimistic attitude may owe to the fact that the CEO of a major corporation realises there’s no upside in picking a fight with the president of the country.
But Benioff may also be making another point: While it’s reasonable and justified to maintain careful watch and to voice opinions as the new administration forms, there comes a time when fear, worry and anger, especially against a not-yet-arrived future, can be counter-productive.
For those who opposed Trump, taking the “beginner’s mind” might be a better way. Instead of digging-in and wishing the past was different, you may be presented with new opportunities — to get involved with everything from volunteering for a civic organisation, to learning how to get your congressman to listen to you to running for office yourself, or even to fighting against a specific law … and winning.
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