With New GM CEO Mary Barra At State Of The Union, Obama No Doubt Plans … – Forbes
President Obama will no doubt highlight the revitalization of the American auto industry tonight during his State of the Union speech, following the U.S. Treasury’s sale last month of its remaining stake in General Motors General Motors. When he does, all eyes will be on Mary Barra, GM’s first female chief executive, who will be sitting alongside First Lady Michelle Obama.
For the president, Barra represents two great stories rolled into one: the comeback of an American industrial icon and proof that the American dream is alive for those who are willing to innovate and work hard, regardless of their gender.
“I was honored to accept the First Lady’s invitation, and delighted to represent the men and women of GM who are doing their best to make GM a company that Americans can be proud of again,” said Barra, an engineer who rose through GM’s manufacturing and product development ranks. “We will always be grateful for the action taken by two Administrations, the taxpayer’s support, and the Congressional Members who stood with us during the industry’s recovery.”
Taxpayers lost about $11 billion on the $50.1 billion bailout of GM in late 2008 and 2009. It’s a safe bet that Obama won’t mention that loss in his speech, but he will likely say the effort was worth it to save millions of American jobs tied to the auto industry.
I’d also venture to say Mrs. Obama wouldn’t have invited former CEO Dan Akerson to be her guest for the State of the Union if he were still in charge. Although Akerson has as much to do with restoring GM to good health as Obama’s autos task force, Barra, 52, is a fresh (female) face who doesn’t remind American taxpayers that the Old Boys Network at GM needed a bailout in the first place. Never mind that she’s a 33-year veteran of GM. Just two weeks into the CEO job, Barra represents a clean slate and an end to old thinking about GM.
Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of state during Obama’s first term and would like to become America’s first female president, certainly thinks so. “I’m excited about GM’s new CEO — you might guess I would be,” Clinton said Monday, speaking to about 4,000 people at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in New Orleans. “I guess you could say she broke through the steel ceiling, not the glass ceiling.”