Microsoft President: The US Shouldn’t Get ‘Too Isolationist’



Business Insider editor at large Sara Silverstein sits down with Microsoft President Brad Smith at Davos. They discuss the message President Donald Trump will deliver during his remarks on Friday, Smith’s views on immigration, and whether companies should stay out of politics. Following is a transcript of the video.

Sara Silverstein: We’re in Davos. Trump is supposed to get here today I think. Is there anything that you’re hoping that he’ll say tomorrow?

Brad Smith: Well, I would hope that there might be an opportunity to take this concept of putting one’s country first, which every country always has and always does. But connect that with a healthy dialogue with other countries around the world. Countries that pursue approaches that become too isolationist usually don’t serve themselves or the world well over time. And so it’s one thing to say we’re going to put our own country’s interest first, we’re going to be tough negotiators, but we also need to stay connected. I do believe that this is a world that still wants and is well-served by American leadership on important issues.

Silverstein: And you wrote a beautiful letter to all of the employees at Microsoft after the executive order on immigration and there is still a lot of concern and things up in the air with DACA. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Smith: Well, we’ve been clear as a company on a broad range of immigration issues that these are important to our employees. We’re going to stand behind and stand up for our employees. And we are passionate believers that this is good for the United States as well. This is not and should not become a zero-sum game. The people that come to work at companies like ours are creating jobs. They’re bringing talent that serves the country well. Some of them are dreamers. Some of them — most of them are here on lawful visas. There are people, say from India, who are waiting for a green card and are stuck in this huge backlog. And we need to be taking stronger steps as a country to address this full range of issues.

Silverstein: It seems like these days it’s very hard for companies to stay out of politics. Is that something that we should have separated or something that we can’t do anymore?

Smith: Well, I think people, clearly are looking for companies to speak out on important issues in a way that was not the case to this degree at least five or ten years ago or more. Interestingly, the Edelman Trust Barometer this year basically said that the most trusted voice for employees is their employer. We definitely find this with our own employees. I think we need to be thoughtful. I think we need to pick our issues and they need to be issues that are relevant to our business or our employees. We need to know what we’re talking about before we start speaking. I think that’s sort of common sense that serves us all well, but especially serves companies well. And I think we have to be very balanced, in the sense that as we speak out on political issues, we need to recognize that not all of our employees will agree. That’s fine. We need to make sure that there’s room for them to feel comfortable in a workplace where they have a point of view that is different from their employer. That’s another ingredient we always need to keep in mind.

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