George W Bush and Mark Zuckerberg bond on 'the Facebook'
Published 01/12/2010 | 00:00
One of them is sometimes referred to as the most powerful man in the world; the other is George W Bush.
The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has broken bread with the retired President of the US, revealing that despite their 40-year age gap and divergent political backgrounds, the duo have more in common than you might expect.
In an hour-long chat from Facebook's Silicon Valley headquarters, broadcast on the website, Mr Bush, who is touring the country promoting his memoir Decision Points, compared his eight years in the White House with Zuckerberg's shorter, stratospheric period at the helm of the world's most successful social networking website.
Both men have used gut instincts to make quick and difficult decisions based on common sense, he argued. Both share a passion for education, the cause for which Mr Zuckerberg recently announced a $100m (£64m) personal donation. And both have grown used to the wrath of critics. "There's a lot of criticism about," said Mr Bush, looking his young companion directly in the face. "You know what I'm talking about?"
The 43rd President, who took questions from Facebook users, company employees, and from Zuckerberg himself, discussed everything from the recent Wikileaks scandal to the merits of Apple's latest consumer gadgets. And he was blunt about why he had travelled to California's famously liberal left coast: "Because you've got a lot of people paying attention to us, and I'm trying to sell books."
Mr Bush, dressed in the local business uniform of shirt sleeves, claimed that the founding of the social networking site, unflatteringly chronicled by the film The Social Network, exemplified the best of American entrepreneurship. "I've got over 600,000 friends on my Facebook page and I have watched your company grow. I love a country that enables somebody like you to have a dream and actually make it work and employ a lot of people and give them a chance to create wealth and create jobs."
He claimed that he is an avid user of Facebook, which helps him to keep in touch with former administration colleagues. However, Bush's efforts to sound completely au fait with the internet era were somewhat ruined by a minor "Bushism" – he repeatedly referred to the site as "The Facebook", despite the fact that Mr Zuckerberg dropped the prefix from his company name in 2005.
In further revelatory moments, the former President revealed that he has stopped using an iPod, preferring to listen to birds when he goes on bike rides. He scored brownie points with the techie audience by adding that, after he left the White House, "I became a Blackberry person, and now I'm an iPad person".
Though the comments were well received in the room, it was a different story online. Mid-way through the chat, a counter on the screen revealed that just 6,500 people were watching. Facebook has more than 500 million users.