eBay goes to Washington

Richard Brewer-Hay

As reported on Ink earlier this month, eBay was the first Internet company to receive the National Medal of Technology and Innovation when it was awarded the honor for 2007 in a ceremony at the White House yesterday morning.

John Donahoe with awarded sellers by ebayink, on FlickreBay invited three sellers to join CEO John Donahoe at the award ceremony. (F: L to R): Stacie Sefton, Jennifer Canty, John Donahoe, and Jack Sheng

During the ceremony where he presented the medals, President George W. Bush cited eBay’s pioneering technology that encouraged and supported online trade, and that enabled global entrepreneurship and the growth of the Internet worldwide. With nearly 70 domestic and international patents for eBay and PayPal innovations, eBay Inc. was one of only two companies and six individuals this year to receive the medal, which has been awarded annually since 1985 by the President of the United States.

“Our technology is at the core of our success,” said eBay Inc. CEO John Donahoe, who accepted the medal on behalf of the company. “eBay and PayPal together have harnessed technology in the service of people; the result is that millions have transformed their lives for the better – building businesses, taking care of their families and becoming global entrepreneurs at the same time. That’s what true innovation is all about.”

At the ceremony, Donahoe was accompanied by three eBay sellers who have grown their businesses largely through eBay. Also in attendance were eBay employees Scott Murray, vice president, Program Management, and Nora Grasham, director, Strategy and Planning.

Scott Murray, John Donahoe, Nora Grasham
From L to R: Scott Murray, John Donahoe and Nora Grasham

In a special post for our internal blog for employees, Murray and Grasham, two key contributors to the application, shared their experiences chronicling their work on the application and attending the medal ceremony at the White House. I wanted to share their experience here on Ink…


eBay at White House

Wow. We went to the White House today – an experience we’ll never forget.

The morning started with a lot of standing in line. There were lines for the shuttle to the White House, lines to have our names checked at the gate, and a line to go through security. And then we walked down a path by the Department of the Treasury and into the White House.

We walked into a long foyer in the East Wing and slowly made our way upstairs. The décor was lush, and there was art everywhere. We saw quite a few portraits of former first ladies: Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton, Lady Bird Johnson, Jackie Kennedy, among others. Upstairs, there was including JFK, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, Woodrow Wilson, George Washington, and Ronald Reagan. We mingled and took some photos and took in our surroundings until they opened the East Room for the ceremony.

There were forty military personnel in dress uniform wearing what are called “aiguillettes”, cords that designated them as aides. We learned later that these aides’ presence was one of the signals that this was a formal White House ceremony (and a Big Deal). There were ~150 guests seated in the East Room, with video cameras and photographers lining the far wall – half of them stood on step ladders so you got two tiers of photography. As the ceremony got started, the 16 laureates for came into the room and sat along the rear of the stage. Then, we all rose and the President entered. He gave a short, amusing speech and then they removed the podium and the formal ceremony began.

An aide would read a laureate’s name, and then he (or she) came up and stood to the President’s right. At the same time, another aide brought the medal and stood to the President’s left. The citation for the award was read, and the President placed the medal over the laureate’s head. The clicking of the camera shutters was a constant background noise for the duration of the ceremony.

John Donahoe with President George W. Bush

The President took a brief moment with each of the laureates, putting some of them more at ease, and sharing some laughs: when eBay’s award was announced, the President looked over at John Donahoe and exclaimed “Big John!” Because eBay and Skunk Works were receiving the Medal as companies, our medals were not on ribbons to be worn around the neck, but were large medallions, engraved on both sides.
National Medal of Technology and Innovation
National Medal of Technology and Innovation

After the ceremony ended, the President and the laureates were taken to some rooms for more photo ops and to spend a few minutes chatting. There was a reception in another ornate room, presided over by a portrait of Abe Lincoln. We met up with John, and took a few more pictures before we headed out. As we picked up our things from the coat check, the lady manning it was very excited to have us come inside – it was actually the President’s private theater! She had us sit down in the plush chairs and insisted on taking our pictures (see photo above) – it was a lot of fun.

John and our eBay sellers had some press events in the early afternoon, and then we all headed to Dulles to get back home and back to work.

John Donahoe awarded by President George W. Bush

Attending the White House ceremony was an honor for both of us, and a reminder of just how large of an accomplishment this was for eBay – for most of the rest of the laureates, this award recognized their life’s work. Since everyone couldn’t attend, we hope you enjoyed reading about our experiences in DC.

Scott & Nora