Should Your CEO Meet with President Trump?

What is the responsibility of your corporate executives, what should you expect?

President Donald Trump met with CEOs at the White House in January, including Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson (center), and Michael Dell of Dell Technologies. / REUTERS

Luke Visconti is the founder and CEO of DiversityInc. Although the title of his column is meant to be humorous, the issues he addresses and the answers he gives to questions are serious — and based on his 17 years of experience publishing DiversityInc. Click here to send your own question to Luke.

It’s a tricky time for corporations. President Trump won the Electoral College election by roughly 77,000 votes scattered across three states (less than 1 percent of the vote in each of those states). His core demographic is not one that most consumer product goods companies see as attractive — older, less educated, whiter and more male than average, less affluent. It is certainly not reflective of new entrants to the workforce. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3,000,000 people — and the Electoral College gap between her and the president was exceeded almost three-fold by the number of young people voting for third-party candidates.

After viciously and repetitively insulting women, Mexicans, people with disabilities, POWs and Muslims (often with fake facts), is it any wonder why he has the lowest approval rating of any incoming president ever in the history of the United States?

So, if your CEO is called to the White House or the H1B-staffed Mar-a-Lago, what should s/he do?


He is our president, and it is leadership’s responsibility to provide advice when asked.

“Provide advice,” however doesn’t include pandering.

CEOs need to keep in mind who their stakeholders are – and stay true to the organization’s morals and ethics. Every company on our Top 50 list is superior in talent management because they are unequivocal in their facilitating the success of women, Black, Latino, Asian (and other ethnic and racial minorities), the LGBT community, people with disabilities, Muslims and other religious minorities. Our Top 50 list, expressed as a stock index, outperforms the rest of the stock market.

This is a remarkable difference between the president’s stated values — and his appointments to his Cabinet, which are spectacularly white and male.

Our nation’s workforce situation is dire — we have gone from six workers per retiree after WW2, to two workers per retiree by 2025. We are at full employment. New entrants to the workforce are 100,000 short of job creations each month. Baby boomers are retiring in droves and are not being replaced in the same numbers by young people. Significant growth for our economy without immigrants is going to be very difficult — there aren’t enough people to fill the jobs being created.

CEOs on our list need to tell the president how they have been successful — embracing people formerly not embraced into the workforce, and making sure they had the corporate knowledge to succeed.

It’s been done before — two CEOs from Indiana companies on our Top 50 list went to (then) Governor Pence’s office to tell him that his anti-gay bill was going to make it impossible to recruit the best people to their companies. Their influence, plus public pressure, caused Pence to back off his virulent homophobia.

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  • Should your CEO meet with the President???? The obvious answer is YES.

    I get that President Trump has said more outlandish and offensive things than we can catalogue, but he is the President. And if you have the chance to bend the President’s ear to discuss something important, take that opportunity!!!!!! Period.

    I find it amazing that Steve Harvey, for instance, has gotten such backlash for meeting with the President. Did anyone bother to listen to what Steve told the President about inner city plight? How do you expect to sway someone if you won’t talk to them?

  • If a CEO goes to meet with President Trump, and changes their company to conform to whatever President Trump is pushing, isn’t that government placing its hands and rules to free, private business? Isn’t that something the majority of the people claim they do not want, and what the Republican Party consistently campaigns on “too much government”? Now all private businesses are pictured and going to be seen as being run by the Trump Government– such as being told what to do, what to build, how to pay, who to hire, etc., and now they are no longer ‘a private business’ but part of a government run concern? I wonder…

  • William Daniel

    Luke, you made a great point about the number of jobs being created in this economy, largely due to the policies of the prior administration that rescued us from a deep recession. This President needs to get the message of inclusive measures that embrace people coming to our nation to ensure we can continue to provide workers to fill positions as the economy continues to expand. There will not be substantial increase in productivity if we do not have the people to do the work.

    Thank you, and keep up the good work to increase diversity and inclusion for all!

  • Bottom line up front: You won’t change President Trump’s mind. So meet with him anyways to hear what he has to say and bring up to him divisive issue he’s created or maintained as it pertains to business and your employees (e.g. immigration – H1 visas, hate crimes – disenfranchised demographics in American society, increased funding to job/career training in local communities and many others)

    I personally think CEO’s should hear what the President of United States has to say. Just as I think all of the HBCU Presidents should have met with him. The key is working together with your counterparts with a list of demands in the best interest of your employees formally addressing “care gap issues” pertaining to the populace over the few.

    You get people’s attention with unity, numbers and one voice over demands from the unorganized many.

    Essentially you have HBCU Presidents and CEOs not collectively working with one another in their respective industry to voice real world concerns driven by Trump’s policies. Instead you have a collective voice from influential people who aren’t concerned about the many, determined benefit the few.

    • I agree with you – second time today. But the HBCU presidents should’ve backed out when they were told that they only had two minutes to discuss their issues.

      Communicating with the president should not have to include humiliating yourself or allowing yourself to be a minstrel show for a bigot.

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