On December 15, San Francisco Mayor London Breed hosted the official APEC welcome reception for President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, and all APEC leaders at the Exploratorium, except Chinese President Xi Jinping who had a 5-hour meeting earlier that day with President Biden at the Fioli Historic House & Garden in Woodside. Presidents Biden and Xi emerged from their meeting agreeing to combat illegal fentanyl and to re-establish military communication. Xi attended a VIP dinner with Chinese business leaders in San Francisco and was not able to attend this reception.

Dignitaries attended from around the world included Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Philippine President Bongbong Marcos, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim, President of Vietnam Vo Van Thuong, Prime Minister of Thailand Srettha Thavisin, President of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol, President of Chile Gabriel Boric, and President of Peru Dina Boluarte.

President Biden and President Xi meeting at Fioli’s Garden

“It’s a real honor to welcome all my fellow leaders to the United States,” Biden began his speech. Other speakers included Vice President Kamala Harris, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr as well as host Mayor London Breed. San Francisco’s iconic McCalls Catering provided the food and wine served throughout the Exploratorium, and entertainment included a concert by singer Gwen Stefani and a spectacular fireworks display to end this beautiful event on a gorgeous, fogless, sparkling San Francisco night.

Former Senator John Kerry, who is the first U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, also attended this event. “You have the Middle East in flames, you have Ukraine, you have the challenge of the climate crisis, and we all need to pull together. There is no way for any one country to solve any one of those problems, let alone all of them,” said Kerry.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives at VIP Reception

So many here, elite in their fields, were trying to work together to better solve problems for others. There was a very positive sentiment among many attendees that meetings and celebrations like this will help solve the problems in the world. In his speech, Biden also praised California Governor Gavin Newsom for all his hard work, saying “He’s been one hell of a governor man—matter of fact, he could have the job I’m looking for!” Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, many members of the Democratic Party, Kevin Xu, CEO of the medical product firm MEBO and co-chair of the APEC Host Committee, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and various community leaders and members from many neighborhoods in San Francisco, including myself, were invited by Mayor Breed.

Mayor Breed also hosted a reception at City Hall on November 16 for hundreds of journalists who came to cover the APEC events, including the APEC Annual Ministerial Meeting Leaders’ Plenary, the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC Dialogue with APEC Leaders plus breakouts), APEC Meets Silicon Valley and California, and the APEC CEO Summit. Speakers included President Biden, the presidents of Indonesia and Peru, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, and leaders at Meta.

Ronny Conway, Maryam Muduroglu, Ron Conway and Topher Conway

Security was very tight, and many streets and bridges near the event locations were closed during APEC week. Protesters trying to get President Biden’s attention shut down all the westbound lanes of the Bay Bridge the morning of November 16. About 80 protestors who abandoned their cars to block the bridge were arrested. Many threw their car keys into the bay, and it took four hours for the California Highway Patrol to tow the cars away and reopen the bridge.

Olivia Decker, Noelle Bonner, and Mary Beth Shimmon

Mayor Breed and her team made great efforts to beautify the city for the 21 heads of states, diplomatic corps, and over 1,000 CEOs, plus the tourists who came during the APEC. The main streets sparkled as art nonprofit Illuminate used 12 lasers to light up Market Street. Ben Davis, founder and chief visionary officer of Illuminate, said: “Let our city continue to shine in the eyes of the world as a place of high culture and innovation.”

It was an exciting week for San Francisco to host this largest, world class event since the United Nation meeting in San Francisco in 1945, when delegates from 50 Allied nations attended.