President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party's most prominent California leaders mingled with some of San Francisco's most famous sports and tech figures Wednesday at a party at the Exploratorium to celebrate this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
The party featured a dizzying array of food stations and open bars in between optical illusion exhibits, and Gwen Stefani performed some of her biggest hits on an outdoor stage at Pier 15 before a massive fireworks show lit up the sky over the bay.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr introduced Biden, and more than a dozen leaders of APEC's member economies, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, made a late appearance while sitting on an elevated seating area next to the venue's main indoor stage.
“It’s a real honor to welcome all my leaders to the United States,” said Biden, whose remarks were preceded by speeches from San Francisco Mayor London Breed, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Biden called Newsom “one hell of a governor,” adding that one day the California statesman could have the job “I’m looking for.” Biden also thanked Breed and then recounted his meeting earlier in the day with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was not present at the evening reception.
Tech execs in attendance included Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, Y Combinator’s CEO Garry Tan and Ripple co-founder Chris Larsen, all of whom have become deeply involved in San Francisco’s political scene, as well as Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
Others in attendance at the event included Sam Altman of OpenAI, California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Biden's climate envoy, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, San Francisco City Attorney Dave Chiu, U.S. Sen. Laphonza Butler and Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi.
Dozens of protesters gathered Wednesday evening ahead of the reception. Leading up to the event, chants of “cease-fire now” rang out just beyond the security gate, and police formed a line in case protesters tried to rush the entrance
It appeared multiple protesters were taken into custody after lying down to block the entrance.
Meanwhile, hundreds of guests gathered in the neon-lit confines of the Exploratorium, where Democratic Party leaders and some of San Francisco’s most famous tech entrepreneurs sipped drinks and ate from numerous food stations that featured tamales, clam chowder, Thai green curry, shrimp cocktails, roast tenderloin, cheese platters and an ice cream sundae bar with sprinkles.
Other notable local officials in attendance included San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and state Assemblymember Evan Low, D-Campbell.
As the Commanders Jazz Ensemble played to a packed house in the back of the venue waiting for the main musical performance, Breed took the stage to welcome guests to San Francisco.
“The world matters to this city, and this city matters to the world,” she declared.
Newsom came on next to deliver remarks, joking that Breed stole his speech. He championed California as the state most synonymous with the American dream and championed the cooperation of member economies at APEC.
“I think that’s really the spirit of this week, the commonwealth, that we’re all better off when we’re better off,” Newsom said.
The vice president went on stage next and noted the Indo-Pacific is “critical to the prosperity of the American people.”
Harris recounted attending APEC in Bangkok last year but said she could think of no better place for the summit than the San Francisco Bay Area, an area she has called home much of her life as an Oakland native and former district attorney in San Francisco.
“It’s good to be home,” Harris said to cheers.
She added, “Together, through APEC, we can ... unlock industries of the future and make sure all people prosper.”
Kerr, of the Warriors, and two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry, Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and U.S. soccer star Brandi Chastain appeared in a video with Breed in which they welcomed APEC visitors and shared advice about member economies working together as a team.
Kerr then appeared onstage in person and introduced Biden.
Biden said he showed Xi a picture from three decades ago of the Chinese president standing on the Golden Gate Bridge. Biden said Xi told him, “I like that picture.”
Biden then called out to Pelosi, calling her the greatest Speaker of the House in American history.
“The challenges before us today are unlike previous challenges of APEC,” Biden said, noting the threats of the pandemic, wars and supply-chain issues.
“Thank you all for being here, and welcome to San Francisco,” Biden said.
After foreign leaders gave him a standing ovation, guests were directed outside to see Stefani perform in a sparkly silver shirt and black sequined pantsuit, kicking off her set with the song “The Sweet Escape,” before performing "Hollaback Girl" and "Don't Speak."
The star-studded evening ended with a massive fireworks show fit for the biggest international event to come to San Francisco in almost 80 years.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the title of Gwen Stefani's song "The Sweet Escape."
Josh Koehn can be reached at email@example.com